Keiji Nakazawa, author of “Barefoot Gen” a groundbreaking Japanese comic about the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bombing, has died of lung cancer at a hospital in the city, sources said Tuesday. He was 73. A powerful statement against war, Barefoot Gen is a story about the effect of the atomic bomb on a boy’s life and the lives of the Japanese people.
The popular antiwar story, which was serialized in the 1970s and 1980s, is based on his experience of the atomic bombing. Born in Hiroshima, Nakazawa was 6 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on Aug. 6, 1945. His elementary school was only 1.3 kilometers from ground zero.His father, an older sister and a younger brother died in the bombing. A younger sister, born immediately after the explosion, died soon afterward. The story played a vital role in the education of Japanese youth, especially elementary and junior high school children, many of whom were introduced to the Hiroshima bombing and war through Nakazawa’s work. It has also been translated in various languages, including English, French, Korean, Thai and Russian.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui expressed hope that the comic strip will continue to be “passed on to the next generation” and tell the horror of the atomic bombing to many people in Japan and around the world. After publisher Choubunsha Publishing Co. released it in 1975 in the form of comic books, they were placed in school libraries. Choubunsha said it had sold more than 10 million copies as of December.
Nakazawa had battled lung cancer since it was detected in 2010. A cataract prevented him from drawing manga in his final years, but he continued talking to the public about his wartime experience.