Young people unite for a peace monument in Hiroshima

Devastated by the death of their friend Sadako, her school friends from the Nobori-cho Junior High School met to discuss a way to ‘console Sadako’s spirit’. They formed the Unity Club, deciding a fitting tribute would be a  monument to Sadako and all the other children who died from the atomic bombing. The Unity Club’s campaign began. They called for the construction of the peace monument to be an opportunity for schools in Hiroshima to learn more about the bombing and to reflect on issues of peace.

Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima
Children’s Peace Monument, Hiroshima

The Unity Club started to work with the newly-formed Hiroshima Society of School Children for Building World Peace, formed of the student councils of each school in the city. Over 3100 schools from Japan and nine other countries sent money and letters to support the campaign. Within two and a half years of Sadako’s death, in May 1958, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled. It can be found in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, close to the spot where the atomic bomb was dropped.

The nine-metre high bronze monument consists of a figure of a young girl holding aloft a huge gold-coloured ‘paper’ crane, atop a large three-legged pedestal. A stone in front of the monument is inscribed with:

This is our cry

This is our prayer

For building peace in the world

Kazuo Kikuchi, then Professor at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, sculpted the figure. Kiyoshi Ikebe, a former Professor at the University of Tokyo, designed the pedestal. A bell donated by the nuclear physicist Hideki Yukawa sometimes hangs under the arch, acting as a wind chime. This bell is inscribed with ‘A Thousand Paper Cranes’ on the front, and ‘Peace on Earth and Heaven’ on the back.

Three students, including Sadako’s brother Eiji Sasaki, presided over the unveiling. They pulled the red and white tape off the statue to symbolise its completion, while Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was played. The bell rang out, with the sound reaching as far as the A-bomb Dome and the Memorial Cenotaph in the Memorial Park. Children from all over the world still send paper cranes to be placed under Sadako’s statue.

Unveiling of the Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima
Unveiling of the Children’s Peace Monument, Hiroshima

Next blog? How the story of Sadako and the one thousand paper cranes, began to travel the world.

Acknowledgements

This blog draws heavily on the excellent resources of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and its website – http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html

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