Seventy-five years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki just three days later, to end World War II. To commemorate the anniversary, Hawaii-born artist and activist Makana released “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”
The song is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who survived the bombing of Nagasaki at just 2 years old. Just 10 years later, doctors diagnosed Sasaki with leukemia, which developed due to radiation exposure from the atomic bomb. In the hospital, Sasaki worked to fold 1,000 origami paper plans, inspired by the traditional Japanese belief that doing so will mean one’s wish will come true. She died before finishing, so her classmates finished all 1,000 cranes in her honor. Sadako’s story spread, becoming a world-renowned children’s story.
With lyrics in both English and Japanese, Kwassui Girls School Choir supports Makana as he strums his classic slack key guitar. Like many songs about nuclear war, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” has an inviting sound: gentle, soft, warm.
“They called us the ‘ragged class,’” Tomiko Kawano told the Japan Times in 2018. “Half our class had lost family in the atomic bombing or were survivors themselves.”
Kawamo was best friends with Sasaki. At Sasaki’s wake, Kawamo and some peers made a promise that they would build a monument in honor of Sasaki. Their initiative blossomed, sparking a children’s peace movement and fundraising campaign throughout Japan. Their efforts resulted in the Children’s Peace Monument, which stands in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to this day.
Sasaki is only one of the many lives affected by the aftermath of the atomic bomb. As the generation of survivors gets older, it gets more difficult for their experiences to be passed down. Some still look to tell their memories.
“In the beginning, it was really painful to remember those days,” Keiko Ogura recently said to The Guardian. She did not speak publicly about it for four decades. “But I wanted young Americans to know what their country had done. I’m not blaming them for what happened, I just want them to know the facts, and think.”
The American public were fairly unaware of the mass horror of the bombings until the publication of John Heresey’s “Hiroshima” article in The New Yorker in 1946.
The United State’s inability to fully acknowledge repercussions of the atomic bomb is best exemplified by the Smithsonian exhibition of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the Hiroshima bomb. CNN reported the exhibit does not discuss bomb victims or if atomic weapon use was necessary. The legacy of the atomic bomb in the U.S. is another example of not only whitewashing history, but the country’s immorality in issuing any sort of real reparations, something it has a long line of doing.