Sadako and the Atomic Bombing(げんばく)

4 Sadako at Twelve

Ten years after the atomic bombing, life returned to normal for Hiroshima City and its people. However, something was wrong with Sadako's body.

Sadako enters the hospital

Soon after winning the relay on Field Day, there were signs that something was wrong with Sadako. She caught a cold and felt a stiffness in her neck. When the cold went away, the stiffness stayed. By early 1955, Sadako's face looked swollen.

After undergoing various tests, the doctor told Shigeo in February, "Sadako has leukemia. She has a year left at the most." Sadako was admitted to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital.

Hearing the news, Sadako's friends in the Bamboo class discussed what they could do to help Sadako. They decided to take turns visiting her in the hospital.

Sadako's treasured Kokeshi dolls Collection of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Donated by Shigeo and Masahiro Sasaki


Leukemia is cancer of the blood. According to experts, the closer people were to the hypocenter and the younger they were, the more likely they were to contract leukemia. The peak period for atomic-bombing induced leukemia was 1950-1953.

Entrusting her Hopes to Paper Cranes

Around five months after Sadako was hospitalized, a five-year-old girl in her hospital died from leukemia. "I wonder if I'm going to die like that," she said simply. Sadako evidently knew that she had a kind of blood disease. At age 12, Sadako battled the terror of death.

In August, 1000 paper cranes folded by high school students in Nagoya were delivered to the patients in the hospital. Sadako's room, too, was brightened by cellophane cranes folded in many colors.

Receiving those cranes and hearing an old saying, "Fold 1000 paper cranes and your wish will come true," Sadako began to fold paper cranes herself. She threw herself into the task, folding into each crane the desire: "Let me get well."

Paper cranes folded by SadakoCollection of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, donated by Sadako's friends, Hiromi Sorata and Masako Hatabu

The candle of Sadako's life is blown out.

Just before Nobori-machi Elementary School's graduation ceremony, Sadako received special permission to leave the hospital to attend the Bamboo class farewell party. Her father and mother had bought Sadako this kimono with a cherry-blossom pattern when she entered the hospital.March 1955
Courtesy of Masamoto Nasu
Photo by Tsuyoshi Nomura

Sadako never talked about her pain or suffering. She simply folded her prayers into the paper cranes. Despite her efforts, the disease progressed. She began to get fevers, and some days her pounding head kept her from sleeping. Even then, she folded cranes fervently.

In the morning of October 25, Sadako's life finally ended. She was 12 years old. It was about a year since the Bamboo class had won the relay on Field Day.