Simply folding paper to make a pretty bird shape, is a gentle therapy that has been enjoyed in the Mitchell Library every weekday lunchtime during August. But the Japanese art form, called origami, is the perfect introduction to the story of Hiroshima and the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped there on August 1945.
A clear poster board exhibition tells the story of Sadako, a girl who was two when the bomb was dropped on her city. She was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 11 and died a year later another victim of the atrocity.
Sadako folded paper cranes in her final days and knew the ancient Japanese legend that a wish will come true if a person folds 1000 paper cranes. First, her classmates, and then the wider world raised a monument to peace in her honour and to recognise all the children who died in Hiroshima. Today, the Children’s Peace monument in Hiroshima attracts 10 million paper cranes made by people around the world as they remember the horror of that holocaust and plead for peace. Some of them will come from the Glasgow Origami sessions in the Mitchell Library.
The Gareloch Horticulturalists – a women’s Peace Group – were some of the many people who learned on the wing and folded some origami cranes. Their instructor was Yushin Toda, who patiently showed what to do.
Recently honoured by his country for the work he and his wife Fumi Nakabachi have done in Scotland to promote the culture of Japan, he was visited by Mr Masataka Tarahara the Consul General of Japan in Edinburgh who viewed the exhibition.
Said Yushin: ‘ It is not the number of people who have visited that is important. It is the fact that people have met together to see the exhibition and make the paper cranes and think about the issues, that matters. People from all over the world have visited the exhibition. One man from Australia, whose mother is an Origami artist, was able to fold cranes without hesitation.’
A business development manager, Yushin was particularly appreciative that someone left a facsimile edition of the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch newspaper dated 8 August 1945 describing Hiroshima as ‘a disastrous ruin’ and how ‘all living things have been seared to death.’
More than 300,000 people were literally burned to a cinder in the seconds of the atomic blast. And over the years, as with little Sadako, many thousands of others suffered from the after effects.
In a book left for visitors at the exhibition to record their reactions, one person wrote:
‘How shaming it is that now we know all the horrific effects of nuclear weapons use, we still have Trident, the British nuclear weapon at Faslane Naval base near Glasgow. It is illegal under international law, as well as being unethical. The majority of Scottish people do not want it on our soil or anywhere else.’
Some people placed candle lanterns on the water at Faslane on 6 August this year to mark Hiroshima Day.
The exhibition, organised by Japan Desk Scotland, ran at the North Door exhibition hall of the Mitchell Library till the end of August. It was supported financially by Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.
Japan Desk Scotland will set up a ‘Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Photo Exhibition’ at Glasgow University Chapel from Tuesday 1 November 2011 till 31 January 2012.