If you ever hear a Japanese person referring to Senbazuru, it is likely that they are referencing a well-known origami bird project. Senbazuru is a Japanese word that means one thousand cranes. If you are making a Senbazuru set, you are folding exactly one thousand origami cranes which you plan to hang on twenty-five strings, with forty cranes on each string. Senbazuru is a project that will take a great deal of time to accomplish, but it is one origami project that yields a spectacular result.
Senbazuru have a long history in Japan. According to Japanese mythology, cranes, along with tortoises and dragons, are mystical or holy animals that live for one thousand years. The oldest known book of origami, dated 1797, describes Senbazuru as already having a long history, possibly dating all the way back to the invention of origami in the eighth century.
According to tradition, any person who folds one thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish by a crane as a thank you. Lots of Japanese people make Senbazuru to give to loved ones as a wedding gift or a gift for a newborn baby. It is also very common for people to make Senbazuru and wish for a long life or recovery from an illness.
During the mid-twentieth century, Senbazuru came to be associated with world peace and the end of nuclear warfare when the letters of a little Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki were published in Japan. Sadako Sasaki attempted to fold one thousand cranes in order to save her own life after contracting radiation-induced leukemia from the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. According to some stories, she finished her Senbazuru and used her wish for world peace instead of her own recovery. According to others, however, she only made it to 644 before passing away in 1955. Her classmates finished her Senbazuru and buried it with her.
After Sadako Sasaki's death, her classmates published her letters in order to raise money to build a memorial for her and the thousands of other kids who died from the effects of the atomic bomb. In 1958, this memorial was unveiled at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Hiroshima. The statue features Sadako holding a golden crane and an inscription that reads "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth."
After the unveiling of Sadako's memorial, authors around the world wrote books about her story. In the United States, Eleanor Coerr wrote Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and Austrian writer Karl Bruckner wrote Sadako Will Leben which was translated into English as The Day of the Bomb. It became popular for people around the world to make Senbazuru. Sometimes, they are presented as gifts to people who are ill, especially with cancer. Others are made by people wishing for world peace.
These days, Sadako's memorial is surrounded by over ten million paper cranes. These cranes were made by children and adults alike, both Japanese and foreign, wishing for world peace. The cranes are housed in vitrines surrounding the memorial to protect them from the elements. The memorial has a sister memorial in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was built. This memorial was funded entirely by American schoolchildren.
You can make your very own Senbazuru and send it to Japan. The city of Hiroshima will add your cranes to the ones sent from all over the world by other people wishing for world peace.