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1,000 Paper Cranes

What Does a Senbazuru Mean?

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These senbazuru origami cranes with wishes are displayed in the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Keren Su/The Image Bank/Getty Images

What if you could have one wish? What would it be? According to Japanese tradition, folding 1,000 paper cranes gives you a chance to make one special wish.

About the Senbazuru

When 1,000 cranes are folded as a group, they are known as a senbazuru. The individual cranes are often strung along a string so they can be hung from the ceiling. The cranes are typically made from many different colors and patterns of paper, so they are a bright and cheerful decoration.

As you might expect, folding 1,000 paper cranes is not an easy project. Origami cranes get easier to fold with practice, but making 1,000 paper cranes is still a huge undertaking. For this reason, it's common for groups of people to join together to make a senbazuru.

Over the years, the act of making a senbazuru has been adapted on a larger scale as apart of several different public service, awareness, and fundraising campaigns.

1,000 Paper Cranes for Cancer Awareness

The most popular reason people are interested in folding 1,000 paper cranes is to show their support for a loved one suffering from a serious illness. 1,000 Cranes of Hope is a website full of resources for people interested in learning how to make a senbazuru. There are downloadable PDF crane instructions, as well as many different video tutorials. The website is sponsored by Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, an organization that will make a charitable donation for every wish made on the site. Their goal is to unite people from around the world in the fight against cancer by making an "interactive online monument" to the men, women, and children struggling with this deadly illness.

Cranes for Cancer is a blog started by Julie, a woman with the desire to deliver 1,000 origami cranes to individual patients in need of a show of support as they undergo chemotherapy treatments. You can nominate a patient to receive cranes by sending her an email.

1,000 Paper Cranes for Tsunami Victims

The concept of folding 1,000 paper cranes is sometimes used to raise awareness about the needs of people recovering from natural disasters. Several high schools across the United States have sponsored fundraisers where each of the 1,000 cranes were sold to raise money for the 2011 tsunami victims in Japan. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops have also completed this project, although very young children are likely to need adult assistance with many of the crane folding steps.

1,000 Paper Cranes for Peace

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons uses the idea of folding 1,000 paper cranes in its public awareness campaigns. Their website tells the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who developed leukemia as a result of radiation exposure from the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Sadako Sasaki tried to fold 1,000 cranes before her death, but was unsuccessful. Her friends and family finished the project in her memory.

Even though she passed away in 1955, Sadako Sasaki is still remembered today as a worldwide symbol of the innocent children impacted by war. Her story is told in great detail in the children's book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. The book is commonly read in elementary schools are part of peace education programs.

1,000 Paper Cranes for Wildlife Conservation

Folding origami cranes can be a way to express your commitment to wildlife conservation. The International Crane Foundation works to conserve cranes and the wetland and grassland ecosystems they need to survive. They sponsor a 1,000 cranes campaign to help raise awareness of the importance of saving these beautiful birds.

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