‘Barefoot Gen’ to Be Removed From Hiroshima Peace Education Textbook

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Scenes from manga “Barefoot Gen” are seen in the Hiroshima peace notebook for third-grade elementary school students.

HIROSHIMA — The Hiroshima city board of education plans to replace a long-used and globally known manga series that depicts the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima as part of its peace education materials used at municipal schools in the next academic year.

The board said it made the decision because it deems the times depicted in “Barefoot Gen” differ too much from that of today, and that using only portions of the manga could cause misunderstanding about the descriptions.

“Barefoot Gen,” created by the late Keiji Nakazawa, is the story of a boy named Gen who loses most of his family in the atomic bombing but bravely continues on with his life. The series has been translated into 24 languages including English, Russian and Arabic.

Since the 2013 academic year, portions of the manga have been used in peace education textbook called the “Hiroshima peace notebook,” for first-year high school and third-grade elementary school students. A peace notebook is produced for each school grade.

In the one for third-grade elementary school students, there are two scenes that particularly concerned the board. In one, Gen earns money for the day by performing rokyoku, a traditional Japanese style of narrative singing accompanied by shamisen that is rarely seen these days. In another, he fishes for carp in someone else’s garden to help his mother, who is suffering from malnutrition.

When the board held discussions with school principals and university professors on the necessity of revising the educational materials, among the opinions were “Students are not familiar with rokyoku, and the other scene could mislead them into thinking it’s okay to steal carp,” and “It requires time and effort to achieve learning objectives as the historical background needs to be explained.”

The new materials for third-grade elementary school students will instead have a picture book depicting an atomic bomb survivor who lost both parents and three sisters at the age of 16. For first-year high schoolers, materials recounting the experiences of Nakazawa, who died in 2012, will remain, but the manga scenes will be removed.

“The manga series is available at almost all school libraries in the city, and [the decision] does not mean we are denying the significance of the work,” said a board of education official.