Nearly 10 years ago, the 9/11 Tribute Museum in New York City reached out to SPICE following the donation of an origami crane to the Museum. This partnership led to a collaborative “Kamishibai Project” between the Museum and SPICE. The crane was folded by Sadako Sasaki, a girl who died in 1955 at the age of 12 of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Sadako believed that folding 1,000 origami cranes would help her to regain her health. The origami crane was donated to the Museum by Sadako’s brother as a symbol of peace.
In Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park there is a statue of Sadako raising a large paper crane over her head. Her statue stands as a monument to peace and commemorates the thousands of children who died from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Students from the United States and many other countries send thousands of origami cranes annually to the monument in a gesture of peace.
During his visit to Hiroshima last month, Rylan Sekiguchi had the chance to visit the statue of Sadako with Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School student Utako Hada, who leads tours of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. He learned from Hada and her teacher, Gerald O’Sullivan, that approximately 330 students from Hiroshima Jogakuin died from the atomic bombing. Hada informed Sekiguchi that those students were in morning chapel at the time of the blast. This had a profound impact on Sekiguchi and his desire to include peace education as a central part of Stanford e-Hiroshima, a new online course for high school students in Hiroshima that will be offered from September of this year. The online course is currently in development, and Sekiguchi will serve as the course instructor.
Sekiguchi had the honor of meeting with Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki of Hiroshima Prefecture, who in 2011 announced the “Hiroshima for Global Peace” initiative, a road map for nuclear abolition. Sekiguchi had the chance to discuss the development of the new online course with him. Commenting on Stanford e-Hiroshima, Yuzaki stated,
As Governor of Hiroshima, I see the value of engaging the “best and brightest” students in Hiroshima in an intensive study of U.S. society and culture that underscores the importance of U.S.–Japan relations. I believe that Stanford e-Hiroshima will encourage students in Hiroshima to study abroad in the United States as I did. As an alumnus of Stanford University (MBA, ’95), I feel strong ties to the university and to many of its faculty like Professor Daniel Okimoto, an advisor to SPICE.
Sekiguchi also had the opportunity to meet with Superintendent Rie Hirakawa of the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education. Hirakawa noted, “As you know, the United States and Hiroshima have had a long important relationship and this new online course would help to ensure that the relationship remains a positive one.” With recommendations from Hirakawa, Sekiguchi visited seven high schools in Hiroshima Prefecture with several teacher consultants, including Rika Ryuoh and Nobuo Kawahara, and met with principals, teachers, and students who helped him further solidify the content and structure of Stanford e-Hiroshima. Two of the schools—Hiroshima University High School, Fukuyama, and Hiroshima Junior and Senior High School—have the designation of Super Global High Schools that “aim to foster globalized leaders who will be able to play active roles on the international stage.” This goal will align well with Stanford e-Hiroshima, which seeks to underscore the importance of helping high school students understand the interdependence between Japan and the United States. In addition to peace education, other course topics will likely include early Japanese immigration to the United States from Hiroshima, entrepreneurship between Hiroshima and the United States, and Hiroshima’s sister city relationship with Honolulu, Sekiguchi’s hometown.
As part of the online course, Sekiguchi also hopes to engage high school students in Honolulu with the Stanford e-Hiroshima students. Upon hearing this, I immediately envisioned these students as future messengers of peace between Japan and the United States, as I hope that Stanford e-Hiroshima will provide a platform for students to symbolically “share cranes” or messages of peace across the Pacific and seriously consider the goals of Governor Yuzaki’s “Hiroshima for Global Peace” initiative and their possible roles in it.