Object of the Month – Silver Crane from Hiroshima
Object of the Month – Sliver Crane from Hiroshima
August’s Object of the Month is a small silver model of a crane made from paper-type art clay, which is only a few centimeters long and just over six centimeters wide, and sits in a small box in our archive. The image of the crane has become prominent within the peace movement, and this small model serves an example of the persistence of the symbolism.
The ‘Silver Crane for Peace’ was given, relatively recently, as a gift by the City of Hiroshima to the City of Manchester. It is believed to have been gifted in 2009, to thank the Lord Mayor of Manchester for their attendance at the Seventh General Conference of Mayors for Peace in Hiroshima in August 2009, which was attended by 312 participants from 156 different cities. It is accompanied by a small note that has the makers ‘thoughts regarding peace’ in Japanese, that any Japanese speaking visitors may read by request if they wish. Similarly, any visitor who wishes to view the silver crane need only ask.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
As most readers will be aware, seventy years ago this August, in 1945, World War Two ended after the Japanese were forced to surrender when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The destructive nuclear weapons did not just impact on the Japanese military; instead the bombs murdered over 200,000 Japanese men, women and children. When the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on the 6th August, 80,000 people died. The Americans dropped a second atomic bomb only three days later, on the 9th August, on the port city of Nagasaki, killing a further 40,000 instantly. Furthermore, in the subsequent decades, over 100,000 Japanese civilians died from radiation poisoning.
Nuclear weapons have not been used since in a military conflict, yet because of the suffering caused to thousands of innocent victims, individuals and organised groups have protested for nuclear disarmament for the past seventy years.
In addition annually, on the anniversaries each August, memorial ceremonies are held around the world.
The Image of the Crane:
The reason that the crane has come to symbolise the innocent victims of the atomic bombs is because of the story of a young Japanese girl, named Sadako Sasaki. She was just two years old when the first bomb landed on her home city of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Though she survived the initial attack, by late 1954 she was suffering from leukaemia, which was caused by the nuclear radiation.
Sadako believed in a Japanese legend that if she folded one thousand paper Origami cranes then she would be granted a wish, and as a result she folded hundreds while she was being treated in hospital. Over the next year she folded well over a thousand, but her wish to recover was not granted, and she passed away, aged just twelve, on October 25th 1955.
After her death, Sadako was memorialised by her classmates, and a Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima Peace Memorial National park was unveiled in her honour in 1958. The memory of her became intertwined with the cranes she folded and consequently, in the statue, Sadako holds a large golden crane. Since 1958, around the memorial thousands of Origami cranes have also been offered by those who wish for a world without nuclear war.
Within the Peace Museum we have a substantial exhibit on several individuals and groups who have campaigned for nuclear disarmament over the past seventy years. There is also a display on the story of Sadako Sasaki and her cranes, with further details, to view. Furthermore, if any visitors wish to view the silver crane please ask.
Written by Sophie Campbell. Sophie is volunteering at the museum over the summer. She is between finishing an Undergraduate History Degree at Lancaster University and beginning a MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Leeds.