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2013年8月22日 (木)

社説:はだしのゲン 戦争知る貴重な作品だ

August 20, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: 'Barefoot Gen' restrictions threaten vital peace education
社説:はだしのゲン 戦争知る貴重な作品だ

Schools are where the children of Japan, now so long at peace, learn about war, and about the atomic horror that marked the end of this country's last military conflict. In Matsue, capital of Shimane Prefecture, primary and junior high school students have been deprived of one major chance to learn these things, to understand the disaster of war.

We speak of course of the Matsue Municipal Board of Education's move in December last year to restrict student access to the 10-part manga series "Hadashi no Gen," or "Barefoot Gen," based on late author Keiji Nakazawa's own experience of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and its aftermath. At present, students at public primary and junior high schools in the city are not allowed to view or check out books from the series without special permission from their teachers.
The restrictions were imposed because the education board, or more specifically its superintendent, believed the manga's graphic depictions of death and violence -- including beheadings and rapes committed by former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers in other Asian nations -- were unsuitable for young students. Thirty-nine of Matsue's public primary and junior high schools have all 10 volumes of "Barefoot Gen."

When the access restrictions were revealed last week, the Matsue education board was flooded with protests from around the country. Many of Matsue's teachers, too, heaped scorn on the measure for violating children's right to know about the events depicted in the manga.

Teaching kids about the terror of war and the importance of peace is one of the school system's most important tasks. For a board of education, tasked with sustaining and promoting the study of peace, to close off one major avenue to do this is a serious problem that must be corrected. Moreover, the fact that the Matsue superintendent of education demanded the access restrictions without consulting her fellow education board members is a fact that must be discussed among the staff of every school, including their principals.

The event that prompted the education board to consider keeping "Barefoot Gen" out of the hands of its students was a petition submitted to the Matsue Municipal Assembly by a local citizen in August last year. The citizen demanded that "Barefoot Gen" be pulled from school library shelved because the series "plants mistaken historical views" in the minds of children. The municipal assembly agreed that the manga contained some extreme depictions, but that as "Barefoot Gen" was widely viewed as an important work for peace education, the assembly could not assent to the citizen's request.

The education board, however, decided separately that it was inappropriate to allow school children free access to the manga due to "scenes of former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers decapitating people of other Asian nations" and other depictions of extreme violence.

The first installment of "Barefoot Gen" was published in 1973 in a children's weekly manga magazine, and is now considered an invaluable work for its brutally honest portrayal of the horrors of war and how it snatches away our humanity. Now available in some 20 languages, "Barefoot Gen" has also brought the story of the A-bomb to readers the world over. The Matsue education board has said it recognizes the tremendous value of the series to peace education, and that there is no restriction on teachers using the manga in class.

The scenes of horrific cruelty portrayed in "Barefoot Gen" are there because war and the atomic bombings are themselves cruel. The Matsue education board's excessive restrictions don't just risk violating freedom of expression, but also stealing a chance for children to think about this admittedly shocking but very important subject matter. As such, these restrictions cannot be allowed to set a precedent.

"The theme of war and the A-bomb is very deep," author Nakazawa once said. "If 'Gen' spurs people to read more about the topic, helps them mature through seeking more information, then I'll be more than happy."

The survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are growing older, their numbers thinning year by year. At the same time, the ranks of our people who have never known war continue to multiply. For this very reason, passing on first-hand accounts of war and the A-bombs is becoming all the more important, and nothing should be allowed to block this vital inheritance.

毎日新聞 2013年08月20日 02時33分


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