Kamishibai Corner

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

In my second blog post, I will share some insights from the second article in the special issue of the journal Children’s Culture (Kodomo no bunka), titled “Kamishibai’s 100 Years—New Challenges” (published by the Research Center for Children’s Culture, July 8, 2023). It is actually not so much an article as a transcript of a conversation between poet Arthur Binard and Yoko Takahashi, the granddaughter-in-law of Takahashi Gozan. The Takahashi Gozan Prize was established in 1961 and has been awarded annually ever since by the Research Center on Children’s Culture in Tokyo. Arthur Binard was given the 58th Gozan Prize in 2019 for his kamishibai “A Tiny Voice” (Chicchai koe). Selecting a series of details from the famous Hiroshima panels by husband and wife team Toshi and Iri Maruki, Binard composed a poetic text to create a kamishibai story about the horrors of the atomic bombing from the point of view of the animals that were affected. The conversation between Binard and Takahashi Yoko took place at the Tokyo Children’s Cultural Research Center hall during a retrospective exhibition of Gozan’s work. Imai Yone, Matsunaga Kenya, and Takahashi Gozan are usually mentioned together as the originators of “educational kamishibai” in Japan, but Takahashi Gozan brought a different set of skills to kamishibai compared to the other two (see Blog Post 1). Whereas Imai Yone was a Christian missionary and Matsunaga Kenya was an elementary school teacher, Gozan was trained in the arts as a designer and later became a children’s book and magazine illustrator/publisher. Just like Imai and Matsunaga, Gozan observed the mesmerizing power that street-performance kamishibai exerted on child audiences, and he put his efforts into creating the first kamishibai for kindergarteners (yōchien kamishibai). Gozan can be credited with transforming kamishibai into what it now has become in the minds of most Japanese: a medium for very young […]