Introducing the Lives of Buraku Communities with Picture Books

Following the publication of four picture books that aim at passing down stories told by older generations to children in Buraku communities, a symposium was organized in Osaka on February 22. About 120 people from 10 prefectures attended the symposium.

Yubikiri genman: Ume-bachan no hanashi (Promised! the story of old Ms. Ume)

Text: Tonda Kikitori Ehon Seisaku Jikko Iinkai Illustration: OKAJIMA Reiko
ISBN4-7592-2224-3 Kaiho Shuppansha, 2000

Otama san no okaisan (Rice gruel made by Ms. Otama)

Text: Hinode no Ehon Seisaku Jikko Iinkai Illustration: HASEGAWA Yoshifumi
ISBN4-7592-2229-4 Kaiho Shuppansha, 2002

Kitsune no bon- odori (Bon Festival dance of foxes)

Text: YAMASHITA Haruo Illustration: UNO Akira
ISBN4-7592-2220-0 Kaiho Shuppansha, 2000

Inochi no hana (Flower of lives)

Text: SONODA Hisako Illustration: MARUKI Toshi
Published in 2001

Ms. Ohga, a high school teacher in Osaka who participated as a symposium coordinator said, "when a school project to listen to stories told by the elderly residents of Tonda community was run, it turned out to be a good source for producing picture books." In 1999 members of the Parents' Committee for Education and volunteers from local primary, junior and high schools formed Tonda Kikitori Ehon Seisaku Jikko Iinkai (the Executive Committee for Producing a Picture Book of Tonda). One year later, the committee produced Yubikiri genman: Ume-bachan no hanashi (Promised! the story of old Ms. Ume). The International Youth Library in Munchen selected the book as one of 250 newly published noteworthy books.

The White Ravens catalogue 2002, which introduces these selected 250 books by the International Youth Library, comments on Yubikiri genman: Ume-bachan no hanashi (Promised! the story of old Ms. Ume) as follows:

"This topic, hardly ever tackled before, the unusual form of expression in pictures and words alike, and the additional information provided in the appendix will spark off further discussion."

The White Ravens catalog 2002 also wrote, "The cheerful illustration of this book [Yubikiri genman: Ume-bachan no hanashi (Promised! the story of old Ms. Ume)], picturing the childhood memories of an old woman from an underprivileged social class, are drawn in bright colors in the style of popular commercial art. Instead of relating the old woman's misery, they are intended as a proof for the vitality of the so-called Burakumin, a group of people who have been excluded from the Japanese society for centuries because of their social background. The flexibility of the picture book as a medium is evident in this work published by a team of committed people who are striving to shed light on old people's experiences and keep them alive."

People in Hinode community in Osaka city were said to be inspired by the works of Tonda community. A similar committee to that in Tonda was formed in 2001 by nearly 30 people. They began their work by collecting stories about one cheerful woman, who actually lived in the community, from elderly people and her relatives. Ms. Sakano, who was a member of the committee and is a principal of nursery school in Honode, said at the symposium, "I participated in the process of making Otama san no okaisan (Rice gruel made by Ms. Otama) as I wished to nurture the feeling of self-respect in children at my school by showing them positive aspects of our community." Ms. Otama, who serves a bowl of rice gruel to her neighbors, represents the spirit of mutual aid in the community. For Ms. Ohga, who lives in Hinode, this is the second picture book she committed herself to producing.

Ms. Sonoda, a junior high school teacher in southern Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture, spoke about why and how she made Inochi no hana (Flower of life). She wrote the text for the picture book based on a story about five Buraku community youths who were falsly charged and punished for murdering five samurai (warriors) in the Edo period (1603-1867). With a strong will to spread the story, she asked Ms. Maruki, who is famous for her paintings of the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, to illustrate the book. She also covered the cost of publishing the picture book herself. Ms. Sonoda said, "I would like to make human rights education enjoyable and fruitful. If it is tainted by a negative image then it will not soak into people's minds."

Source: Osaka Nichinichi Shimbun (November 7, 2002), Kaiho shimbun Osaka edition No.1486 (January 6 and 13, 2003), Kaiho shimbun Osaka edition No.1495 (March 24, 2003), and Kaiho Shimbun No.2110 (March 10, 2003).

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