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

Shikoku Gorō’s Angry Jizo Illustrations

In March, 1945, as the Asia-Pacific War brought air war to Japan’s major cities, Yamaguchi’s family moved from devastated Tokyo to Hiroshima. By the summer, Allies aerial bombing raids targeted many provincial cities, so Yamaguchi decided to take her 3 children to live in a rural village 10 kilometers outside of Hiroshima.  Her husband had been drafted and was off at war. On the morning of August 6 1945, the house where they were staying was rocked by the atom bomb blast. Furniture went flying and glass shattered. Certain that her parents and in-laws, who had chosen to stay in Hiroshima, would find their way to the village, Yamaguchi waited, but they never came. The next morning, Yamaguchi walked into Hiroshima to look for them. Yamaguchi searched through the flattened city, and even visited the Red Cross Hospital near their house. But they were all dead, and the city destroyed.  Yamaguchi saw parts of the jizo statue lying in the rubble.  Yamaguchi drew on these experiences when writing Angry Jizo. 
Out of this experience of the bombing and decades of activism and advocacy, Yamaguchi worked with Shikoku and Numata to make Angry Jizo accessible broadly. The pages before this illustration of the bomb blast show scenes of Hiroshima in wartime before air war has affected the city. In this spread, Shikoku uses smeared watercolors in black and purple to suggest the force of the blast. He leaves the source of the energy release white, to evoke the blinding flash (pika) that so many survivors reported seeing.  In the book, the text is in the upper left of the spread.
On the pages immediately following the bomb blast, Shikoku revisits an image he had used in Atom Bomb Poetry cover: Lines of injured people, their clothes blown or burnt off, flee from the fires. In contrast to the following pages (not shown here), Shikoku softens the images so viewers cannot see their burns and wounds, and shows the living, rather than charred corpses.
Again, Shikoku recalls the inside cover of Atom Bomb Poetry with the iconic figure of the injured girl, moments before she collapses before the Jizo. 
The Jizo has stopped smiling, and instead glares out like a fierce Deva king. He responds to the girl’s pleas for water by shedding tears into her mouth. In the several close ups of the girls face as she fades away, Shikoku avoids showing any injury to her face. On the next page, the girl looks up and smiles at Jizo before the color drains from her face.  With that, the Jizo shakes and his head breaks into a million pieces, mixing with the soil and sand that are now home to the hundred thousands of dead and the city—pulverized and incinerated by the nuclear weapons.

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