As Sadako and her family start out for the festival, the air outside is warm and the streets are busy. Sadako runs to her best friend Chizuko’s house—the two of them have been “close as two pine needles on the same twig” since kindergarten. Sadako chides Chizuko for being a “turtle” and moving slowly, and the two of them take off. Mrs. Sasaki calls after the two of them, warning them not to go to quickly and get overheated. Mrs. Sasaki worries aloud to Mr. Sasaki about Sadako’s impatience, but Mr. Sadaki takes pride in his daughter, who is a fast, strong runner and an adventurous soul.
Though Sadako’s parents have done their best to establish the Peace Day atmosphere as one of somber remembrance, Sadako and Chizuko run toward the festival gleefully, relishing the warm sun and their togetherness. Sadako’s parents, worried that their daughter won’t understand the legacy of pain and suffering in her family and her hometown, nevertheless reluctantly admire their daughter’s optimism and her resilient spirit.
The Sasaki family arrives at the Peace Park, and together they enter the memorial building in silence. On the walls of the building there are photographs of the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima—pictures of dead bodies and ruined buildings line the walls. Sadako looks away from the pictures and holds Chizuko’s hand tightly. Sadako tells Chizuko that she remembers the bombing—“there was the flash of a million suns [and] then the heat prickled [her] eyes like needles.” Chizuko protests, saying that Sadako can’t possibly claim to remember something that happened when she was just a baby, but Sadako stubbornly insists that she does.
As Sadako navigates the memorial at the Peace Park, she experiences several conflicting emotions. She is afraid of the images of the bombing, but purports to remember it very clearly in her own way. The bombing—its physical, emotional, and psychological aftereffects—have been so prevalent and overwhelming since her childhood that she experiences a mix of horror, fascination, and even a strange fondness for memories and depictions of the event.
Buddhist priests and the city’s mayor deliver speeches, and then hundreds of white doves are released from their cages to commemorate the dead. After the ceremony, Sadako runs straight to the cotton candy stand, and finds that the sweet treat tastes even better than it did last year. The rest of the festival day passes far too quickly as Sadako runs from stall to stall, looking at things to buy and smelling delicious foods. Though the day is full of joy, there is sadness and pain, too, as Sadako walks past many people who have been “burned so badly [by the atom bomb] that they no longer look human.”
After the somber speeches at the memorial event, Sadako roams the festival excitedly. Though she tries very hard to enjoy herself, seeing burned and scarred victims of the atom bomb is a physical reminder of the great pain this day represents. Though hope and a desire for peace drive the day, so too do the gruesome memories of the bombing, and Sadako struggles to understand how both sentiments can coexist.
After the sun goes down, a beautiful fireworks display begins. The Sasaki family sends a flight of six paper lanterns down into the river, to commemorate the losses their family suffered when the atom bomb dropped. That night, after the family returns home and Sadako goes to bed, she lies awake for a very long time, thinking about the day, and the good luck the spider brought her after all.
Though the day was tinged with sadness and pain, Sadako—optimistic as ever—feels confident that the festival was a positive and even lucky event. Sadako knows the horror of what has happened to her people, her family, and her city, but is drawn to the tender rituals and beautiful celebrations of the life that have re-emerged in the years after the attack.