- grant the folder a wish.
- bring peace.
- bring happiness to a marriage.
Many people know the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who suffered from leukemia after surviving the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. Sadako had just turned 12 when she was given one year to live. She began folding cranes with the hope to receive one simple wish: to live. Using all the paper she could--medicine labels and gum wrappers were fair game--Sadako folded crane after crane. She fell short of her goal, having folded just 644 when she passed away. Afterwords her friends and family took up the banner. They completed the cranes and also set up a memorial, which is always overflowing with cranes folded in her honor. Since her passing, the message of the cranes has morphed from wish granting to world peace and healing.
A photo I snapped of a few thousand cranes at Sadako's memorial in Hiroshima.
The message reads: "Peace is our deepest wish."
This brings us to the third meaning: a happy marriage. The first time I was made aware of this was when I was in college. A friend was getting married right after graduation, and she was determined to fold 1,000 cranes for the wedding. (I guess graduating college, having her senior recital, and getting married in the same week wasn't enough!) At an all-hands-on-deck event one night near the wedding, a dozen of us sat in a dorm lounge and folded crane after crane late into the evening. I'm sure it was stressful for the bride but it sure was fun for the rest of us! (And yes, they are still happily married 8 years later, with 2 kids!)
So why do people fold cranes for a happy marriage? I've read at least half a dozen explanations, so I will merely touch on the ones that hold meaning for me. First, it is a sign of patience and industry in a bride-to-be. (Or possibly stupidity and tenacity. Whatever.) Second, cranes have long life spans. Third, and most important, cranes are one of those rare animals that mate long-term. Therefore, folding 1,000 cranes shows determination for the marriage, and symbolizes longevity and fidelity. The Japanese long ago embraced these meanings, making crane imagery a traditional aspect of the Japanese wedding.
Two brides wear uchikake--a formal coat worn over a kimono--decorated with crane motifs.
Needless to say, since the beginning of this process, I knew I would be folding 1,000 cranes. Once we reached the 4 month mark, I knew I had to get going. I ordered a set of 1000 sheets of origami paper off Amazon and, after a quick refresher lesson on folding cranes courtesy of youtube, I got started. I had absolutely no idea how long it was going to take me to fold my cranes. (I have to admit that I had visions of spending the weeks before the wedding holed up in my apartment, folding like a madwoman.) But once I got started, I found it difficult to stop. It was the perfect thing to do while watching TV and movies, but I have to admit I did the majority of them at work. Since most of my team works in Columbus, Ohio (how ironic, I know!), I'm often stuck on conference calls for several hours a day. I found that folding origami kept the floaty part of my mind occupied so I could actually concentrate on the calls better! So after just 2 months, they were all folded, and I could check off the first item of my to-do list.
Then I had to figure out what to do with them.
As with many things, the Internet once again came to my rescue. I'm not the only girl who loved the paper crane idea, and brides have integrated them into their weddings in many different ways. Here are just a few examples:
Use them as escort cards!
Use them as boutonnières!
Heck, put them on your cake!
But to me, the most beautiful way to display the cranes is to string them and hang them like a gigantic curtain. Behold:
Clearly the curtain is the winner here. Thankfully, after confirming it with the event coordinator at the reception space, my crane curtain is a go! Now I just have to finish stringing the damn things on fishing wire... but for someone like me with proven patience and industry, I say, bring it on!