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Point of interest: 鶴(つる)

POI
つる
- cranes in Japanese culture
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326 words
Cranes play a role in the traditions of many cultures - they are objectively beautiful birds, with spectacular mating dances, and their lengthy migrations make them regular visitors to many regions.
In Japanese literature and culture, the
つる
(crane) plays an outsized role. The crane is considered a mystical or holy creature alongside the dragon and tortoise. It has a fabled lifespan of a thousand years, and as a result it symbolizes good fortune and longevity.
According to an ancient legend, anyone who folds one thousand origami cranes will be granted one wish, and this practice gained tremendous attention globally after World War II, through the efforts of schoolgirl Sadako Sasaki, who suffered from leukemia from the bombing of Hiroshima. Her wish from her thousand cranes was not to be spared from death, but to bring peace to Japan and to relieve the plight of the innocent victims of war, and perhaps her wish was granted.
Although several species of crane pass through Japan, the most famous is the red-crowned crane (which is sometimes called the Japanese crane). Known in Japanese as
たんちょうづる
丹頂鶴
(literally 'red top crane'), this type of crane has a very distinctive patch of bare red skin right at the top of its head. The rest of the crane is a mix of snowy white and deep black, creating a very distinctive look. With a wingspan of 1.5m, the red-crowned crane is a majestic bird, indifferent to most predators, and conversely even known to attack some carnivores such as grey wolves and red foxes! Alas, the red-crowned crane is now endangered, with an estimated population of less than 2000, of which around 1000 are resident in Hokkaido.
For a sample of Japanese literature revolving around a crane, read
つる
ふえ
in the Reading Corner, a delightful fairy tale by
はやし
ふみこ
芙美子
with a new translation by our partner J. D. Wisgo. To read more about the kanji 鶴 and Sadako Sasaki, read the Joy o' Kanji essay on 鶴.

Kanji used in this point of interest

つる crane   
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タン   rust; vermilion
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チョウ   presented   いただ to be presented with, crowned   いただき summit, top   
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リン   wood; trees   はやし wood   
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フ    lotus; Mt Fuji   
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ビ   うつくしい beautiful   
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シ   ス   こ child   
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