Why a crane? by Sue-Je Gage

Crane

Katie Quan created the beautiful logo for the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival that features a crane as its icon. The symbol of the crane has many meanings, such as peace and long life, but it also reminds us of the consequences of war as told through the story of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was one of hundreds of thousands of people in Japan either killed or harmed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at the end of World War II by the United States. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of the radiation from the bomb, but she remembered a story that if you make one thousand cranes, then your wish will come true. She wished to live and believed with all her heart that her health would improve if she could accomplish making one thousand cranes. Every day, she would fold and fold. The story goes that she passed away after making 644 cranes. Sadako’s classmates continued to make Sadako’s one thousand cranes. They shared her story and built a memorial in her honor at the Hiroshima Peace Park.

Sadako’s story is one that Kaori Teramura heard many times as a child growing up in Japan. For Kaori, the cranes represent hope, peace, and love, as well as our interconnectedness. Kaori has lived in Ithaca, New York for 14 years where she works as a social worker at BOCES. In 1998, when she first moved to Ithaca, she met Han Lin, a Burmese Freedom Fighter, and his family. Han Lin and his family’s inspiring story is captured in Changhee Chun’s film, Honoring Home, which will be featured the first night of IPAAFF on Monday, April 20 at Cinemapolis. Kaori’s friendship with Han Lin and his family taught her about their experiences and she became active with Burmese resettlement in Ithaca. Before Han Lin was diagnosed with cancer, he had met Jun-san, a Japanese Buddhist nun from the Grafton Peace Pagoda near Albany, New York. Jun-san introduced Han Lin to the idea of peace walks to further his movement for the Burmese people. It was Han Lin who introduced Kaori to Jun-san and peace walks. Peace walkers make and carry folded crane ornaments with nanmyohorendekyo, a Buddhist mantra in Japanese which means “may all life be in harmony and peace” written on them. All peace walks have a specific purpose and cause. The peace walkers give cranes to people along their journey. The last two peace walks that Kaori has participated in were for a nuclear-free world and the Two-Row Wampum.

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Chiyo Teramura, Kaori’s grandmother, was born August 6, 1917. She raised and taught Kaori to be anti-war through her stories about the atrocities of war. Chiyo-san was already a widow with three children by August 6, 1945 when the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. In December 2009, while Kaori was visiting Japan, her grandmother had a stroke. She prayed for her grandmother to recover and decided to make one thousand cranes. Her grandmother made them with her side by side. Since then, Chiyo-san has continued to make cranes. Whenever she finishes making one thousand, she sends them to Kaori in Ithaca to share. Kaori has shared her grandmother’s cranes with the Grafton Peace Pagoda and with the Ithaca community in support of various causes. On March 11, 2010, Japan was devastated by an earthquake that created a nuclear disaster. Jun-san organized a peace walk and movement to help people in Japan, which Kaori served as an active participant. The Japanese community in Ithaca also wished to do something and held a benefit gathering. Kaori initiated the idea of making one thousand cranes with messages from people in Ithaca, translated into Japanese, to send to people in Japan as an expression of human connection, love, and hope. Satomi Hill and Mimi Melegrito, leaders of the Asian Women’s Network which Kaori is also a member, helped to galvanize many groups in town for this and other causes, including fundraising for the Philippines after the 2013 tsunami.

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Kaori’s grandmother and Tao

Kaori’s grandmother, Chiyo-san, whose name means “a thousand lifetimes,” has made over ten thousand cranes for us in Ithaca. Along with the members of the Asian Women’s Network and the Ithaca College Asian American Alliance, Chiyo-san has contributed her yellow cranes to IPAAFF as an expression of her loving connection to us, the hope of a successful community event, and world peace. Chiyo-san met Kaori’s son, Tao, for the first time this past December during their visit to Japan. They made cranes together, too.

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