california academy of sciences
A Thousand Cranes
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White crane dives gracefully
like autumn leaf falling
harmony, peace, crane.
                         — Fanny Pan

Bare trees along the river
Standing so dark in the snow
Only the white moon moves
                                   — Pat Boyd

Fold a thousand cranes
because in a thousand acts
one may touch a soul
— Stef Maruch


Well I had just heard about the traditions of the thousand cranes when I moved to Japan in August of 2001. My school had been making them to send to New York after the tragedy and I started asking around about what it all meant. When I found out that it means good luck and prosperity I was intrigued.

I was tring to think of something to get my boyfriend for Christmas and I wanted it to be something special from Japan. So I decided to start making a thousand cranes. I had about 2 weeks to finish it up. So coming home from school I'd sit down to relax and just make cranes. Some of my friends helped me in the process too.

By the time that we left to come back to the states I had 850. Last night, the night before Christmas Eve, I made my thousand.

-Story submitted by Tokyo Shepherd, 12.24.2001

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. After my Japanese-American boyfriend, Tom, and I became engaged last July, we decided we wanted to incorporate some Japanese traditions into the wedding. Japan has many beautiful wedding customs, one of which is to fold 1000 paper cranes. Cranes are symbolic of long life, good luck, and prosperity in many Asian cultures. In Japanese weddings, they represent for the couple a long and happy life together. Cranes in the wild mate for life, and this is probably why they have become such a symbol for weddings.

So okay, I said, let's get to folding! We had fourteen months until the wedding, and we were confident that we could finish 1000 cranes in plenty of time. First we needed paper. And we wanted really nice, handmade Japanese rice paper, something in a nice shade of white. After some asking around, we found just the shop in Berkeley. Here we discovered beautiful handmade paper, perfect for what we wanted. It was textured, translucent, gorgeous-and expensive. Tom and I looked at each other, thinking, well, it's our wedding after all, and anyway, how much paper would we really need? We did some quick calculations, figured that we'd need about 500 square feet of paper, and turned on our heels and walked out of the store.

In the end, we bought up the entire supply of wedding wrapping paper at Target for about $3.99 per roll. We chose designs in white, off-white, cream, and gold. And as a compromise, we also purchased two rolls of handmade art paper in beige and burgundy, our wedding colors. The cranes made from those rolls will be used as table decorations, where they can be admired at close range.

Which brings me to how we will use these little paper beauties on our wedding day. It's one thing to dream of incorporating a beautiful custom into our special day; it's another thing to figure out exactly how we plan to do that. We're still working on it. We envision stringing hundreds of the cranes into garlands that we will use to decorate the historic home in which the ceremony and reception will take place. Additional cranes will be scattered on tables and other surfaces. Our florist even plans to incorporate some cranes into the flower arrangements and bridesmaids' bouquets. We'll just have to wait and see exactly how much space 1000 paper cranes occupies.

And I know you're dying to ask-how many have we finished? At last count we were just shy of 400, and I know we've passed that mark since then. Not halfway done yet, but hey, we still have seven and a half months to go!

-Story submitted by Bethany, February, 2000

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