On her first morning in the hospital, Sadako wakes up slowly. She expects to be at home, and slowly remembers that she is in a hospital as she adjusts to the unfamiliar sounds. Nurse Yasunaga comes in to give her a shot, and though Sadako flinches, Nurse Yasunaga warns her that she must get used to getting shots.
Sadako awakens, both literally and figuratively, to the harsh reality of her circumstances—she is sick, and if she wants to get any better she will have to face uncomfortable and sometimes even debilitating treatments in pursuit of restoring her health.
Sadako’s first visitor that afternoon is Chizuko. She approaches Sadako’s bed and tells Sadako to shut her eyes. When Sadako opens them again, there are some pieces of paper and a pair of scissors laid out on the bed. Chizuko cheerily announces that she has figured out a way for Sadako to get well, and she then begins demonstrating the steps to building an origami paper crane as she makes one out of golden paper. When Sadako asks how the bird could possibly make her well, Chizuko reminds her of the legend of the crane, which can live for a thousand years. Chizuko explains that if a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will make her healthy again.
Chizuko offers Sadako the first real comfort she has felt in months, after the fear over her dizzy spells and the realization that she has the atom bomb sickness. Sadako listens raptly as Chizuko explains the legend of the crane, and offers Sadako a practical and achievable goal. Sadako, an optimist and a believer, is grateful for Chizuko’s concern, and watches carefully so that she can learn the new, hopeful tradition her best friend is passing on to her.
Sadako’s eyes fill with tears—she is grateful to her friend for bringing her a good luck charm. Sadako takes the first golden crane into her hand and feels a funny feeling come over her. When Chizuko leaves, Sadako sets to work on folding cranes. Some of them are lopsided, but Sadako is able to make ten birds that afternoon. Sadako knows she will be able to quickly finish making a thousand, and is confident that they will make her strong enough to go home.
Sadako is inspired by the “magic” of the cranes, and right away sets to her task. As she folds cranes she has some successes and some failures, but begins improving pretty much right way. Sadako, who had been stripped of all hope and happiness when she entered the hospital, now has something to look forward to—and something to keep her going as the rough road ahead begins. Sadako’s embrace of the possibility of this magic cure once again highlights both her innocence and her perseverance, her willingness to work toward a goal, that is being tragically cut-off by the lingering effects of the war.
That evening, when Masahiro brings Sadako her homework from school, he offers to string the cranes from the ceiling so that she has room to keep making more and more. When she tells him she is planning to make a thousand Masahiro expresses his doubts, but agrees to help Sadako however he can.
Sadako, bolstered by the idea of the paper cranes, draws her family into her project. Though Masahiro is uncertain at first, the family ties between the two of them cause him to offer his sister his support and lend her his strength no matter how large the task. Sadako’s story is one of both her perseverance, and the unwavering perseverance of her family in the support they give her (and the support she inspires others to give her).
After supper, Mrs. Sasaki arrives at the hospital with Mitsue and Eiji in tow. The two young children like Chizuko’s golden crane the best, but Sadako’s mother picks one folded from green paper out as her favorite—she knows that the smallest ones are the most difficult to make. After her family leaves when visiting hours end, Sadako feels lonely, and begins making crakes to keep up her courage. With each one, she makes a wish to get better.
As the rest of Sadako’s family learns about her project, her mother encourages her to press forward and admires her strength, perseverance, and commitment. Meanwhile, when Sadako is lonely after visiting hours are over, she draws comfort from the cranes, seeing the hope they bring her as an extension of her family’s love.