New peace museum to open next March at school once attended by Sadako Sasaki

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Noboricho Elementary School in Naka Ward plans to open a peace museum in part of the school building in March 2018. This school was once attended by Sadako Sasaki, a girl who experienced the atomic bombing when she was two and died of A-bomb-induced leukemia at the age of 12, before she fell ill and became hospitalized. Sadako’s story, which includes her wish to recover by folding paper cranes, has become widely known around the world and there are now a growing number of visitors to her old school. The school will become a new base for peace studies, like Fukuromachi Elementary School and Honkawa Elementary School, which are both located near the hypocenter have created peace museums on their school grounds.

Noboricho Elementary School plans to convert a 30-square-meter meeting room on the first floor of the school building into the peace museum. At the heart of the exhibition will be items involving Sadako that are stored at the school. Among these items for display are a paper crane folded by Sadako and a graduation album from 1955 which contains photos of Sadako when she was still alive. The paper crane is around one centimeter in size and is made out of cellophane paper. It was donated to the school four years ago by Masahiro Sasaki, 76, Sadako’s brother and the director of Sadako Legacy, a non-profit organization.

The Children’s Peace Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, raised in memory of Sadako, will mark its 60th anniversary next year. The school also plans to display materials related to the campaign begun by Sadako’s classmates to erect the monument.

The school has started to organize the materials left by teachers who worked there in the past, with the cooperation of Kikuo Okabe, 69, the head of a neighborhood association, and the local community. “We would like visitors to know the importance of peace and our wish for no more war,” said the school principal, Yasushi Shimamoto, 56.

Sadako became hospitalized before she was able to graduate from the school Although she persisted in folding paper cranes, hoping to recover from her illness, she died of the leukemia that was induced by the radiation released by the atomic bomb. Over the years, her story spread around the world and roused public sympathy. As a result, paper cranes have grown to be a symbol of peace. When former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima last year, he presented paper cranes that he himself had folded.

Atsuko Morikawa, an associate professor of education at Hijiyama University who previously worked as an assistant principal at Noboricho Elementary School, said, “Visiting the school that Sadako had actually attended will touch people’s hearts. Enabling visitors in and out of Japan to see the things that were once stored away at the school will be very meaningful.”

(Originally published on November 4, 2017)