Junior Writers Reporting

Peace Seeds: Teens in Hiroshima Sow Seeds of Peace (Part 14)

Part 14: Expanded use of recycled paper cranes

A huge number of paper cranes are offered at monuments to victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, particularly the Children’s Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park, by people from throughout Japan and overseas. The effort to keep alive the desire for peace embodied by the paper cranes by recycling them and putting them to use in other ways is expanding year by year.

There are various uses for the paper including notebooks, postcards, pencils and T-shirts, but on all of the products it is indicated that they were made from recycled paper cranes. Other items, such as paper models of the A-bomb Dome, represent a call for peace themselves.

This article looks at how the paper cranes that are sent to Hiroshima are turned into recycled paper and other products that once again convey a message of peace. And, sensing the desire for peace the paper cranes represent and the feelings of those working to pass on those prayers for peace by recycling the paper cranes, we hoped even more strongly that the effort to reuse the paper cranes would be expanded even further and that the products would reach people around the world.

Effort to pass on prayers for peace

The Children’s Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park was erected through the efforts of classmates of Sadako Sasaki, who died at the age of 12 after folding paper cranes in the belief that it would cure her radiation-related illness. About 10 million paper cranes weighing 10 tons are offered at the monument every year.

According to Tatsuya Sumida, 46, a manager in the Peace Promotion Division of the City of Hiroshima, in the past the paper cranes were incinerated or sometimes preserved and displayed. The recycling effort began in May 2012. After considering ways to incorporate the desire for peace of the people throughout the world who had folded the cranes, it was decided to recycle the paper and spread the message of peace, Mr. Sumida said.

Currently, the city provides the desired amount of paper cranes to those who want them if they fulfill certain criteria. In most cases, the cranes are recycled into paper and made into commercial products. The paper cranes are sorted at about 30 facilities that provide work for disabled people before being sent to a paper mill. In some cases the cranes are given to people as souvenirs or burned at peace-related events. (Riho Kito, 14)

Stored at two locations

77 tons of paper cranes representing desire for peace fill facility

The paper cranes offered at the Children’s Peace Monument and other locations are taken to one of two warehouses in the city after a certain amount of time has passed. We visited one of those warehouses at the site of a former recycling center in Naka Ward and saw the paper cranes stored on the second and third floors of the office building there.

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper cranes there, we let out a cry. The room was filled to the ceiling with paper cranes that had been stuffed into plastic bags that were so big that two adults could barely get their arms around them, and there was just a narrow path between the bags.

Of the 77 tons of paper cranes currently in storage, 20 tons are stored there. There are chains of paper cranes in a variety of colors as well as mosaic-like works featuring paper cranes glued to cardboard to form pictures or words. When I saw those many paper cranes representing prayers for peace, I once again hoped efforts to recycle the paper cranes would be expanded. (Kana Fukushima, 16)

Cranes sorted by disabled at workplace

Stirred by messages on them

I went to the Smile Studio in Naka Ward to report on their involvement in the effort to recycle paper cranes. The facility provides work for about 20 disabled people. They send paper cranes to the paper mill and turn the paper that is returned to them into products that they sell.

There were several large plastic bags full of paper cranes there. I was surprised at how many there were. I spent some time sorting the paper cranes with the workers there, separating them into light and dark colors, removing the gold and silver ones, which cannot be recycled, and separating out any bits of plastic mixed in with them. It was an unexpectedly difficult job. When I unfolded the cranes, I found that some had “Peace” or other things written on them. I had mixed feelings thinking that the paper cranes carrying these sentiments used to be incinerated.

Tomonori Kaneko, 43, manager of the facility, said, “There are various reasons for recycling the paper cranes: the desire for peace, support of the disabled, and the environment.” There are problems, such as the fact that it costs money to recycle the paper cranes, but I felt it would be great if this effort were expanded even further. (Hiromi Ueoka, 14)

Recycling paper cranes to make various products

Put to use in different forms

I saw products made of recycled paper cranes at the city’s Peace Promotion Division and the Rest House in Peace Memorial Park. Among them were notebooks, memo pads, calendars, business cards, postcards, stationery, confectionery boxes, pencils, and paper for origami. I realized that paper cranes are being turned into a wide variety of products by non-profit organizations and others and that their reuse is growing.

The notebooks are sometimes distributed to local schools. To mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the city has taken the lead in the effort to reuse the paper cranes, and plans to use them for diplomas for municipal kindergartens and schools next spring. I thought a paper model of the A-bomb Dome made from recycled paper would make a good souvenir for visitors to Hiroshima.

In addition to paper products, paper cranes are also blended into fiber used to make T-shirts. They are used for papier-mâché as well. The prayers of the people around the world who made them live on in the recycled paper cranes. (Ayumi Uehara, 17)

Children’s Peace Monument

Embodiment of hopes for peace from the world to Hiroshima

The area around the Children’s Peace Monument was filled with chains of paper cranes in red, yellow, pink and other colors. Some were light blue, a color suggestive of a peaceful blue sky.

In mosaic-like works, paper cranes had been attached to a sheet of paper to form writing or a picture. Clearly, a lot of time and energy had been spent on them.

Some of the paper cranes had been offered by schoolchildren from throughout Japan. Others bore the names of universities in the United States and Brazil. A foreigner rang the Peace Bell. I sensed once again that everyone throughout the world strongly desires peace. It was a sobering experience. (Kota Ueda, 12)


Our ideas for ways to make use of the paper cranes

We thought about new uses for the recycled paper cranes with the idea of conveying the desire for peace to the world and creating items that would be representative of Hiroshima. The following are our top three ideas. (Riho Kito, 14)

1. Tickets for events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Reason: So that people who come to these celebrations of peace from around the world can learn about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

2. Wrappers for disposable chopsticks Reason: With the idea that many tourists eat okonomiyaki in Hiroshima using disposable chopsticks

3. Playing cards with a Hiroshima theme Reason: So that people can learn about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima while playing cards

Junior writers’ postscripts

When I saw some of the recycled paper, I had the sense that many people’s desire for peace was in that sheet of paper. I’d like this recycled paper to be made available in more places to give people throughout the world an opportunity to think about peace. (Kota Ueda)

I had heard that about 10 million paper cranes weighing about 10 tons were sent to Hiroshima every year, but when I actually saw them in the warehouse I was surprised by the huge amount. All sorts of products, including three-dimensional works, have been made out of the cranes, and I sensed the hopes of the people who folded them. (Hiroyuki Hanaoka)

I had wanted to cover the recycling of the paper cranes, so I was glad to be able to report on it. I felt that even though each paper crane may be small, the desire for peace in each one is very big. (Riho Kito)

I had a pencil made from recycled paper cranes. It was a lot of fun. Whenever I use the pencil, I’ll be reminded that it was made from many paper cranes that represent the hopes of many people. (Hiromi Ueoka)

When I went to the warehouse in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward where the paper cranes are stored, I was surprised to see so many plastic bags of paper cranes filling the place up to the ceiling. More uses have been found for them, such as ball-point pens, labels, memo pads, and I’d like to see this effort expand even further in the future. (Kana Fukushima)

What is Peace Seeds?
The goal of Peace Seeds is to consider peace and the value of human life from a variety of perspectives and spread these values around the world to bring smiles to people’s faces. The 49 junior writers of the Chugoku Shimbun, who range from sixth graders to high school seniors, come up with their own ideas, conduct their own interviews and write their own articles.

(Originally published on July 23, 2015)