In my last post, I touched upon my initial thoughts about my experiences in lockdown. But, I also want to document how the Guernsey community is adapting and reacting to the great unknown of isolation – or what many are referring to as “the new normal”.
This particular post explores the tradition of one thousand paper cranes and how one local facebook group is using the legend to inspire others in the community to share positivity.
When I think back to life on the island this time last year, there were a lot of exciting cultural events taking place. Hauteville House had just been reopened by the Mayor of Paris after an extensive renovation and the planning for an exhibition delving into Guernsey’s history with Japan was well under way*. As a novice Japanese language student with time on my hands, I found myself swept into enthusiastic planning for a supporting event run in conjunction with Floral Guernsey. It was at this event in the Summer of 2019 that I met Naoko Mauger, who alongside Kayoko Rowson, put on an amazing programme promoting Guernsey’s links with Japan featuring Japanese Cuisine (Okonomiyaki & Onigiri), Ikebana flower arranging, Sake tasting and Origami paper folding. With both women aided in their quest to bring a small corner of Japan to Guernsey by an army of supporters, locals and tourists alike were entranced by the various samples on offer. All visitors also had the opportunity to walk away with their own little piece of Japan – an origami crane of their very own.
The Significance of the Paper Crane and the Story of Senbazuru
A souvenir from Floral Guernsey’s Japanese Seafront Sunday Event
The crane is a very important symbol in Japanese culture. Origami is a traditional art of paper folding and the paper crane – Orizuru – has become synonymous with this art form. Orizuru is derived from Ori (to fold, just like in origami) and tsuru (crane). There’s even a noun for a collective of paper cranes, Senbazuru, which means one thousand cranes. What you may not know, is that for many Japanese people, the Orizuru has come to represent hope in challenging times. In fact, there is even a tradition in Japan that if you fold one thousand paper cranes (one crane for each year of a crane’ s life, as they are said to live to 1000) and make a wish, then it will come true.
The story of Senbazuru achieved prominence globally through the real life story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was a victim of radiation poisoning from the 1945 Hiroshima bombing. During her illness, Sadako was inspired by the story of one thousand paper cranes and used whatever materials she could find to reach her goal – achieving a wish through making Senbazuru. Sadako sadly passed away at the age of 12, but her hope for a better future lives on. Her statue now stands outside the Japanese Peace Museum in Hiroshima, holding a golden crane, the symbol of peace and hope, aloft in the air. Children regularly visit from all over Japan to leave chains of Senbazuru, which are displayed as messages of peace, harmony and a promise that such atrocity will never happen again. Together, despite how bad things may seem at times, we will create a better future.
The statue of Sadako Sasaki and Senbazaru of Hiroshima
Guernsey Together – Chain of Cranes
It’s this message of peace, perseverance, as well as the promise of recovery after challenging times, that is now being shared through Naoko’s Facebook group Chain of Cranes. Through video streaming, weekly tutorials are held on how to fold a paper crane and together, the members of the group are folding strings of Senbazaru, to support each other through distance, making wishes to protect their communities against harm from COVID-19 and to share the sentiment that you are not alone. With group members sending in their pictures from New York, Japan, the UK and of course, Guernsey, the numbers of cranes (and group members) is steadily rising, with the story having now being picked up by the Japanese news. Naoko (founder, Chain of Cranes) has created cranes in the colours of the Guernsey flag, the colours of the NHS and has even used copies of the local newspaper to inspire others to take part.
Photos courtesy of Naoko, Chain of Cranes
Starting origami as a beginner can feel quite daunting. After all, the folding of a paper crane starts with the ominous shape of a mountain, so the thought of reaching 1000 can seem unachievable at first. In the words of the Chain of Cranes group, however, in life, tackling any new experience can make you feel like you are climbing a mountain, but the more you climb, the more accustomed you become to taking on the challenge.
During this period of isolation, it may feel as though we are climbing mountains everyday in being separated from our friends and family – but it is important to remember that we are not alone. By supporting each other as a community, through connecting with each other, it’s much easier to get to one thousand – and climb that mountain!
If you find yourself with a spare moment, or feeling overwhelmed by the current situation and in need of a break from news stories, you can maybe try folding a paper crane of your own. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s the sentiment that counts.
Head over to Chain of Cranes to learn from the experts!
Cranes can come in all colours and sizes
*To cut a long (albeit fascinating) story short, Guernsey’s Saumarez Park was formerly home to James De Saumarez, who served for many years as the British Ambassador to Japan. He used Japanese structures and flora in the gardens of his property, as well as owning an extensive collection of Japanese art. The Japanese fishing pagoda and gardens can still be seen in the grounds today.