My favorite classes always had something to do with art, and oriental art in particular. So when my husband was asked by the National Academy of Science to study the after effects of radiation from the atomic bomb that fell on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was very pleased. Our two daughters were just two-months old and eighteen-months old when we went to Japan. Our love of the people and the country has influenced all of us in many ways. We are now pacifists.
Japanese custom strongly suggests one should study just one thing, and then do it well. But I didn’t know what I’d be good at, so I wished to learn as much about the people, art and culture as I could. Of course there was the language and flower arranging classes to take, but Harie, pictures made with hand-made paper, was my favorite craft while there. I studied the koto, a long thirteen-stringed instrument that is played while kneeling on the floor. When one of my wood block prints was displayed in the Hiroshima castle, and then a calligraphy scroll took third place in a national contest, I was awarded two artist’s names by my senseis. I’m very proud to use them when designing stationery.
I taught many classes of English conversation where my students in turn taught me many wonderful things about their country and culture. But from the young students, I learned the art of origami. I loved it. And I must have been good at it because they told me: you are NOT a five-thumbed American.
I knew the story of Sadako and the thousand cranes before going to Japan, but the people of Hiroshima want the crane, like the phoenix that rose from the ashes, to be a symbol of peace. As I was leaving, they gave me strings of origami cranes and asked that I give them to my friends and ask that they pray for peace. Now it is my turn to fold peace cranes and share Sadako’s story.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before my radiation treatment was complete, I was given a bouquet of tiny folded peace cranes—1000 of them. It hangs in my kitchen where I see it often, and say a prayer of thanks for my wonderful life.