IZUMI, Osaka -- Three Japanese university students ventured across North and Central America in the summer of 2016, asking random people to make paper cranes for them in the name of peace using origami.
After traveling for 40 days, Ruki Ishida and Daiki Tada, both 22, and Ryo Kobayashi, 21, managed to gather 541 origami cranes, which they are intending to give to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, in the form of a 1,000 paper crane chain. The remaining 459 cranes that are required to reach the 1,000 mark will be collected across Japan.
The three students from Osaka Prefecture's Momoyama Gakuin University, all in their final year, thought to themselves last year that, "This summer will be our last chance to see the world" -- triggering them to embark on their cross-country trip across North and Central America.
Inspired by then U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima in May 2016, and his gift of paper cranes, the students decided to ask people on their trip to fold paper cranes, and ask them their thoughts on peace. Their aim was to collect 1,000 cranes in total, and then present them to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Starting at San Francisco, the men traveled to New York via Chicago and other cities. From there, they headed south to Florida, before going on to Mexico and Cuba, spending time in bustling cities, sleeper trains, universities and motels. During their trip, they carried placards around their necks, with a request in English asking people to fold cranes with them.
For one man on their trip, the answer was "taxi" because it enables him to feed his children. Meanwhile, a Cuban boy said that he just wanted to meet his mother -- a comment which left the students somewhat lost for words, thinking of the hardships the child faced.
The travelers also spoke to various people about the pros and cons of atomic bombs, discovering that support for such weapons is fairly prevalent in the U.S. However, some other people -- of a similar age to them -- were against atomic bombs.
Reflecting on their trip, the three students think that, "Interpretations of peace differ from person to person. Their views can change according to their standpoint or their country of origin. However, we felt that it is possible to connect with other people through common thoughts."
Their main regret is that they failed to collect 1,000 cranes on their trip. Nevertheless, they will continue gathering paper cranes in Japan, while also writing their dissertations, in order to reach their target. The students are keen to present the chain to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park before they graduate.