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Release: Oct. 24, 2001

UI students, faculty, staff join effort to fold paper cranes for peace

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Iowa and a dozen other Midwest colleges and universities have joined together in an expression of peace through the traditional Japanese art of origami. The group collaborated to fold nearly 8,000 tiny paper cranes–in honor of all the victims of the terrorist attacks and their loved ones—and is sending them to Iowa to be boxed and sent to the mayor’s office in New York this week. (Photo 1, Photo 2)

According to Japanese folklore, 1,000 origami cranes symbolize a long and happy life, and the tradition is often used as consolation for the sick and grieving. The tradition became more popular through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who was exposed to radiation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She became ill with leukemia and began folding cranes in hopes that she would reach 1,000 and have her wish granted for a return to health. Her school friends completed the folding after her death and the folding of paper cranes has become a symbol of a wish for peace. Thousands of origami cranes hang at the monuments in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The UI became involved in the current project when Yasumi Kuriya, a Japanese instructor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences department of Asian languages and literature, was contacted by a colleague at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. When she heard about the project, Kuriya was eager to participate and encouraged her students, other faculty, and staff in the department to join in.

All together about 145 UI students participated along with Kuriya and other faculty, about 10 teaching assistants, the department secretary, and some family members. It took them about four weeks to fold 1,000 paper cranes. Origami is an art of fine detail and it can take a beginner 5-7 minutes or longer to fold a single crane. A more experienced artist can complete the task in about 2 minutes.

Kuriya and other faculty members said the project was a way to help students deal with their emotions following the attacks since most of them do not yet have strong enough language skills to talk about their reactions in class.

“We can only hope that doing something, no matter how small it may be, will give them a sense of unity and peace,” said Yukiko Abe Hatasa, a UI associate professor of Japanese.

In addition to the UI, other participants include: Calvin College, Carlton College, DePaul University, DePauw University, Emory University, Franklin and Marshall College, Grand Valley State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Jefferson High School (Ind.), and Tippecanoe Middle School (Ind.).