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Hiroshima school to open 'peace room' dedicated to ex-student who died after A-bomb

Former classmates of Sadako Sasaki, including Hiromi Sorata, second from left, look inside the peace-themed archive room dedicated to Sadako, in Hiroshima's Naka Ward, on April 23, 2018. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- An elementary school here that was attended by an atomic bomb victim -- who died of leukemia in 1955 at the age of 12 and became a model for the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima -- is set to open a peace-themed archive room in her honor on May 12.

The room, situated in Noboricho Elementary School in Hiroshima's Naka Ward, will include exhibits such as notes written by Sadako Sasaki's former classmates, as well as origami cranes that Sadako made in the hope of recovering from illness. The ex-classmates, who have helped make the room a reality, hope that the "children of today will carry on the spirit of wishing for peace."

Comments such as, "Sadako was a fast runner. She performed well in relay races," were made by eight of Sadako's ex-classmates during a visit to Noboricho Elementary School on April 23, as they reminisced fondly about their old contemporary.

The site of the elementary school is 1.1 kilometers away from the epicenter of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The school building was destroyed as a result of the bomb and later rebuilt.

In summer 2017, a large number of photos of the school and the surrounding area before and after the bombing among other materials were discovered -- which led to the decision to open the archive room. In total, about 100 items will be on display, including documents relating to Sadako, as well as collections of poems by Tamiki Hara, a poet and atomic-bombing survivor.

Hiromi Sorata, 75, who was one of Sadako's classmates, has donated a red origami crane -- that was made by the victim herself -- to the school. Sorata received about 20 cranes from Sadako's bereaved relatives, but gave them away over the years. This red one, which is about 4 centimeters tall, is the last one Sorata has in his possession.

School students and other visitors are seen at the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on April 26, 2018, (Mainichi)

"I wished to hold onto it, but now I want people to see it and realize that Sadako embraced life," Sorata explains.

Meanwhile, 75-year-old Tomiko Kawano, another ex-classmate and also an atomic bombing survivor -- who helped collect money for the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima that was completed on May 5, 1958 in commemoration of Sadako and other atomic bomb victims -- has also tried hard to ensure her old friend isn't forgotten.

"When the monument was built, I was happy because I had fulfilled my promise to 'Sada chan.'" Even today, Kawano tells visiting school children about Sadako and the background of the Children's Peace Monument, right in front of the commemorative structure.

Kawano takes the cranes that were made by children from all over Japan and placed on the monument and then recycles them into "origami crane notebooks," which she distributes for free.

Yasushi Shimamoto, principal of the school, says, "I hope that this will be a chance for people to learn about Sadako, who symbolizes the devastation of the atomic bomb. I want children (to see the room) and think about how they can work toward world peace."

The room is set to open between 9 a.m. and noon on Fridays, using a reservation system. For further inquiries, call 082-221-3013 (in Japanese). (Japanese original by Azusa Takayama, Hiroshima Bureau)

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