Hibakusha children’s author reflects on life as a writer, why society needs imagination

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Writer Masamoto Nasu is seen in Hofu Town, Yamaguchi Prefecture on June 9, 2021. (Mainichi / Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)

HOFU, Yamaguchi – “This may well become my will, right?” Children’s literature author Masamoto Nasu, 79, said at his home in Hofu, western Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture, as he held a copy of his picture book, “Hiroshima: a tragedy that will never be repeated ”.

When he was only 3 years old, the atomic bomb fell about 3 kilometers from his home. In June, he turned 79. “I wrote this when I was about 50. Around the time I had matured as a writer,” he said.

The book, published in 1995, continues to sell and remains in print. This is a multi-faceted scientific picture book illustrating Hiroshima before and after the bombing from a bird’s-eye view, the structure of the bomb, its history from its development to its release. on the city, and the effects of radiation, among other elements. The illustrations were by Shigeo Nishimura. The idea came when they were working on another project together, and Nasu pitched the idea to Nishimura.

Initially, their editor disagreed, but Nasu said, “When we sent him the roughly 60-page plan, he told us he would. Once a lock, their editor rushed to collect some background material for it. Nishimura rented a house in Hiroshima and began his work listening to the experiences of the hibakusha who had been directly affected by the bomb. “The three of us put it all in. I don’t think I could do a big job like this now.”

“Zukkoke sannin gumi”, a series focusing on the adventures of three boys beginning with their performance in sixth grade, is Nasu’s most famous work. In it, characters including Hachibee, Hakase, and Mou encounter a number of dilemmas, which they overcome by working together on what to do. The way they behave is symbolic of the freedom and peace that children grew up after the war. But Nasu didn’t stop at writing, he also became an author who raises his voice for social causes, with the belief that “children should never be deprived of their liberty again”.

As a plaintiff, he legally challenged the national security legislation as unconstitutional and argued against the proposed construction by Chugoku Electric Power Co. of the Kaminoseki nuclear power plant in the prefecture-level town of Yamaguchi in Kaminoseki. He also traveled the country to give lectures on his experience with the bomb and the horror of atomic weapons.

His lectures have been completely canceled since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in 2020, but he delivered his opinions during a hearing in a lawsuit against the national security legislation in the Yamaguchi District Court on March 3. “After five years, 10 years, there will come a day when we think, ‘It was a good thing that it was ruled unconstitutional at the time,'” he said in court. writings and his actions have become inseparable elements of his efforts to protect the peace.

But this year, Nasu is trying to end its activities. In recent years he has felt his physical strength diminish and he has often referred to 80 as a sort of retirement age for him. By the end of this year, he will have given up on many lectures and the management of local activism. In October 2020, the confirmation that the inhabitants had lost their lawsuit against the construction of the Kaminoseki nuclear power plant. The verdict on the national security case will be delivered this month.

But even if Nasu takes a step back from field activities, he intends to continue writing. “I want to hit 250 pounds. There are only 25 pounds left,” he said. Although delivered jokingly, his voice betrayed a feeling of conviction. In recent years, he felt that modern society has become a dangerous society in which people tend to have extreme opinions and lack imagination for others. “If you can’t be skeptical you will believe something based on one thing. The world of stories teaches people about other worlds and develops their sense of imagination,” he said.

It protects the freedom to think and act for oneself. Nasu, who presents himself as a “child of peace and democracy”, does not yet seem ready to put down his pen.

(Japanese original by Rika Uemura, Kyushu Cultural News Group)


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