Tomo No Kai selling $1 origami cranes to benefit Japan
Members of campus group Tomo No Kai are selling $1 origami cranes to benefit Japan. Purchasers may write messages of hope on the origami paper and, if they prefer, do the folding themselves. Hoang X. Pham / University Communications

A thousand origami cranes will soon wing their way from UC Irvine to Japan bearing much-needed cash and good wishes for earthquake and tsunami recovery.

The effort by Japanese American student group Tomo No Kai, or Circle of Friends, continues through Friday, April 8. It is among a flock of campus fundraisers ranging from bracelet and T-shirt sales to benefit concerts for the stricken nation, which was hit again Thursday by a magnitude 7.1 aftershock.

Michelle Yamashiro, a third-year medical anthropology major, came up with the idea of pairing the paper cranes – many with written messages inside – with cash donations.

“We could have just asked people for money,” she says, “but in Buddhism and Shinto, it’s believed that in doing an action, such as origami, there is more thoughtfulness involved.”

The crane is an auspicious symbol in Japanese culture, which also holds that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes is entitled to one wish granted by the long-legged waterfowl. Brooke Muranaka, director of cultural affairs for Tomo No Kai, says the group’s wish is for a speedy recovery in Japan.

The ancient legend of 1,000 cranes was popularized in the more recent story of Sadako Sasaki. Just 2 when an atomic bomb was dropped near her home in Hiroshima, Japan, she was diagnosed with leukemia at 11. While in the hospital, Sadako vowed to fold 1,000 origami cranes – her wish being to live.

Sadly, she died before finishing the task, and friends and family completed it for her. A statue of Sadako holding a golden crane now stands in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Tomo No Kai is sharing a booth in the Student Center plaza with the Japanese Student Association, which – led by Sho Miyata – is selling wristbands to raise relief funds. Next door is a T-shirt and wristband effort spearheaded by Christine Tran.

And on Friday, April 8, a benefit concert featuring UCI music department faculty and alumni will take place at 8 p.m. in Winifred Smith Hall. Tickets, which are $10 for students and $20 for general admission, may be purchased at the door.