A-Bomb Victim’s Family Hopes to Spread Message of Peace

Yomiuri Shimbun photo
The Children’s Peace Monument, modeled after Sadako Sasaki, is seen in Hiroshima City on Wednesday.

Sadako Sasaki, a 12-year-old girl who died from leukemia resulting from an atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, has become a symbol of the tragedy but also of peace.

“Sadako taught us to be sympathetic and show gratitude to others in exchange for her own life, and we want to spread that message,” a bereaved family member of Sadako said.

Sadako’s brother Masahiro, 81, and his son Yuji, 52, founded the nonprofit organization Sadako Legacy in 2009 to spread a message of peace to future generations. Among other activities, the nonprofit has also donated origami cranes folded by Sadako to 19 facilities in Japan and overseas, including the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the National Museum “Chernobyl” in Ukraine.

The story of Sadako’s life was adapted into children’s books and films, allowing her story to be known overseas. When former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May 2016, he saw Sadako’s paper cranes on display at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Obama brought origami cranes he had folded and donated them to the museum.

Masahiro and others have developed friendships with various people, including Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of former U.S. President Harry Truman who ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The nonprofit is working with others, including Truman, to have Sadako’s origami cranes and other items registered in the UNESCO Memory of the World through a joint application from Japan and the United States.

Yuji spoke with an official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in charge of the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO about the application process at the end of 2022. He was told that Sadako’s personal notes on her red and white blood cell count, as well as her medical records, were also valuable. Based on the discussion, Yuji and others have been sorting through the items Sadako left behind.

“We want Sadako’s story to be used to tell the reality of the only country that has had an atomic bomb dropped on it and help future children learn to care for others,” Masahiro said.

UNESCO created the UNESCO Memory of the World in 1992 to preserve documents, pictures and other materials for future generations. As of December 2022, there are 429 inscriptions on the register, including the Diaries of Anne Frank. Of them, seven are from Japan, including Sakubei Yamamoto Collection.

Yomiuri Shimbun photo
Masahiro Sasaki, left, speaks about Sadako in Tokyo, with his son Yuji on Feb. 8.