Don’t curb ‘Barefoot Gen’: Matsue principals

Kyodo

After the Matsue board of education caused a stir last week by restricting student access to an iconic manga about the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and other wartime cruelties, it said Thursday that 44 of 49 school principals polled in the city wanted the curbs lifted.

The board’s disclosure came after it told public elementary and junior high schools to restrict access to “Hadashi no Gen” (“Barefoot Gen”) last week because members deemed it too graphic.

The regular meeting, open to the public, was the board’s first since stirring the controversy last week, but a final decision on the policy was put off until an ad hoc meeting next Monday.

“There’s a need to clarify the board’s position because the issue has sparked debate across society,” said Tomio Naito, head of the board.

The board said half of the principals at its junior high schools said there was no need to restrict access to “Barefoot Gen.” Nearly half of their elementary school counterparts deemed the move unnecessary or in need of reconsideration.

Last August, the city received a public request to keep the manga out of school libraries, but the Matsue Municipal Assembly rejected it in December.

That same month, the board’s secretariat asked principals to enforce a policy that does not allow students to read the comic freely and requires teacher supervision. The board said the request to restrict access was decided independently by the secretariat and does not require board members’ approval.

Supporters of the manga want unrestricted access, citing its educational value in teaching children about war. The animated version has already made its way to YouTube, though it is likely different from the comic book.

The popular antiwar manga was authored by the late Keiji Nakazawa based on his experience of the Aug. 6 bombing as a 6-year-old boy on his way to school. Nakazawa, who died of lung cancer at age 73 last December, lost his father and siblings in the atomic bombing.

Nakazawa’s work has been translated into English, French, Korean, Thai and Russian and other languages as well.