The A-bomb Dome, once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, stands in stark contrast to the lively Hiroshima City of today. Its skeletal presence looms over tourists and residents alike, without differentiation, a ghost in plain sight. The building was located 160 meters from the hypocenter of the bomb, killing those inside while allowing its structure to remain standing. Some say it is a sign of peace; others say it is a reminder of the casualties war. Regardless of its symbolism, most agree that its preservation and presence both are necessary and relevant.
Throughout Japan, Peace Memorial Parks, can be found. In part, they serve to honor and remember lives lost in war, but they also serve to remind us of the horrors of war. In Hiroshima, volunteer guides, walk among tourists, ready to answer questions. One such volunteer near the A-bomb Dome prepared binders with a narrative of the causes of the war, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and its aftermath. His name tag explains why he is there, “In Utero Survivor,” it reads under his name, Mito Kosei. He has translated the binders, entitled “That Day” into, among other languages, English, Korean, French, and Spanish. For him, a man who lost his family as a result of the bomb, it’s personal.
In Japan, origami cranes are a symbol of hope, happiness, and prosperity. It is said that should one fold 1,000 cranes (senbazuru) in a year, his or her wish will come true. They are folded and held together with a string, oftentimes in strings of 25 or 40. And they are displayed at memorial parks and temples as a tangible showing of the desire for peace.
Across the river from the A-bomb Dome, stands the Children’s Peace Monument, surrounded by displays of origami cranes. Each year approximately 10 million cranes are offered to before the Monument. Why? Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia ten years after the atomic bombing, was two years old when she was exposed to the A-bomb. Nine years later, she became sick and was diagnosed with leukemia. Upon her admittance to hospital, she began folding a thousand cranes in hope that doing so would help her recover. She died shortly after her admission to hospital and a monument has been erected in her honor.
Seeing a thousand folded small cranes is a wonder. It is also befitting that an act of intricate folding transforms common paper into a beautiful artistic reminder of hope and peace.