The no-war policy that has long supported post-World War II Japan is being undermined by newly railroaded security legislation that would allow the overseas dispatch of Japan Self-Defense Forces. Additionally, Japan abstained from a Nov. 5 United Nations General Assembly First Committee vote on a draft resolution that would establish a working group to consider a worldwide nuclear weapons ban treaty.
Amid such circumstances, the 2015 autumn series of "Hibakusha" will kick off with a children's book author who is ending his long-running series, "Zukkoke sannin gumi" (Go, Hilarious Trio!) in response to the recent political and social climate.
Since the first installment of "Go, Hilarious Trio!" featuring 6th-grade boys was published in 1978, the series has sold over 25 million copies, and is the longest-selling children's literature series in the country. The installment set to come out in December, however, will be its last.
At his home in the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Hofu in late October, author Masamoto Nasu raised his voice. "The security-related legislation is unconstitutional, and must be repealed."
Having experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima 3 kilometers away from ground zero as a 3-year-old, and having grown up on democracy-oriented education adopted after the war, Nasu had been vocal about his opposition to the government-backed security legislation, characterizing it as "evil laws that signal a massive shift in our 70-year, post-war history."
Since 2005, the series has featured the three boys as middle-aged men taking on real-life problems that forty-somethings commonly face, such as child rearing and care for aging parents. Their close friendship has remained unchanged over the years, and helps them overcome obstacles.
While Nasu was working on the latest installment, however, the security legislation was passed in the Diet. As a witness to a changing Japan, Nasu wrote the following afterword:
"The trio was a product of peace and democracy. The reason they go around freely having so much fun was because they lived in a peaceful and democratic Japan. It looks like times are going to change for the worse now. I don't want to portray the trio living in a world like that."
When he was a child, Nasu learned about the Constitution from his father, Shigeyoshi, who passed away in 1978 at the age of 79. Upon Japan's surrender in 1945, Shigeyoshi had quit his job as a teacher and began working for a company. One day, a typically patriarchal Shigeyoshi held a family meeting and declared, "We're entering an age of 'democracy.' If you have anything to say to me, you say it."
In elementary school, all decisions were made through classroom discussions. Nasu recalls that upon hearing that Japan was never going to war again, he thought, "Japan's going to become a great country."
"When I was going through my father's things (after he passed away), I discovered a copy of the Constitution that was falling apart. My father had underlined a lot of passages in red."
Nasu says he wanted to write stories in which children themselves figure out how to solve their problems. The lives led by the trio in his series were based on his own. "We lived through the best era of democracy," Nasu says. The three boys-turned-men were a physical manifestation of that.
However, what he believed long ago would "become a great country" is now turning into a very oppressive country for Nasu. While there was strong public opposition to the security legislation that was passed, public opinion polls show that around one-third of the Japanese public remain uninterested. That scares Nasu. "For many who grew up in the post-war era, democracy and peace are like air."
This is precisely why Nasu is determined to take the next step. The "Go, Hilarious Trio!" series may end, but Nasu has no intention of putting down his pen. He wants younger generations to think about war and peace as their own problems through the war that he will portray in his new stories. That, he believes, is his responsibility as a generation that has declared it would never go to war again.
(This is the first part of a six-part series.)