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Hiroshima Board of Education Removes Barefoot Gen Manga Excerpts From Peace Educational Materials

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Board cites difficulty explaining scenes' context in limited class time

The Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education announced last month that it will be removing Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen manga from the Peace Education Program materials aimed at elementary and middle school students. The manga had been part of the program since 2013.

The board began reevaluating the contents of the program four years ago. It found that teachers often cited difficulties explaining the context of the manga's scenes during the limited class time. The manga will be replaced by contemporary before-and-after photos of a woman's family affected by the atomic bomb.

Some members of the public have objected to the decision. On Wednesday, the board received an online petition signed by 55,065 individuals asking to retract the manga's removal. The petition gained momentum online amid media reports claiming that the reason for the manga's removal was because its depiction of a starving boy stealing fish in order to survive could "cause misunderstandings."

On the other hand, a group comprised of education professionals submitted a document to the board on Thursday expressing approval for the decision. The paper explained that manga was considered difficult to teach because the situations depicted in the story do not match the current reality for children, and teachers are therefore obliged to explain the individual context.

Nakazawa was born in Hiroshima in 1939. 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.

He drew Barefoot Gen from 1973 to 1985, based on his experiences during the bombing and of his struggle to survive in the aftermath. The resulting 10 volumes of Barefoot Gen have since sold over 10 million copies and have been translated in English, Russian, Korean, and many other languages.

Last Gasp Publishing already republished the manga in North America. The manga inspired two animated films and a live-action television drama special in Japan.

The manga's place in the classroom has been controversial in the past. A group called "Atomic Bomb Survivors Seeking Peace and Security" petitioned the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education in 2012 to stop using the manga. The group's petition asserted that the manga offers a "one-sided portrayal" and added that it is "important to choose materials that are neutral politically and ideologically" for the peace studies. The board said it accepted the petition from the group as "one point of view."

Sources: NHK, TBS News Dig, Chunichi Shimbun

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