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Unveiling ceremony of Children’s Peace Monument takes place, attended by supporters from across Japan

To the 12,000 schoolchildren whose young lives were stolen away by the atomic bomb 14 years ago, and the 14 schoolchildren who have since died of A-bomb-related diseases, including Sadako Sasaki, a first-year student of Noboricho Junior High School, we pray that their souls can rest in peace. On May 5, Children’s Day, with prayers for peace on earth and in the heavens, the Hiroshima Society of School Children for Building World Peace held the unveiling ceremony for the Children’s Peace Monument, atop which a girl holds a golden paper crane.

Under May sunshine, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was filled with new leaves and grass. The venue for the ceremony was within the park, with the A-bomb Dome in the back, across the Motoyasu River. About 10,000 people (estimated by the organizer) came together for the ceremony, including representatives of schoolchildren from Hiroshima and from Japan, family members of the A-bomb victims, and citizens, as if drawn by the souls of the children who perished in the atomic bombing.

The ceremony began at 10:15 a.m., presided over by Misako Okamoto, a second-year student at the high school attached to Hiroshima University. First, there was a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony by the orchestra at Noboricho Junior High School. A single white screen, which was wrapped around the center of the monument’s base, was then removed by Eiji Sasaki, the younger brother of the late Sadako Sasaki and a second-grade student at Noboricho Elementary School, and two other children as they pulled on the white and red tapes attached to the screen. Sadako had been the inspiration for creating the monument.

A bell designed to resemble a bronze bell-shaped vessel, which was donated by Hideki Yukawa with the inscriptions “A Thousand Paper Cranes” on the front and “Peace on Earth and in the Heavens” on the back, was then unveiled and hung from the pedestal by members of the “Kokeshi Club,” who had paper cranes pinned to their chests. After that, Fumio Kumagai, one of the club members, rang the bell. Those in attendance then offered bouquets of flowers, in various sizes, to the monument.

Beneath the monument is a black marble slab which bears the inscription that was written by a junior high school student in Hiroshima. It reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in the world.” These words were read out in a strong voice by Masaie Kagawa, a third-year student at Noboricho Junior High School.

Inscribed on the back of the marble slab is this epitaph: “To comfort the souls of our elder brothers and sisters who died because of the atomic bombing and appeal to the world for peace, schoolchildren at elementary, junior high, and high schools in Hiroshima came together to create this monument with support from our friends across Japan. By the Hiroshima Society of School Children for Building World Peace on May 5, 1958.” This was then read out by Chiyoshi Nakae, a second-year student at Kokutaiji Junior High School. After these readings, those in attendance observed a silent prayer to console the spirits of the A-bomb victims and commit to promoting peace.

Mr. Tetsumasu, a third-year student at Sanyo High School and the chair of the Hiroshima Society of School Children for Building World Peace, delivered a speech which expressed the joy of realizing this project. Masahiro Sasaki, a second-year student at Motomachi High School, then reported on the progress of the group’s fundraising campaign, saying that they had received donations totaling 5.8 million yen from 3,100 schools in Japan, as well as support from nine nations overseas including the United Kingdom.

The creator of the monument, Kazuo Kikuchi, a professor at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, said that a paper crane was placed at the top because the crane symbolizes future dreams, an ancient idea in Japan. He added that the figure of the girl conveys an everlasting spirit and, to each side of this main figure, there is a cheerful boy and girl. He spoke about the background of creating the monument in plain words that would be readily understood by the children in attendance.

The monument was then donated by the group to Hiroshima Mayor Watanabe at the ceremony venue. The group also handed commemorative gifts to show appreciation to each of the 17 people who provided significant support so that the monument could be realized, including Nagatake Asano, the director of the National Tokyo National Museum, and Hideki Yukawa, PhD.

On behalf of supporters nationwide, seven representatives, including Takeo Hanyu, the principal of Nishi-ashibetsu Junior High School, made a congratulatory speech which praised the Hiroshima children’s pure desire and effort for building peace. Finally, the attendees sang “One of the Stars,” a song created for the monument, and the song “No More Atomic Bombs.” The ceremony, which was smoothly carried out by these children, then came to an end.

After the ceremony concluded, a message from the “White Dove” group was read out as well. This group consists of former classmates of Ms. Iwamoto, a student at Yaga Elementary School who died of an A-bomb-related illness a little earlier than Sadako Sasaki. As they listened to this message, the people in attendance became overwhelmed with emotion and gazed up at the monument. Amid these conditions, filming for the movie “Senba-zuru” (“A Thousand Paper Cranes”) was being pursued at the site. The film, which features Sadako’s story through the completion of the monument, was written by Joji Moroi and is being directed by Sotoji Kimura and produced by Kyodo Eiga Co., Ltd. Subsequently, an event to commemorate the completion of the monument was held at the Hiroshima Children’s Cultural Hall from 1 p.m., which included a keynote speech by Nagatake Asano, the director of the National Tokyo National Museum, performances, and a movie.

(Originally published on May 6, 1958)