Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune
Tomoko Watanabe talks about a group of paper cranes donated to the FAVA gallery from a group of students.
Seventy years have past since the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.
Tomoko Watanabe, a second generation atomic bomb survivor, is visiting Oberlin this week to talk about history’s only nuclear attack, creating peace, and building paper cranes for hope.
Her week-long event features the story of Sadako Sasaki, who survived the explosion in Hiroshima but 10 years later died at the age of 12 from leukemia.
The explosion killed 70,000 citizens instantly and an additional 100,000 died from radiation exposure.
Before her death, Sasaki folded 1,000 origami paper cranes to express her wish for health and peace. In Japan there is a myth that if someone creates 1,000 paper cranes their wish will come true.
An interactive art exhibit opened Tuesday at the Firelands Association for Visual Arts featuring posters from the Hiroshima Peace Museum. It shows Sasaki’s life and paper cranes connected by a string created by community members.
The show is expected to grow throughout the month with origami, drawings, poetry, and other art pieces donated by residents. It will close Oct. 10.
Watanabe said Sasaki’s story is very sad but it gives her hope and courage.
“She is a victim of the war,” she said. “She gave me a strong inspiration.”
The second generation survivor founded the Asian Network of Trust, an organization working to rebuild Hiroshima after the bombing with peace and reconciliation. Sasaki gives her the will to never give up and to be brave.
Watanabe’s mother, Teruko Ueno, was a 15-year-old student nurse taking care of bomb victims.
Ueno was scared after the bombing but when Watanabe was born she was her mother’s hope.
“I couldn’t imagine what my mother experienced at 15 years old,” Watanabe said.
Her mother has supported her the entire way in educating people about the bombing: “This is a mission. This is important for me and future generations,” she said.
Watanabe has donated five tree saplings to Oberlin College. Each survived the bombing 70 years ago.
The trees are expected to be planted next year on Tappan Square.
She is also going to work with Oberlin High School students in creating cranes and talking about the explosion.
The goal is to give students a sense of hope that their lives can be rebuilt if need be, Watanabe said. She wants children to use their power to make the world a better place.
Watanabe does not want anyone to ever use, make, or have another atomic bomb.
“This is our wish,” she said of the Hiroshima residents who have seen their city transform from a military town to a peace city.
She will be part of a panel discussion at 7 p.m. today at the First Church in Oberlin with Clifton Truman Daniels, grandson of President Harry Truman, who gave the final order to drop the bomb.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.