Junior Writers Reporting

Hiroshima tour traces the footsteps of “Barefoot Gen”

A tour of locations to trace the footsteps of the boy Gen, the main character of the manga series Barefoot Gen who perseveres in the face of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, took place on April 27 and 28 in the city. I joined the organizers and helped prepare the tour with other high school and university students. I then served as a guide for the tour itself.

On the first day of the tour, the participants learned about Gen by watching a documentary film depicting a portion of author Keiji Nakazawa’s life, and listening to a talk by his widow, Misayo. Misayo reflected on her husband’s work, saying, “I think it was painful for him to depict the atomic bombing, but he continued drawing in order to help abolish nuclear weapons and protect Japan’s ‘Peace Constitution.’”

On the second day, we compared Mr. Nakazawa’s actual A-bomb experience, which served as the basis for Barefoot Gen, with the steps that Gen took in the manga series. We visited the remains of the A-bombed Kanzaki National School (now Kanzaki Elementary School in Naka Ward) and other sites on foot.

At the place where Mr. Nakazawa’s house had stood--where he was born and where his family died under the wreckage of the building--I explained to the participants that although Gen is shown with his mother at the burning house, in reality, Mr. Nakazawa was unable to approach because of the flames.

The first time I heard Mr. Nakazawa speak in person was at an event held in May 2012. I was moved by his strong opposition to war, and his desire for peace, and I wanted to learn more about him. Sadly, however, he passed away little more than six months later.

Prior to the tour, I read his manga series again and met one of his friends who shared memories of Mr. Nakazawa. I learned that Mr. Nakazawa, just 6 at the time of the bombing, was forced to search for his family alone after the blast. I can only imagine the tremendous loneliness and fear he must have felt. (Junichi Akiyama, 17)

(Originally Published on May 13, 2013)