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Nagasaki local creates paper crane accessories to bridge generations of peace activism

Tatsuko Sugata's paper crane motif accessories are seen on earrings in Nagasaki on May 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Shotaro Asano)

NAGASAKI -- A resident here who has been making origami crane-themed accessories as symbols of peace has in a little over two years already sold over 2,000 of her creations, which she hopes will inspire young people in particular.

Tatsuko Sugata launched her "prayer paper crane" project in April 2017, and saw her 2,000th item sold in May. She gives a portion of her sales to the executive committee of The 10,000 High School Students Signatures Campaign, which campaigns for peace and abolition of nuclear weapons.

Sugata's great-grandmother on her mother's side died when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in southwestern Japan on Aug. 9, 1945. Her grandfather, meanwhile, was exposed to radiation from entering the city in the blast's aftermath. On her father's side, her grandmother is also a hibakusha, or an atomic-bomb survivor, having been affected by the bombing when she was in the town of Nagayo. Her grandparents never spoke to her about their experiences directly, but when her mother told her about their tremendous hardship, she decided she wanted to participate in activities for peace.

Tatsuko Sugata, left, is seen giving a donation from sales of her accessories to high school students associated with The 10,000 High School Students Signatures Campaign executive committee, in Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, on May 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Shotaro Asano)

At first Sugata had difficulty translating her ambitions into action. She has congenital spina bifida, a condition affecting the spine, and uses a wheelchair and other mobility aids together during her daily life. Nevertheless, through the accessory-making skills she has cultivated since her 20s, she resolved to engage in peace activism in her own way, and began producing the items.

Sugata folds the paper cranes from origami paper and traditional "washi" Japanese paper measuring 1.8 centimeters on all sides at their smallest, and then hardens them with an acrylic resin. She combines them with items including beads to make earrings and necklaces in her "prayer paper crane" series.

The range has gradually become better known as time passed. In the first year and a half she sold around 1,000 of the designs, with the next 1,000 selling in just six months. "I'd be happy if something cute like this were an opportunity for people to think about peace," she said.

A percentage of Sugata's sales also goes to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, and she has continued to donate to citizens groups engaged in peace activism and other organizations. "With the number of hibakusha becoming much smaller now, I want to connect the thoughts of that generation to the next and help them strive for peace," she said.

(Japanese original by Shotaro Asano, Nagasaki Bureau)

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