Kamishibai Corner

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

As promised, this blogpost is a continuation of the last, where I provided a synopsis of a discussion among four influential voices in the world of kamishibai in Japan, moderated by the head of the Children’s Cultural Research Center in Tokyo, Suzuki Takako. In the beginning of their conversation, they looked back at the history of kamishibai and the various challenges it has faced, and in the second half, their discussion shifts to new directions in kamishibai’s future.  I should preface this synopsis of their discussion by pointing out that the people involved are, for the most part, the older guard of the kamishibai world today. Sakai Kyōko, Nagano Hideko, and Miyazaki Fumie all range in age from 70 to 80, and the youngest member of the group, Tsukahara is probably 40-50 years old. This is important to understand because the tensions that arise in this conversation amongst the participants come out of their greater or lesser ability to imagine definitions of kamishibai changing or expanding going forward. Perhaps the most fearful for kamishibai’s future is, in fact, the youngest member, Tsukahara, who wonders if kamishibai will even be around by 2030, its centennial year. He argues that unless there is more effort put into nurturing a younger generation of kamishibai enthusiasts in Japan, kamishibai’s future in its country of origin is pretty dire. But how, he asks, is the younger generation going to be inspired to engage in kamishibai when there are so many other distractions from social media, the internet, and now AI? Interestingly, Tsukahara used ChatGPT to ask the question: What is the future of kamishibai? I will translate ChatGPT’s answer to his question later in this post. The one who is by far the strictest about her definition of kamishibai is Sakai Kyōko, president of Dōshinsha and […]
In my third blog post, I will share some insights from the third article in the special issue of the journal, Children’s Culture (Kodomo no bunka), titled Kamishibai’s 100 Years—New Challenges (Kamishibai 100 nen—Aratana chōsen, published by the Research Center for Children’s Culture, July 8, 2023).  Again, it is more of a discussion than an article, this time amongst four influential people in the world of kamishibai in Japan today, moderated by the Director of the Research Center for Children’s Culture in Tokyo, Suzuki Takako. The four discussants: Nagano Hideko, renowned picture-book and kamishibai author and president of the Kamishibai Bunka Suishin Kyōkai (Association for Promoting Kamishibai Culture) Miyazaki Fumie, kamishibai author and researcher and vice-president of the Kamishibai Bunka Suishin Kyōkai (Association for Promoting Kamishibai Culture) Sakai Kyōko, president of Dōshinsha publishing company and representative of Kamishibai Bunka no Kai (IKAJA) Tsukahara Shigeyuki, Professor of Children’s Education at Seisen Women’s College. He is also a professional clown and kamishibai performer and theorist. This discussion may surprise kamishibai enthusiasts outside Japan because of the relative lack of information available about how kamishibai is viewed in Japan today. Histories of kamishibai in English often begin with the street-performance art in the 1930s and end with the disappearance of kamishibai off the streets of Japan with the advent of television in the 1950s, as in Allen Say’s widely acclaimed Kamishibai Man (2005). Everything post World War II is often treated broadly as “kamishibai today,” and there is an assumption that, since kamishibai was invented in Japan, it must be thriving there. But there have actually been a lot of interesting movements, countermovements, setbacks and developments with kamishibai in the nearly 80 years since the end of WWII, and it has actually been a pretty bumpy road! As the discussants point out, kamishibai has been in […]