Popular Protest in Post War Japan: The Antiwar Art of Shikoku Gorō

Place and History in Angry Jizo

Angry Jizo frames the girl’s experience in the bombing with scenes of the city Hiroshima, showing an ordinary neighborhood before the bombing at the start, and the devastated area around the hypocenter with its iconic ruin, the Gembaku Dome, at the end. Both the text and image emphasize that the atom bombing happened when Japan was fighting a war, in order to resist the common narrative of Japan as victim.
The opening pages of Angry Jizō evoke a wartime Hiroshima neighborhood scene. The girl and a dog stand on the lower right, while a man in fatigues and a child looking at the Jizō are on the left. Evident in the military-style uniforms of the men working in the distance, the government mobilized all citizens for Total War. Even the girl has on modest and practical mompei cotton pants and wears around her neck a quilted hood for protection in case of bombing. Shikoku chooses drab shades of brown and beige to evoke the subdued back street; the only bright colors are the Jizō’s red bib and the girl’s clothing.
The Angry Jizō closes with a full spread of the ruins of Hiroshima near the hypocenter in the aftermath of the August 1945 atomic bombing.  Rather than returning to the neighborhood scene at the beginning of the book, Shikoku recalls another image in the book that shows this same area of central Hiroshima in the moments before dropping the bomb, a B-29 bomber flying high overhead. Here, the steel skeleton of the Industrial Promotion Hall looms in the upper left over the flattened city. Shikoku adds a symbol of hope with a cluster of small flowers in the lower right.  Unlike the other illustrated pages, this spread includes no printed text.
In 1979 when Angry Jizo was published, the Dome was already an internationally known symbol of the apocalyptic potential of nuclear weapons. Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Genbaku Dome is centrally located in the Hiroshima Peace Park and is visited by millions of visitors from around the world each year.

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