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Neo-nationalists Target Barefoot Gen via Japan Focus

Matthew Penney

MATSUE–Copies of “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), an internationally renowned manga about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, have been pulled from school library shelves here due to graphic descriptions of violence committed by Japanese troops.

The city’s education board decided last December that children should not be allowed to freely check out “Hadashi no Gen” at the libraries of public elementary and junior high schools. But teachers can still use them as education materials.

“We are not going to remove the manga because it is an invaluable piece,” said Yasunori Furukawa, deputy head of the education board. “But we understand that it contains portions that warrant consideration as appropriate reading material for children.”

The board’s decision stems from the complaint of one citizen who said the manga described actions that were never committed by Japanese troops during the war.
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This year, Hiroshima started a pilot “Peace Education Program” at six local schools with plans to expand it across the city from the 2013 school year. Selections from Barefoot Gen, long used informally as supplement to textbooks in many schools, will now be incorporated into official educational resources and provided to students across the district. The plan is described by the centrist Yomiuri Shimbun here. In the Yomiuri, the country’s bestselling newspaper and a mainstream voice in the Japanese mediascape, the use of Barefoot Gen in peace education is presented as a normative, uncontroversial decision. Those with an interest in chipping away at Japan’s anti-war norms, however, are now pushing for the work to be removed from classrooms. The group Heiwa to Anzen wo Motomeru Hibakusha-tachi no Kai (Association of Atomic Bomb Victims for Peace and Security, website here) has pressured (thus far unsuccessfully) Hiroshima City educators to change their peace education plans and remove Barefoot Gen. They claim that the work is “too full of the author’s opinion and ideology” and that something “neutral” should replace it. What does this “neutrality” look like when filtered through the group’s rhetoric? The Heiwa to Anzen wo Motomeru Hibakusha-tachi no Kai is claiming the “peace” and “hibakusha” (atomic bomb victim) mantels. First, it appears as though there are few, if any, direct victims of the 1945 bombing involved. The group’s leaders describe themselves as “Second Generation Survivors” while asking “Are the people who have been speaking with ‘the voices of atomic bomb survivors’ really good representatives of the hibakusha or all of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?” This is part of a consistent neo-nationalist trend – most writers who have come to prominence during the revisionist “boom” of the 1990s and 2000s are too young to remember the wartime “glory days” that they praise in their work. In addition, the group’s selection of new figures who can apparently “speak for” the hibakusha and people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with more authority should be unsurprising to anyone who has followed the Japanese right. In place of Hiroshima’s peace activists or hibakusha supporters, Tamogami Toshio and Kusaka Kimindo, rightist pundits with no real connection to the bombed cities, were brought in as the group’s speakers on the August 6 anniversary of the bombing. While the group’s official literature consists of a careful “realist” equation of mutually assured destruction with peace and avoids neo-nationalist shock talk about brinksmanship, their choice of Tamogami and Kusaka as speakers reveals a different ideological direction. Both have denied that the Nanking Massacre took place, citing the untruthful nature of the Chinese. Both call for nuclear armament for Japan and expanded conventional military capabilities. Both take preemptive strikes for granted. Neither, however, has shown a willingness to deal with issues such as paying for armaments during a recession, the potential for an arms race, or the wisdom of a Cold War approach to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner. Coopting the voice of the hibakusha and “peace thought” allows them to fantasize about capabilities while not worrying about consequences. – See more at: http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/156#sthash.27E2TcPw.dpuf

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