The famous manga series “Barefoot Gen” (Hadashi no Gen) has been pulled off the shelves of 13 primary and junior high schools in Izumisano, Osaka at the instruction of Mayor Hiroyasu Chiymatsu through the municipal board of education. Mayor Chiyomatsu cited “many discriminatory expressions” as the reason for removing the manga by the late atomic bomb survivor Keiji Nakazawa.
Before the pull out, books from the series were easily accessible in eight primary and five junior high schools in the city. But in November last year, Mayor Chiyomatsu said that he “cannot overlook the many expressions in the manga that impact human rights,” including derogatory names for beggars and unemployed. He then asked school superintendent Tatsuhiro Nakafuji to do something about the negative impact it may have on its readers. Nakafuji then passed a resolution to pull out the manga series from the schools and keep it someplace else. At that time, not all schools followed the resolution, so the board collected the series again in January, saying that members of the board “need the opportunity to read the series themselves and discuss the issue.”
The Izumisano association of public school principals wrote two protest letters to the board, opposing the move. “School library administration is under the jurisdiction of school principals, and the association cannot accept the unilateral collection (of the manga) by the board of education,” it stated in the letter. “To deny the children the chance to read the manga grounded in certain sense of values and ideas is a violation of their human rights,” added the association, which called for the books to be returned. After reading the series, Chiyomatsu said his decision to remove the manga from the shelves was “simply a question whether I could ignore the manga’s inappropriate expressions from the perspective of maintaining human rights.” Defending their actions, Nakafuji said the “problem is not with the work itself, but with the discriminatory expressions in it.” He said the board is already planning on outlining measures that would be used to deal with the language used in the series.
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