A Play For Peace

‘Peace on Your Wings,’ a play based on a true story about a young girl, Sadako, who set out to fold 1,000 paper cranes when she contracted leukemia after the Hiroshima bombing, comes to KCC Sunday afternoon

Peace is possible, folks at Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii believe, which is why they’re bringing the musical Peace on Your Wings to Kauai this weekend.

“The community deserves to see this,” says Alton Miyamoto, state chairman for the 125th anniversary celebration of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.

The “tween” drama, inspired by the life of Sadako Sasaki, will be performed by keiki from Oahu’s Ohana Arts Festival and School Sunday (Jan. 25) at 2 p.m. in Kauai Community College’s Performing Arts Center.

Sasaki was a girl who suffered from the aftermath of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. She was just 2 years old at the time of the devastating explosion, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that she was diagnosed with leukemia — a result of the bomb’s radiation. She learns from a friend that folding 1,000 paper cranes could grant her the wish to be cured of her disease, and so she begins the process and continues until her untimely death just a few months later.

The play, written primarily for keiki, follows the lives of middle-school students during the 1950s as they struggle with the illness of their friend, learning that they must have peace together if they ever hope to have universal peace as well.

“And you’ve got to have peace within yourself before you have peace with other people,” says Miyamoto.

This message has been delivered by the temple organization before. For example, in 2007, youths of Honpa Hongwanji were instrumental in creating a resolution that allowed Hawaii to be the first state in the nation to officially celebrate National Peace Day Sept. 21. Additionally, in 2013, members were influential in bringing one of the last cranes actually created by Sasaki to Hawaii to be displayed at the visitor’s center at Pearl Harbor as a reminder for peace.

Miyamoto knows the importance of creating universal peace, especially since he recalls how damaging the effects of war were on his father, Toshio, who voluntarily served in the 100th Infantry Battalion in Europe and fought on the front lines. Up until his last year of life, Toshio would not even speak about his experience.

“The last year when I was taking care of him, every day a little bit more came out,” says Miyamoto.

Roy Nishida, Kapaa Honpa Hongwanji member, remembers his father, Torio, who, as a heavy equipment operator, built facilities for the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Infantry Regiment, also struggled and continues to struggle with talking about the war.

“I think it goes for all veterans,” he says. “It’s a time they want to try to forget, but they also did a great thing for all the Japanese in the United States.”

Elaine Saiki, who also is part of Honpa Hongwanji, had an uncle, Takeo Muraoka, who served in the 442nd and never spoke about it.

“It must have been too painful,” she says.

The pain of war for veterans was felt on many levels, including the effects of discrimination against Japanese Americans at the time. Sadako’s cranes, which have since been distributed throughout the world, including World Trade Center Tribute Center, symbolize the ability to shift away from this kind of hatred, to let go of the past and move forward.

“Sadako’s legacy hopes to pull the world together,” says Miyamoto.

The young girl is a representation of hope and so is Hiroshima Peace Park, where folded cranes made by people from around the world are still created and displayed in memory of Sadako and all the children like her who died because of the war.

“It gives you a funny feeling, like you’re some place that has an uplifting feeling among the sadness,” says

Nishida, who visited the memorial in Japan last year.

This same message of optimism is relayed in Peace on Your Wings.

“Even though we know that Sadako doesn’t survive the leukemia, it’s an uplifting play because it is about peace and cooperation, working together, helping and sustaining each other,” says Carol Valentine, co-chair for the 125th celebration of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.

For tickets to the production, which also is made possible by Donald and JoAnne Kawane Family Trust Foundation through Hawaii Community Foundation, visit kauaipeaceonyourwings.brownpapertickets.com.