Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

by

Eleanor Coerr

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Kenji Character Analysis

A young boy who is staying at the Red Cross Hospital at the same time as Sadako. Kenji is also sick with leukemia though he was not even born when the atom bomb went off—he took the “poison” of the disease in from his mother as a baby. Kenji’s death forces Sadako to think more and more about her own imminent death, but she also understands when Kenji dies that death can also mean freedom from pain and sickness.

Kenji Quotes in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

The Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes quotes below are all either spoken by Kenji or refer to Kenji. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Peace and Pacifism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin Books edition of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes published in 2004.
Chapter 6 Quotes

Sadako was feeling especially tired one day when Nurse Yasunaga wheeled her out onto the porch for some sunshine. There Sadako saw Kenji for the first time. He was nine and small for his age.

“Hello!” she said. “I’m Sadako.”

Kenji answered in a low, soft voice. Soon the two were talking like old friends Kenji had been in the hospital for a long time, but he had few visitors. His parents were dead and he had been living with an aunt in a nearby town.

“She’s so old that she only comes to see me only once a week,” Kenji said. “I read most of the time.”

Sadako turned away at the sad look on Kenji’s face.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he went on, “because I’ll die soon. I have leukemia from the bomb.”

“You can’t have leukemia,” Sadako said. “You weren’t even born then.”

“That isn’t important,” Kenji said. “The poison was in my mother’s body and I got it from her.”

Sadako wanted to comfort him, but she didn’t know what to say. Then she remembered the cranes. “You can make paper cranes like I do,” she said, “so that a miracle can happen.”

“I know about the cranes, but it’s too late. Even the gods can’t help me now.”

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Kenji (speaker), Nurse Yasunaga
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 42-44
Explanation and Analysis:

One day Kenji didn’t appear on the porch. Late that night Sadako heard the rumble of a bed being rolled down the hall. Nurse Yasunaga came in to tell her that Kenji had died. Sadako turned to the wall and let the tears come. After a while she felt the nurse’s hand on her shoulder. When Sadako finally stopped sobbing, she looked out [the window] at the moonlit sky.

“Do you think Kenji is up there on a star island?”

“Wherever he is, I’m sure that he is happy now,” the nurse said. “He has shed that tired, sick body and his spirit is free.”

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Nurse Yasunaga (speaker), Kenji
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sadako LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes PDF

Kenji Character Timeline in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

The timeline below shows where the character Kenji appears in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: Kenji
History, Family, and Tradition Theme Icon
Hope, Strength, and Perseverance Theme Icon
Death as Freedom Theme Icon
...and see the sunshine. Out on the porch, Sadako sees a boy, whose name is Kenji. He is nine years old and small for his age. Sadako introduces herself, and soon... (full context)
History, Family, and Tradition Theme Icon
Hope, Strength, and Perseverance Theme Icon
Death as Freedom Theme Icon
Sadako tells Kenji that he can’t possibly have leukemia—he wasn’t even born when the atom bomb was dropped.... (full context)
Hope, Strength, and Perseverance Theme Icon
...would be like to be sick and have no family. She thinks of how brave Kenji is, and makes a big crane for him out of her prettiest paper. She brings... (full context)
Hope, Strength, and Perseverance Theme Icon
Death as Freedom Theme Icon
Late one night, Nurse Yasunaga comes into Sadako’s room to inform her that Kenji has died. Sadako cries, but Nurse Yasunaga comforts Sadako by assuring her that Kenji has... (full context)