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Friend of Hiroshima A-bomb victim receives thank-you letter from Obama

Tomiko Kawano holds a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama in Hiroshima's Naka Ward, on Jan. 8, 2017. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- A close friend of Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia at the age of 12, 10 years after she was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, received a thank-you letter from U.S. President Barack Obama after she sent him a book and DVD about her friend, it has been learned.

Tomiko Kawano, 74, sent President Obama a letter via the Mainichi Shimbun in September last year describing how Sasaki was when she was alive, along with a book that Kawano published and a DVD about Sasaki, following Obama's visit to Hiroshima that May.

In his reply dated Nov. 15, 2016, Obama thanked Kawano for the gift, writing, "I appreciate your sharing your story with me."

The letter was a pleasant surprise for Kawano. "I never thought I would get a reply," she said.

Kawano and Sasaki were elementary school classmates. Sasaki developed leukemia when she was in sixth grade. She folded over 1,000 paper cranes from her bed, praying for her recovery.

After Sasaki's death in 1955, Kawano and other classmates launched a campaign to build a peace monument. In 1958, the Children's Peace Monument modeled after Sasaki was built at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the city's Naka Ward.

When Obama visited Hiroshima as the first sitting U.S. president in May last year with paper cranes he had folded himself, Kawano felt that "Sada-chan (Sasaki) lives in President Obama's heart." Kawano wrote in her letter that she wanted to share Sasaki's story to convey to the world "the true terror and tragedy of war" as a matter close at hand. She also wrote that what drove Sasaki to keep folding those paper cranes, even though her health was deteriorating, was her strong wish to live.

Obama concluded his reply, which Kawano received on Jan. 6, with a passage that read, "So long as more people take the time to understand the past and embrace compassion, I am confident a brighter, more peaceful future lies ahead."

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