Kamishibai Corner

Thoughts, musings and discussions weekly about kamishibai, Illustrating, and picture books.

The first article in the collection is a look back at the contributions of Matsunaga Kenya and the emergence of educational kamishibai. It was written by Asaoka Yasuo, Professor of Children’s Culture at Shirayuri University. He begins by briefly touching on the first “gospel” kamishibai, Young David, published by Imai Yone in 1933. Through her publishing company Kamishibai Kangyo Kai, Imai increased the size of the cards to B4 (street-performance cards were typically smaller) and is credited with establishing the format for published kamishibai that continues until today. Although Asaoka does not mention this, it was a member of Imai Yone’s kamishibai troupe who first brought kamishibai to the attention of Matsunaga Kenya, a student in the Education department, working with children in the Tokyo Imperial University Settlement (for an article on the history of educational settlements, click here). Matsunaga immediately recognized how the format could be used in teaching and set to work creating his own stories, He also understood that kamishibai was a dramatic format closely related to film so his first four stories were all based on movies. In 1933, he performed Jinsei Annai (A guide for life) based on a Russian film of the same name that had been released in Japan the previous year. The story centered on a juvenile delinquent who improves his life through hard work. This is widely considered to be the first educational kamishibai in Japan. Fig. 1 Children in a Grass Field (原っぱの子供達), November 25, 1941. Nihon Kyōiku Kamishibai Kyōkai (publisher). Kamishibai Collection, Hoover Institution Archives (2018C32.07) The First Original Published Kamishibai and the Invention of the Sashikomi Technique The following year, Matsunaga published the story in mimeographed sheets as an appendix to the magazine “Research on Children’s Issues,” which was put out by the Children’s Issues Research Association affiliated with the Settlement. […]