Exhibition of original drawings from picture book version of “Barefoot Gen” opens at Peace Memorial Museum

by Rie Nii, Staff Writer

An exhibition of original drawings from the picture book version of “Barefoot Gen” opened on July 19 at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. “Barefoot Gen” is the signature work of manga artist Keiji Nakazawa, 73. The exhibition has been organized to mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of his autobiographical manga work “I Saw It,” which led to the creation of “Barefoot Gen.” The drawings vividly depict the living conditions people suffered during wartime and the miserable aftermath of the atomic bombing. The exhibition will run through September 3.

Color pictures of all 24 pages of the book have been reproduced and mounted on 12 display panels. The pictures show the area near the hypocenter before the atomic bombing; how Gen, the main character, and his siblings were bullied because his father’s anti-war stance was seen as unpatriotic; survivors of the bombing whose bodies were pierced by splinters of glass; and numerous bodies floating in the river. By the display is a notebook in which people can write messages to Mr. Nakazawa.

Yumiko Hirose, 48, an interpreter and guide from the city of Kawasaki, near Tokyo, had come to Hiroshima with her husband and the couple was visiting the museum. Looking closely at the pictures, Ms. Hirose said, “Touring the museum gave me a good understanding of the background, so it’s easy to relate to the story. I would like to read the manga ‘Barefoot Gen’ again.”

The picture book version of the manga story was published in August 1980 with the aim of providing a version of the story that would be easier for younger children to understand.

In February 2011, Mr. Nakazawa donated to the museum some 10,000 original drawings, including preliminary sketches, from 119 of his works.

(Originally published on July 20, 2012)