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From Asahi Shimbun

Japanese version

Towards a Nuclear-Free World
    From Japan:
         Thoughts from a Country Hit by Nuclear Bombs - 2013(No.2-2)

I Will Continue to Appeal for Nuclear Abolition Until the End of My Life
By Kaori Kanda, Kodan (Storytelling) Performer   (June 3, 2013, The Asahi Shimbun Newspaper)


For the past 27 years, I have been performing a storytelling program based on Keiji Nakazawa's manga Barefoot Gen, which depicts the cruelty of using atom bombs. After serving my apprenticeship as a minor performer, I decided to choose war as the theme of my storytelling. It was just when I had been struggling with this extremely serious subject that I came upon this original work. The manga features the boy protagonist Gen, who maintains a forward-looking attitude in life in spite of his many hardships. His character really energizes my audiences. I have also learned a lot from his life.

Ten years ago, I also began to incorporate into my storytelling the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which occurred in 1986. In essence, a nuclear disaster should be regarded as another form of atomic bombing. My fellow artists have even said to me, "It's a little weird that you occupy yourself with such unprofitable work," but so far I have continued to give my storytelling performances to express my earnest desire that the atomic bombings and the nuclear accidents never be repeated.

There are not many of us kodan storytellers compared with rakugo (comic) storytellers, but I have always believed that there is power in kodan. And yet a nuclear accident occurred in my hometown of Fukushima 2 years ago. I was overcome by feelings of helplessness and frustration that my performances had been so useless.

Even so, I must never give up. I imagine how intensely the victims of the atom bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered when they were bombed, and likewise how bitterly the people of Fukushima have been suffering. Mankind and nuclear energy can never coexist. If we can't learn now, we will surely undergo other nuclear disasters in the future.

In the aftermath of the "3.11" disaster, I have been asking the audiences who attend my shows and lectures to practice making the short sound: "ah! ah!" and putting a lot of power into it. The Japanese government is planning to resume nuclear power plant operations and cannot bring itself to leave the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. However, it's not enough for those of us who oppose nukes just to hope for the best; we must also work hard at making a nuclear-free world happen. I want each individual to think positively and to try to verbalize his or her thoughts. It is for this reason that I request my audience to do these vocal exercises.

Lately in each of my performances or lectures I have stated my motto, "I will fight for a nuke-free world happily, cheerfully, and persistently." I am prepared to keep working towards nuclear abolition until the end of my days.


Kaori Kanda, a kodan (storytelling) performer, was born in Iwaki City, Fukushima in 1954. She has specialized in stories concerned with social issues, including war and disaster prevention. In July, Kanda is going to give her performance of Barefoot Gen in Hokkaido and Osaka.

(This was compiled through an interview by Kosuke So.)