Senbazuru: 1,000 Cranes.


All photos © Johnny Tang.

In Japan there is a tradition known as “Senbazuru” (literally 1000 cranes). According to legend, if one folds 1000 paper cranes they will be granted a single wish by the gods. The cranes are usually strung together and hung outside the outer walls of a temple. As they are exposed to the elements and slowly decay, it is believed that the sacrificed cranes will carry the folder’s wish up to heaven for the gods to receive.

I am an impatient American, so I decided to burn mine.

I folded the cranes over the course of a year, personally creasing each beak and wing myself while steadfastly refusing the help of others. I did this because I wanted to know what it felt like to bring each crane into this world, and then banish it into the next. When I first started this project I was hoping to create a huge fireball in the snow. “This will be so cool” I thought, “there’s no way I could screw this up.” But when the moment of destruction finally came, the little bastards refused to even light – instead they just simmered quietly, laughing at me.





These fabulous photos are by no means all of the ones in this project. There are many more, and you can click on each one and read all the details of that particular shot, at Johnny Tang Photo. This is stunning work, on more than one level, and it certainly deserves very wide exposure. I’m no stranger to long term projects, but I don’t think I could ever fold 1,000 cranes.

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