Paper Crane Recycle
In the time since the bombing, paper cranes or Orizuru have come to symbolize peace. Every year, people send millions of these cranes to Hiroshima. And now the offerings are getting a second life. NHK WORLD's Miki Yamamoto explains.
This statue of a child serves as a reminder that many children were among the victims of the bombing. The figure is holding an origami paper crane. And paper cranes sent from around the world surround the statue. This practice started decades ago, to honor a girl who survived the bombing, but died 10 years later.
Sadako Sasaki developed leukemia in the years after the bombing. During her treatment, she folded more than a thousand paper cranes. According to legend, anyone who does that will have their wish come true. Hers was to recover.
After Sasaki's death, many people sent paper cranes to Hiroshima. The offerings gradually came to be seen as a symbol of peace. Now, 10 million of them are delivered to the statue every year. Not just from Japan but from all over the world.
Municipal workers used to burn the offerings. But since 2002, they've kept the cranes in storage and now have 85 tons of them.
"Every paper crane that arrives here carries within it someone's wish for peace. We wanted to find a way of sending this message back to the world."
Katsumi Suesada / Peace Promotion Dept., Hiroshima
City officials launched an initiative in 2011 to breathe new purpose into this tradition. The paper is recycled to produce stationery and souvenirs. It's also used for art projects and exhibitions on the theme of peace.
And the initiative has spread beyond Hiroshima, to Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku.
"This paper recycling company took in 10 tons of cranes to turn it into something we can wear."
Miki Yamamoto / NHK WORLD
Workers mix the paper cranes with chemicals in a large cauldron. They use the resulting thick liquid to create large sheets of recycled pulp.
From there, it goes to this spinning factory. With more chemicals, it's transformed into rayon yarn.
Three months later...the cranes begin a second life as polo shirts. The fabric is a blend of rayon and cotton. Every shirt contains the equivalent of about 20 paper cranes.
"The prayers for peace that were literally folded into these paper cranes find a new purpose by being weaved into clothes.
I hope that in this way, they'll be able to spread back across the world."
Hiroki Shima / Pulp manufacturer
And so the paper cranes keep spreading their wings, finding new ways of conveying a decades-old message of peace.