I was a baby when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and 4 years old when we moved back there to live. While my grandmother survived, she had every side effect of total body radiation: her hair fell out, her nose bled, she had diarrhea. Many relatives died.
When I was 10 years old, my friend, Sadako, was diagnosed with radiation-induced leukemia. There’s a Japanese belief that if someone folds 1,000 cranes, he or she will heal. So she began to fold cranes — and my classmates and I started folding them with her. When she died, we raised money to build a monument to her and all the children who had died — a crane that now stands in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Children still go there, bringing their origami cranes.
It was also then that I decided to become a doctor or a leukemia researcher.