Leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima over the weekend were given replica paper crane mementos designed in memory of a girl who died from radiation-induced leukemia 10 years after the 1945 atomic bombing of the city, a source close to the matter said Monday.
The souvenirs are based on a paper crane that sat beside Sadako Sasaki's deathbed. She died from her illness at the age of 12.
Weighing one gram, they are made of stainless steel and are engraved with the words "G7 HIROSHIMA." They were produced using cutting-edge technology that replicates the folds and wrinkles of the original origami crane.
The leaders were given the mementos on Friday when they visited the western Japan city's Peace Memorial Museum, where they were told Sasaki's story by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Hiroshima prefectural Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki, the source said.
The replica origami cranes were also given to the leaders' spouses, as well as representatives and visitors from other countries invited to the summit, including South Korea.
Relatives of Sasaki said they hope the paper cranes, which have come to symbolize peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons, "help convey a wish for peace and compassion."
Sasaki was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by the United States on Aug. 6, 1945. She and her family, including her older brother Masahiro, were 1.6 kilometers from the explosion's hypocenter.
Sasaki was hospitalized for leukemia 10 years after she was exposed to the bomb's radiation. While in the hospital, she folded hundreds of paper cranes after hearing a folk tale that making 1,000 of them could make a wish come true.
Hoping to recover, she continued to fold paper cranes until her death in October 1955. Her last words to her family before she died were, "Thank you."
In 1958, the Children's Peace Monument, featuring a statue of a girl modeled after Sasaki, was erected in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park.
Masahiro's son and Sasaki's nephew Yuji, 52, presented some of the original paper cranes she folded to the G-7 leader's partners during the summit.
"Frankly, I'm happy that they learned about Sadako's story," he said.
"My long-cherished wish has come true," Masahiro, 81, also said. "I felt as though Sadako's wishes knew no borders."
The cranes were made by Hiroshima metal parts manufacturer Castem Co. Cranes and had been requested as a gift for the G-7 leaders by Yuji when he met with Kishida last year at the prime minister's office in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, 85-year-old atomic bomb survivor Keiko Ogura told reporters Monday of her meeting at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited Japan to rally support from leaders attending the summit for Ukraine amid its invasion by Russia.
"Even though it was only for a short while, (Zelenskyy) felt the sentiments of the people of Hiroshima," Ogura said.
"I want the war to end as soon as possible," she added. "I am grateful merely for the fact that he came while (Ukraine) is at war."
The museum reopened Monday after being closed for four days during the summit.
Around 50 people were seen lined up to enter the building by the time it opened at 8:30 a.m., with the number of visitors expected to grow due to renewed interest following the event.
"I want to know how U.S. President Joe Biden felt when he saw the museum," said a 61-year-old man visiting for the first time from Ishikawa Prefecture in central Japan.