How To Make a Peace Crane (and the story behind it)

Woman holding origami birds showing how to make a peace crane

When I first heard about peace cranes, building sites sprang to mind. I struggled to understand how cranes could be used for peace. The real meaning is of course the crane bird, and there’s a moving true story behind it.

Sadako Sasaki

The origami crane is a Japanese peace symbol is because of a girl called Sadako Sasaki.

Sasaki was two years old when her house was completely destroyed in seconds by the atom bomb at Hiroshima. But by a miracle, she and her whole family were completely unharmed.

It took over 5 years to rebuild the city, and during this time the Sasakis rebuilt their lives also. Sadako grew to be a good student with many friends. She was also a gifted athlete – the fastest runner in the whole school!

Then, one cold winter day Sadako suddenly collapsed at school. When she woke up at the hospital she heard the doctor mention “leukemia”. It came from radiation, a kind of unseen poison caused by the bomb. It felt so cruel that this should happen now, a full 10 years after the bomb. Sadako had to stay in hospital a few weeks while they did tests.

Her best friend visited her and said ‘I’ve figured out a way for you to get better! Remember the old story about the Japanese crane bird? It lives for 1000 years, and if a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes the gods will grant her wish to be well again. Sadako started work right away making the little origami cranes. On every piece of paper she folded she wrote “I wish to get better”.

But, as the illness progressed, it became harder and harder to make the cranes. She folded her last crane having reached 644 in total. She was just twelve years old when she died.


But that wasn’t the end of the story. It was just the beginning. Her friends formed a group and began to dream about building a monument to Sadako and all the children who died from the atom bombs. They wrote to schools all over Japan, and children were so touched by the story donations started to flood in.

Three years later, in 1958, their dream came true. Now there stands the statue in Peace Park. There is Sadako, holding a golden crane, with outstretched arms.


Today, people from all over the world make origami cranes and send them to Hiroshima. Every year on August 6th, Peace Day, children hang the many garlands of cranes from the statue. Their wish is engraved at its base:

This is our cry, this is our prayer; to build peace in the world.

How to make a peace crane

Learn how to make a peace crane with this simple origami video.

Not sure what to do with your crane? How about sending it to your mayor or MP, and ask them to be always thinking about peace.

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