Woman’s origami cranes bringing hope to Japan

Kazuko Butler’s cranes have found a home where they can bring hope for long life and good luck.

Butler’s nimble, 83-year-old fingers have folded enough paper cranes to fill a room. For the past several months the Enumclaw woman has turned everything from gum wrappers to gift wrap into thousands and thousands of origami cranes. Some of her cranes are slightly larger than postage stamps, others larger than a hardback novel and every size in between, in a rainbow of colors.

There are so many, her family didn’t know what to do with them.

Until her friends at the Enumclaw Senior Activity Center came knocking.

It wasn’t long ago, Butler made a mobile of cranes for the senior center. That mobile inspired the Senior Advisory Board to offer Butler’s cranes in exchange for donations to benefit World Vision’s tsunami and earthquake efforts in Japan, specifically to help the elderly in that country – a country where Butler was born and raised.

Butler grew up in Nogoya, Japan, south of Tokyo, as Kazuko Ishikawa. Now, she is pleased to know the cranes will benefit the people in her home country, which was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami March 11.

“She always said the cranes bring long life and good luck,” her daughter Ramona Thimgan said. “It’s something she really enjoys.”

Ancient Japanese legend promises anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish like long life or recovery from illness or injury.

Thimgan said her mother met her father in Japan after World War II. The family was stationed there in the 1970s and Butler has been back to visit, most recently around 2000.

“I’m always touched and amazed at the giving hearts of this community,” senior activity center manager Jobyna Nickum said. “Even after 19 years, I’m touched by the generosity and giving nature of this community and these seniors who think beyond their own needs to those of others.”

Nickum said Japan has twice the elderly population as the United States.

“The elderly were the hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami,” Nickum said. “We felt as a senior center we wanted to help. Our hearts went out to the seniors who no longer have homes; who no longer have medication; who no longer have support services.”

Making a connection across the globe is also what is in the hearts of teenagers Mars Soikes and Lori Lamm.

Soikes and Lamm are also folding cranes for the cause. The Enumclaw High School juniors are spearheading a fundraising campaign based on the 1,000 cranes legend. They are selling the cranes for $1 each, hoping to raise $1,000 for the Red Cross’ Japanese relief effort.

As of Thursday, the pair has collected nearly $100. They plan to continue the effort through the end of April.