Text and Photos by Galileo de Guzman Castillo
Today, I met Gen Nakaoka.
He is the six-year old boy protagonist of the manga series by Keiji Nakazawa, entitled はだしのゲン / Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen) that is loosely based on Keiji Nakazawa’s own experiences as a hibakusha. Gen is a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
I remember reading the manga series way back in my childhood in the 1990s as copies of the Japanese comics were brought home by one of my relatives. It has since been adopted to different media: live-action film, anime, TV drama, book, stage play, opera and musical, and feature film.
It offered me a glimpse of the war through the eyes of kodomo (Japanese children) and who suffers the most in times of conflict and unpeace.
An important lesson I learned from Barefoot Gen and my participation in the Japan Peace March this year is the importance of involving the children and the youth in eye-opening experiences at an early age. As a child, I was lucky I was given the opportunity to read Keiji Nakazawa’s masterpiece and semi-autobiographical account of his childhood life. Now, I am given another opportunity to be with the Japanese people and broaden my horizons and perspectives further.
It is both a humbling and empowering feeling of learning from the roots (Gen).
I want to end my notes from the field today with a quote from Gen’s father, Daikichi Nakaoka:
“This war can’t be right. But it’s only the cowards like me who dare say it. If there were only a few more like us. You know, sometimes it takes more courage not to fight than to fight, to not want to kill when all around you are calling out for blood. That’s real courage in my book. If you boys remember nothing else I teach you, I hope you’ll remember that.”
Focus on the Global South’s Galileo de Guzman Castillo from the Philippines is currently in Japan as part of the 2019 International Youth Relay Peace March.