Orizuru, the Origami Paper Crane
Orizuru (ori meaning “folded,” and tsuru meaning “crane”) or paper crane is famous in Hiroshima for its symbolic significance. It is said that folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you one wish. You might be very familiar with this, but what you might not know is that this became Hiroshima’s symbol for peace because of the efforts of a girl named Sadako Sasaki. She is one of the victims of the historical bombing of Hiroshima, and she became famous for her efforts in completing a thousand paper cranes for her hometown. This ritual folding a thousand paper cranes is called senbazuru, and it eventually became Hiroshima’s symbolic wish for peace and recovery.
This symbolic practice is very much alive. In fact, a whole building is dedicated to this, and it is called the Orizuru Tower. The Orizuru Tower was built to commemorate history, experience the present, and look forward to a peaceful future. Also, this tower offers an excellent overview of the atomic bomb dome and ground zero.
The Orizuru Tower is accessible via the tram (Miyajima or Eba line) from Hiroshima station. You get off at the Atomic bomb Dome station, and it’ll be about a 3-minute walk. The entrance fee cost 1,000 yen, and there’s an additional 100 yen for the paper crane or orizuru experience, which I highly suggest.
First and foremost, the “Sampo” (meaning “to take a walk”) Spiral Slope is, as the name suggests, a slope from the first floor up to the observation deck. Despite the 12 floors you have to climb, it’s no sweat because it was designed to be a leisurely stroll going up. Along this slope is a flight of stairs, a spiral slide, and an exhibit you can enjoy.
The Spiral Slope Exhibition is a work of Shuho Sato, a famous manga artist. You can only experience and witness this exhibit exclusively at the Orizuru Tower along the walls of the “Sampo” Spiral Slope. This exhibit was inspired and centered on the concept of “peace” in the context of postwar Hiroshima. Shuho Sato displayed works that showed daily life and typical scenes in Hiroshima over time.
The Spiral Slide “Cool-Cool-Cool” is a spiral slide from the 12th floor to the 1st floor, running about 70 meters. It’s the “cool” and fun way to go down. They offer slide sheets, helmets, and protectors for free when using the slide. And worry not for couples out there; they allow people to slide in pairs! This, of course, is also the safest option for very young children who would want to go on the slide. While it sounds fun, it might not always be a smooth ride, which is why the slide has an exit on each floor in case you would like to get off.
The Orizuru Square is found on the 12th floor. It is an interactive wall where you can play games. They have three activities you can try.
- Avatar. Avatar is a reflection of yourself made out of confetti. You stand in front of the wall, and paper cranes start to form a silhouette of you. Then, it copies your actions and movements.
- Air. Air is where you can virtually make a paper crane by gesturing to fold the origami paper. You reach the corners of the origami paper and drag it to fold the form until you have finished a virtual origami crane.
- Flap. As the name suggests, Flap is where you flap your arms to control the flying paper crane. The paper crane flies over the city, and you flap your arms to keep it from hitting the buildings and falling to the ground.
Go ahead and try all these! They’re super fun! In addition to these, you can also find historical information about Hiroshima displayed on this floor. They even have an original conceptual drawing of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, which was destroyed during the bombing. It is installed in front of the ruins, and you can see the damage done to the building.
The Hiroshima Hills is the most famous spot in the entirety of the tower. This is the rooftop, and it offers an exhilarating view of the historical Hiroshima. It is so named because it was built as a slope and it has steps where you can sit down and enjoy the view. You can also find the Akushu Cafe on this floor and enjoy a beer or an iced coffee on the hill.
As I’ve mentioned, for an additional 100 yen, you can dedicate an orizuru to make a wish for peace. Many people worldwide visit the orizuru tower to make a paper crane and toss them in the orizuru wall. The orizuru wall is a glass wall filled with paper cranes folded by the visitors, and it is found right in front of the building. They say that the orizuru wall is “filled with hopes and wishes gathered from all around the world.”
So once you enter the 12th floor, a staff member will approach you and ask if you availed of the orizuru experience. To make the paper cranes, the staff will give you origami paper and lead you to a table with an iPad where you can find the instructions on folding the paper. It’s super easy to follow. Then, you line up to the side, and people in pairs can toss their paper cranes to the Orizuru Wall.
The last stop you have to visit is the souvenir shop. But going down, if you do not want to go down the “cool-cool-cool” slide, you have the option to take the elevator to the first floor. I was wearing white pants, so I chose to take the elevator, and I was amazed by how pretty the inside of the elevator was. They were on point with their decorations.
So, lastly, the Souvenir Shop on the first floor is where you can find all sorts of orizuru-themed souvenirs. From jewelry and hair accessories to stationery, they have them. They also offer famous Hiroshima goods along with some delicacies and other Japan-themed souvenirs. I suggest getting orizuru-themed souvenirs like the ones I got for myself. Some of these souvenirs are made from recycling the paper cranes people tossed in the Orizuru Wall.
Overall, my favorite part of the whole adventure was chilling on the Hiroshima Hills. It was super windy, but that air rushing through my hair was just refreshing. I enjoyed my iced coffee as well as the spectacular view it had to offer. It was just the perfect spot to enjoy Hiroshima and pay respect to the victims of the bombing. It was indeed a breath of fresh air, and it gave off an aura of peace and resilience.