Students to send paper cranes to Japan

BY NINA EARNEST | APRIL 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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David Sutton made a series of complicated diagonal, horizontal, and vertical folds in a piece of square paper.

Within two minutes, the paper became a crane.

For the students in Chie Muramatsu’s third-year Japanese class, the origami folds were easy following weeks of practice. Small paper cranes — in purple, pink, magenta, and white — quickly took shape in the fourth-floor classroom of Phillips Hall on Wednesday.

“I’m making it crane up in here,” Sutton said, laughing, as he turned to a classmate.

The activity is part of the Million Crane Project, a student-driven effort to show support for Japan after the earthquake and tsunami hit the island nation on March 11. Founded at Princeton and Stanford Universities, the project aims to collect 1 million cranes by May 11 to be used in a piece of memorial art.

The Japanese Students and Scholars Club and the Japanese Cultural Association are organizing the effort at the University of Iowa.

Sutton, the president of the cultural association, said he first heard about the program from Asumi Shibata, a Princeton University student who grew up in Iowa City.

“It was nice to involve the Japanese Cultural Association and have it spearhead something,” Sutton said.

Shibata, 18, said she felt compelled to do something for the tsunami victims as the vice president of Princeton’s Japanese Student Association. She said she recalled when her mother had emergency surgery, someone gave her 100 paper cranes as a show of support.

A Japanese legend tells that folding 1,000 paper cranes — senbazuru — can grant one’s wish. But the legend took on a new meaning when 11-year-old Sadako Sasaki was diagnosed with leukemia due to the radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The child attempted to make the cranes, but died before she was able to make enough to restore her health.

The crane project has become even more significant after another 7.0 earthquake hit Japan Thursday.

“They were affected, are still affected, and people still need support right now,” Shibata said.

Muramatsu, a UI teaching assistant, said the Japanese people now recognize the support symbolized in the cranes. She said she has heard stories of peoples’ suffering in Japan that would defy expectations.

“We live so far away, and we have a normal life,” she said. “I can’t even imagine how they feel.”

Students in her class said they appreciated the chance to show their support.

Brett Carman created several small pink and white cranes scattered on his desk. The senior studied abroad in Tokyo last summer.

“We all obviously care about Japan, so it’s good to be doing something,” Carman said.

Tonight is the last time the organizations will hold a crane-folding event before sending the origami figures to Princeton. Muramatsu said organizers expect to send roughly 4,000 cranes.

She wants to help as much as she can, Muramatsu said. Japan doesn’t just need money, the people needs to know others care.

“To me, as a Japanese person, of course I want to do something,” Muramatsu said. “This is what I can do.”

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