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Hiroshima Asked to Stop Using Barefoot Gen Manga in Schools

posted on by Egan Loo
Group claims Keiji Nakazawa's semi-autobiographical manga about A-bomb survivors is "one-sided"

A group called "Atomic Bomb Survivors Seeking Peace and Security" petitioned the Hiroshima Board of Education on Friday to stop using Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen) manga in the city's peace studies program. The manga is Nakazawa's semi-autobiographical account of life during and after the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, based on his own real-life childhood experiences.

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."

The board is planning to implement its peace studies program in all elementary, middle, and high schools in Hiroshima, starting next year. The program is already undergoing a trial at a model school, where the manga is being used as teaching materials for elementary third-graders.

At the age of 6, Nakazawa survived the Hiroshima bombing, but lost his entire family except for his mother. 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 millon copies and have been translated in English, Russian, Korean, and many other languages.

Last Gasp Publishing republished the manga in North America. The manga inspired two animated films and a live-action television drama special in Japan. Producer Northrop Davis and a partner have pitched the story to Hollywood studios.

Source: Chugoku Shimbun

Update: The Hiroshima Peace Media Center, a resource that the Chugoku Shimbun paper established in 2008, posted a list of the teaching materials for the peace studies program on July 2.

Update 2: The petitioning group describes itself on its website as a new group, separate from the existing survivors' groups, that is starting "a movement towards building a true peace." The group posted a May 7 statement warning of the elevated risks that Japan faces from neighboring countries, and claims that "the 'Hiroshima Peace' movement and 'peace regime' that only advocate 'nuclear disarmament'" have done little to deter the "illegal acts" of other countries. The group also questioned Hiroshima's participation and tax expenditures in Mayors for Peace, a program that brings together civic leaders from Japan and other countries such as China.

Update 3: While Gen and his mother were his family's only survivors in the manga, Nakazawa had two brothers who were not at home during the real-life bombing and thus survived. Thanks, haplotus and Optitron.

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