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Barefoot Gen Translator's Speech Cancelled at Japanese Junior High

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Principal cites 'recent circumstances' and 'social trends' as reason for cancellation

A scheduled speech by the Barefoot Gen manga's English translator Alan Gleason at Iogi Junior High School in Suginami Ward was cancelled by school staff. Gleason was scheduled to deliver a speech to students about the importance of life on October 4, but was informed by staff a day prior that it was cancelled. Gleason stated he was given vague reasons regarding the cancellation including "recent circumstances" and "social trends."

When he questioned staff if the cancellation was due to controversy over the manga in the southwestern Japanese city of Matsue, principal Chieko Akaogi declined comment stating the decision was made internally. Akaogi told The Mainichi newspaper that the cancellation was her decision and they did not consult the metropolitan or ward boards of education.

Akaogi stated, "I have not read Barefoot Gen. The students have not studied it, either, so I thought they would not be interested in the lecture. When I asked that Gleason not focus the speech onBarefoot Gen, he refused."

Gleason's speech was replaced by a former elementary school principal who lectured on life using poems instead of the manga. Gleason was involved in the translation of Barefoot Gen since 1977.


The Japanese city of Matsue attempted to restrict access to late Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen after a complaint was filed about the historical manga's depiction of violence used by the Imperial Japanese Army troops. The board eventually decided to remove the manga due to the graphic nature of the violence, not for the claimed historical inaccuracies. The removal would not have allowed students to check out the manga, but teachers still could have access to copies as educational materials.

The city rescinded its order to remove copies of the manga.The board said it made the new decision because of procedural problems with the way the order was originally given. The board added that the decisions of the individual schools in the city regarding access to the books should be respected. The board had conducted a survey with principals in 49 city schools, and the survey found that only five principals had said they saw a need to restrict access to the books.

Barefoot Gen first ran in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 1973 and follows Gen Nakaoka, a character based on the author's own experiences. Nakazawa was six years old when the Hiroshima bombing killed his father, two sisters, and brother. The resulting 10 volumes of Barefoot Gen have since sold more than 10 million copies and have been translated in English, Russian, Korean, and many other languages.

The Hiroshima City Board of Education added Barefoot Gen to its schools' curriculum for third-year elementary school students last year as part of its "Peace Education Program." A group petitioned for the work to be dropped from the curriculum, asserting that it is a "one-sided portrayal."

Last Gasp Publishing republished the Barefoot Gen manga in North America. The story has been adapted into two animated films and a live-action television drama special in Japan. Producer Northrop Davis and a partner have been pitching the story to Hollywood studios.

Source: The Mainichi

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