About a year ago Matsue City in Japan banned the manga Barefoot Gen from its schools when a school superintendent decided that the book's graphic imagery of the horrific aftermath of an atomic blast were unsuitable for small children. The public reaction to the ban quickly moved the school to reverse the ban. The comic, based on creator Keiji Nakazawa's experiences as a boy growing up in Hiroshima during and after the War, is highly-regarded and has long been used as teaching material in Japanese schools.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports that another Japanese community has decided to get into the act and has actually confiscated the manga from its schools.
According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the mayor of Izumisano City in the Osaka Prefecture has demanded that all copies of Barefoot Gen be removed from elementary and junior high schools in the district. It seems that after the Matsue City ban last year, the mayor of Izumisano decided to investigate the book himself.
This time around the ban has nothing to do with graphic imagery of skin melting off the faces of Hiroshima victims, but rather because he feels the manga discriminates against the mentally ill and poor.
Izumisano mayor Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu ordered Gen removed from schools back in November, after he read it upon hearing about the previous ban in the city of Matsue. But while Matsue officials blamed gruesome wartime imagery for their removal of the book, Chiyomatsu cited “many discriminatory expressions” such as kichigai (madman) and kojiki (beggar). As an anonymous school principal pointed out, however, this justification rings a bit hollow as there are plenty of other books that contain potentially offensive terms but were not targeted for removal from school libraries.Not all of the schools in the district followed the order to hand over the books, and so the district's superintendent, a political ally and appointee of the mayor's, went around to personally collect them.
The local school principle's organization sent a letter of protest to the school board. In response to media coverage of the ban and to protests from both educators and the public, the board is insisting that the confiscation is only temporary and that they only intend to withhold the books until “preparations to provide guidance to students regarding the problematic expressions” can be made. The CBLDF does not yet know if the school board has made good on its promise to return the books.
In an editorial on the topic, the Asahi Shimbum says:
What is necessary is not to scour books for inappropriate words with the intention of keeping them out of reach of children. It is important to help children understand why expressions that are better left unused today are used in certain literary works and why the authors used them. That requires careful efforts to give children necessary knowledge about historical backgrounds and useful perspectives.