Michiko’s One Thousand Cranes

I’ve been debating with myself for quite a while about which origami crane story should be the first to appear on the blog. This one is strikingly poignant because it doesn’t have a definitive ending. It leaves me with lots of unanswered questions. I’m dying to know what finally happened, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to find out.

On December 17, 1960, the Japan Times printed a story that the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, an organization based in the United States, had received one thousand cranes and wanted to thank the sender. “Michiko” hadn’t included her last name, but mentioned that she was a Girl Scout. The cranes were a thank you to the organization for sending four iron lungs to Hokkaido during “one of the worst polio epidemics in Japanese history.”

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis later changed their mission and became known as the March of Dimes. The Girl Scouts and the National Foundation were hoping to bring “Michiko” to the United States to possibly meet President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was a Boy Scout in his youth. This might have been why they thought the two should meet.

There is no mention of President Kennedy ever meeting with a Japanese Girl Scout. I feel like that would have been an irresistibly positive photo opportunity for everyone to share this wonderful story.

Who was “Michiko”? What moved her to fold one thousand cranes for this specific cause? Was she touched personally by polio, or had she known someone that was? What made her fold cranes instead of raising money or some other action? Did she ever find out that they were searching for her? What happened to the one thousand cranes that she had folded?

I imagine “Michiko” going through life happy that she’d made and sent the cranes, and never knowing that people were searching for her. Or perhaps she was just quietly happy that she had touched other’s hearts with her generous gift.


United Press International, “U.S. Bodies Seek Japan Gift Sender,” Japan Times, December 17, 1960, The Japan Times Archives.

President Kennedy was in office from January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963. He achieved the rank of Star Scout from Troop 2 in Bronxville, New York.


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