Renowned cartoonist and atomic-bomb survivor Keiji Nakazawa said he hopes an upcoming documentary about his life will drive home the dangers of radiation at a time when the nation struggles with a nuclear disaster.
Nakazawa lost his father and siblings in the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and suffered from discrimination directed toward those exposed to radiation in the blast. He said he fears misperceptions over the risks of radiation continue even today.
The 72-year-old Nakazawa, who is best known for his manga series “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), which has been translated into more than 10 languages, including English, talks about his experiences while visiting various sites in Hiroshima in the film “Hadashi no Gen ga Mita Hiroshima (Hiroshima Through the Eyes of Barefoot Gen.”
The film will be screened in Tokyo from Aug. 6.
“I can never forget the icy glare from people when I told them after arriving in Tokyo that I had been exposed to the atomic blast,” Nakazawa recalled. “People at the time thought radiation was contagious.
“I felt vexed, thinking that this is the attitude of the people of Japan, the only country to have experienced an atomic bombing.”
He drew parallels between his experience and the current situation surrounding evacuees who have fled from areas contaminated by radiation resulting from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I hear that there are children who are being discriminated against because they are from Fukushima,” Nakazawa said. “Groundless rumors have a way of spreading, and it is truly regrettable, considering that it is the role of parents and teachers to teach the facts.”
Nakazawa, who has also worked tirelessly as an anti-nuclear activist and has visited Chernobyl, has long been critical of nuclear power plants.
“It is beyond anything a human can control,” he said. “Especially in Japan, which is constantly faced with earthquakes, I always thought the situation (where nuclear power plants exist) is extremely frightful.”
After the 1945 bombing, Nakazawa fled to the outskirts of Hiroshima. He recalls watching neighbors return to the city center, only to come back and fall ill, dying while coughing up blood.
“The black rain fell and formed spots where radiation was particularly strong. Something invisible, intangible seeps into the body and destroys it,” Nakazawa said.
Nakazawa, who has given up drawing cartoons due to failing eyesight and who recently fought with lung cancer said he plans to continue his mission to convey, through words, the pitfalls of nuclear power.
Keiji Nakazawa receives a bouquet at the preview of a documentary movie on his ordeal as an A-bomb survivor in Hiroshima on July 30. (The Asahi Shimbun)
Keiji Nakazawa (Asahi Shimbun file photo)