Artists Making News
By Emma Castleberry
WAKUWAKU Eatery, a Japanese home-style restaurant, has donated 1,000 origami cranes to the Mission Children’s Hospital. Shortly after opening WAKUWAKU last May, owner Naomi Mikami initiated an effort to fold 1,000 cranes with the help of the community. Japanese legend holds that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted happiness and eternal good fortune. “Each crane was folded by someone’s hand with well wishes,” says Mikami. “As we connected each crane with a string, we sent appreciation to the person who made it.”
When Mikami was just five years old, she was diagnosed with the immune disorder idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP. “The doctor told my parents he would try his best to save me, but it wasn’t guaranteed, and even if I survived, I might have a disability,” says Mikami. Mikami not only survived, but thrived, which she attributes in part to the healthy Japanese foods made by her mother and grandmother.
During her illness, Mikami spent three months in the hospital. She was visited often by classmates, family members and teachers. “They supported me and encouraged me,” she says. “So I decided that one of my missions in life is to encourage people who are fighting with illness. I want to encourage them to get well and get back to normal life, to not give up and keep hope in their mind.” The 1,000 cranes project stemmed from this mission.
Customers who visited the restaurant folded cranes while waiting for their meals or after finishing, and some even worked at home and brought cranes to the restaurant’s donation box. “I think more than 90 percent of the cranes were folded by our customers,” Mikami says. Once the collection reached 1,000, Mikami contacted Mission Children’s Hospital, who agreed to accept the cranes. “Technology is making it easier and faster for us to communicate with each other,” Mikami says. “While I appreciate that, I also believe that face-to-face communication and a handmade item bring more warmth to the human heart. I believe the cranes are a perfect example of this.”
WAKUWAKU Eatery is located at 674 Merrimon Avenue in Asheville. Mikami has already started folding an additional 1,000 cranes for donation to other facilities. For more information, contact Mikami at email@example.com or 828.424.7891.