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Barefoot Gen Author's Undelivered Letter to President Obama Discovered

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

A letter penned by the late Barefoot Gen author Keiji Nakazawa to U.S. President Barack Obama was discovered. In the letter dated August 20, 2009, Nakazawa praises the President's speech in Prague calling for an end to nuclear weapons and urges him visit the atomic bomb museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, talk to survivors, and continue to push for disarmament of nuclear weapons worldwide. You can read the full text of the letter below.

The letter's discovery comes a day before the President is scheduled to visit Hiroshima as the first sitting U.S. president to do so. President Obama does not plan to apologize for dropping nuclear weapons on Japan but instead pay respects to all of the war dead. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will accompany him.

Nakazawa's wife Misayo has stated that she is pleased Obama is making the trip. She said, "Perhaps my husband's soul wanted somebody to find the letter." Misayo said her husband wrote it after Obama's speech in Prague, commenting that he thought Obama was "different from other (U.S.) presidents until now."

Nakazawa attempted to send a translated version of the letter to the President via a family with close connections but it never reached them. The manga creator previously expressed interest in giving a copy of Barefoot Gen to President Obama the same year he wrote the letter.

Nakazawa based his ten-volume story on his own experiences in the aftermath of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima. At the age of 6, he survived the 1945 Hiroshima bombing and the loss of most of his immediate family — his father, older sister, younger brother, and younger sister. Only he, his mother, and two brothers who were not at home survived.

Dear President Obama and Family,

My name is Keiji Nakazawa. I am a Japanese cartoonist, a citizen of Hiroshima, and the author of "Barefoot Gen," a graphic novel whose hero, Gen, is a young boy whose pluck and courage help him survive the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its terrible aftermath.

First of all, I would like to offer you my sincere congratulations on your election to the presidency of the United States. I am writing to you because, with the recent completion of the English translation of all ten volumes of the "Barefoot Gen" series, it is my hope that you and your family will find time in your busy schedules to read Gen's story.

This year, the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, residents of those cities felt for the first time that our long-cherished dream of a nuclear-free world might really come true. What gave us hope was your speech in Prague on April 5 this year in which you declared your commitment to a "world without nuclear weapons." On the occasion of the anniversary of the bombing, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba coined the word "Obamajority" to express his belief that the vast majority of the world's citizens share this commitment with you. As one such citizen, I too would like to declare my unwavering support for your initiative.

I was especially moved when I read a newspaper article that mentioned your visit in October 2007 to the exhibition of A-bomb panels at DePaul University in Chicago. I could not help thinking that what you saw there may have helped inspire your determination to achieve a nuclear-free world.

I know that such a goal will not be easy to achieve -- as you stated in Prague, perhaps not in our lifetimes. But as a significant step in that direction, it is my hope that you will come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hear the voices of the atomic bomb survivors first-hand, and visit the Peace Memorial Museum here in Hiroshima. Such a visit by the leader of the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon would be a persuasive indicator to the other nuclear powers of the United States's sense of moral responsibility as well as your own personal commitment.

As perhaps the busiest person in the world, your schedule may not permit such a visit any time soon. In the meantime, however, I hope that you, your wife Michelle and your daughters Malia and Sasha will read "Barefoot Gen" together. I believe that you will find it a useful means of understanding the actual experience of the atomic bomb victims, and of preparing for an eventual visit to Hiroshima.

"Barefoot Gen" is not a work of fiction, but is based on my own experiences as a survivor as well as those of my family and friends. It is my prayer that Gen's story will help galvanize the commitment of peace-loving people around the world to the goals you have so eloquently expressed. I also pray for the health and happiness of you and your family.

Sincerely yours,

Keiji Nakazawa

Hiroshima, Japan

August 20, 2009

Thanks to Ōmiya for the tip

Source: The Mainichi

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