Sadako’s Message of Peace Comes to Southland


From left: Yuji Sasaki, Miyuki Sohara, Masahiro Sasaki and Clifton Truman Daniel spoke after a screening of “Orizuru 2015” in West Los Angeles. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

From left: Yuji Sasaki, Miyuki Sohara, Masahiro Sasaki and Clifton Truman Daniel spoke after a screening of “Orizuru 2015” in West Los Angeles. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)


By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The observance of the 71st anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings — Aug. 6 and 9, respectively — began early this year with the U.S. premiere of “Orizuru 2015,” a short film about Sadako Sasaki and her paper cranes.

A series of screenings at the Laemmle Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles began on May 27, the day that President Obama visited Hiroshima and paid his respects at Peace Memorial Park, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so.


Sadako Sasaki

Sadako Sasaki


Sadako survived the Hiroshima bomb but died 10 years later at age 12 due to radiation exposure. While in the hospital, she set out to fold 1,000 origami cranes in the hope that her life would be prolonged. Although her wish didn’t come true, she and the paper cranes (orizuru) became symbols of peace.

In the film, 5th-grader Satoshi (played by director Miyuki Sohara’s son, Takamaro) helps Richard (Jed Mills), a Pearl Harbor survivor, to make paper cranes for a peace ceremony in Hawaii. In the process, Satoshi learns about the story of Sadako (played by Sohara’s daughter, Reyna) and meets Sadako’s older brother, Masahiro (Toshi Toda). Singer/songwriter Yuji Sasaki, Masahiro’s son, appears as himself.

During the run of the film, members of Sadako’s family and a grandson of President Harry Truman, who made the decision to use the A-bomb, appeared at screenings and visited the Museum of Tolerance and the Japanese American National Museum, presenting one of Sadako’s cranes to each.

At the May 29 screening, both Sohara and then-Consul General Harry Horinouchi said they were pleased that Obama visited Hiroshima and that he gave two origami cranes that he had folded himself to the Peace Memorial Museum.


Director Miyuki Sohara's son Takamaro and daughter Reyna appeared in "Orizuru 2015" as Satoshi and Sadako. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Director Miyuki Sohara’s son Takamaro and daughter Reyna appeared in “Orizuru 2015” as Satoshi and Sadako. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)


“Through this film, I wish that the movement for world peace will spread and continue for future generations,” said Sohara, who also plays Satoshi’s mom in the movie.

Horinouchi added that many people have been inspired by Sadako’s story.

In a video message, astronaut Naoko Yamazaki — who folded two paper cranes in space, which were sent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki — said, “I am delighted to see a good friend of mine, Miyuki Sohara, directed this ‘Orizuru’ movie. Sadako’s spirit described in this movie is a good symbol of peace and reconciliation in this world. I greatly hope more and more people will share Sadako’s spirit.”

Twelve-year-old Cameron McIntyre, who appears in the film, commented, “Before doing this, I had never heard of Sadako’s story. This entire experience has … just been amazing and I’ve learned so much.”

Noting that last year marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Sohara said she noticed that “every time in history class when Pearl Harbor or Hiroshima are mentioned, there is friction between the Japanese students and American students. I really wanted to eliminate that as much as possible and wanted to make something based on friendship.”

She was “very inspired” when a group of elementary school students in Los Alamos, N.M., where the A-bomb was created, collected money to make a peace monument.

Sohara visited schools in Los Angeles, Torrance and Santa Monica, addressing almost 1,000 students. The film has received a Spirit Award from the National Council for Social Studies and Sohara has been invited to address a gathering of social studies teachers next year in San Diego.

Masahiro Sasaki recalled, “Sadako had a lot of pain but she never really mentioned it, she never really expressed it to anyone … She was in the hospital for eight months, and she folded more than 1,500 paper cranes. Despite her sadness and the pain, she was able to show us her compassionate heart … Each paper crane has the compassion of her spirit.”

He said his wish is that the film will convey Sadako’s “omoiyari” spirit and spread the message of peace little by little.

The Truman Connection

“Sadako’s story was the first human story of Hiroshima or Nagasaki that I ever read,” said Clifton Truman Daniel. “Up to that point, my grandfather never spoke to me about the bombings. I was very young and it was a tough subject, and to keep our lives normal my family downplayed our relationship to Harry Truman … I learned about the bombings from my history books, from my teachers. There was a page or a page and a half, a picture of the mushroom cloud, facts and figures, but nothing about what happened to the people on the ground.

“My son Wesley brought home ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’ when he was in fifth grade. He’s 27 now … We read it together and I remember telling him it that was important for him to understand his great-grandfather’s and his country’s decision but also to understand what that decision cost the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His teacher also taught them Japanese history, Japanese culture. They had tea ceremony in the classroom, she took me to a Japanese restaurant. I came home one afternoon and Wesley was wearing a kimono, and he had green tea and sushi laid out on the coffee table …

“I mentioned this to a couple of Japanese journalists who were doing stories on anniversaries of the bombings, and those stories eventually got back to Japan and got to Masahiro. And he called me out of the blue one day and just said, ‘I understand you read my sister’s story and you read it to your son. Could we meet someday, maybe work together?’ I said yes.


One of Sadako Sasaki’s cranes was donated to the Japanese American National Museum during the opening reception for “Above the Fold” on May 29. From left: Gene Kanamori and Nikki Kodama JANM governors; Yuji Sasaki, Sadako’s nephew; Miyuki Sohara, producer/director/writer of “Orizuru 2015”; Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of President Harry Truman; Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako's brother; JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura; Consul General Harry Horinouchi and his wife, Sabine; Kathryn Bannai, JANM trustee; Tracey Doi and Mitchell Maki, JANM governors.

One of Sadako Sasaki’s cranes was donated to the Japanese American National Museum during the opening reception for “Above the Fold” on May 29. From left: Gene Kanamori and Nikki Kodama JANM governors; Yuji Sasaki, Sadako’s nephew; Miyuki Sohara, producer/director/writer of “Orizuru 2015”; Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of President Harry Truman; Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s brother; JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura; Consul General Harry Horinouchi and his wife, Sabine; Kathryn Bannai, JANM trustee; Tracey Doi and Mitchell Maki, JANM governors.


“We met in New York at the World Trade Center Memorial, where Masahiro and Yuji were donating one of Sadako’s last cranes as a gesture of healing. During that meeting, Yuji placed a tiny paper crane in my palm and said, ‘That’s the last one that my Aunt Sadako folded before she died.’ At that point he and his father asked if I would attend memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.