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Writers and Illustrators

Portrait of Suekichi Akaba

Suekichi Akaba

1910-1990 List of books

Picture book writer. Born in Tokyo. He immigrated to Manchuria during his youth and returned back to Japan after the end of World War II. In 1961, he created his first picture book Kasa jizo [Rokujizo and the hats]. His unique illustration style was strongly influenced by nihonga (traditional Japanese painting) methods. Among his most famous works are Daiku to oniroku [Oniroku and the carpenter], Shiroi ryu kuroi ryu [White dragon, black dragon], Momotaro [Peach boy] and Suho no shiroi uma [Suho and the white horse : a legend of Mongolia]. Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration.

Portrait of Momoko Ishii

Momoko Ishii

1907-2008 List of books

Writer, translator and editor. Born in Saitama Prefecture. Graduate of Japan Women’s University. Since her first translation of Winnie-the-Pooh into Japanese in 1940, she has introduced and translated many works of children’s literature and picture books. During World War II, she began writing a fanciful children’s novel, Nonchan kumo ni noru [Non-chan rides the clouds], and published it after the war. After the war, she planned and edited Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children’s library] and Iwanami no kodomo no hon [Iwanami children's books]. Based on the debate of a study group which undertook a critical investigation of Japanese modern children’s literature, she co-authored Kodomo to bungaku [Children and literature] in 1960. This book had a major effect on the later children’s literature and children’s publishing in Japan, setting out standards for children’s literature to be “entertaining, clear and easy to understand.” In her later years, Ishii published Maboroshi no akai mi [Phatasmal red fruit], an autobiographical full-length novel. There were times when she opened a home library named ‘Katsura Bunko’ for children. She dedicated her life to providing rich literature to children and to continue thinking how it could be best done.

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Portrait of Yosuke Inoue
Photograph taken by Akemi Yoshihara

Yosuke Inoue

1931-2016 List of books

Picture book writer. Born in Tokyo. Graduate of Musashino Art School (currently Musashino Art University). Throughout his life, he illustrated children's books and created picture books, by his drawings which grabbed the heart of children. He authored picture books such as Chotsugai no ehon [The picture book of hinges] and Magareba magarimichi [Around the corner] and illustrated other works such as Tadashi Ozawa’s Me wo samase Toragoro [Wake up, Toragoro], Toshiko Kanzawa’s Kuma no ko Ufu [Oof, the bear cub] and Akira Saneto’s Jibetakkosama [Earth god].

Portrait of Sazanami Iwaya

Sazanami Iwaya

1870-1933 List of books

Writer. Born in Tokyo. In his late teens, he joined Ken’yusha, a literary group formed by Koyo Ozaki and other writers, and began writing novels. Many of his novels depict the puppy love between boys and girls, so he was referred to as the “adolescence novelist of the literary world.” Iwaya wrote Koganemaru [A dog named Koganemaru] for the first issue of Shonen bungaku [Children's literature] which was first published by Hakubunkan in 1891. The story was a hit, became involved in children’s literature. Children found his stories interesting and fun, and they came to be known as Sazanami otogibanashi (Sazanami fairy tales). In addition to his original tales — Tosei shonen katagi [The characters of modern students] and Shochu kyuka [Summer holiday]— he also published a large number of retellings, including the twenty-four-volume series Nihon mukashibanashi [Japanese folktales], and served as an editor at magazines such as the Shonen sekai [Children’s world]. Other than his publications, Iwaya’s achievement in founding the koen dowa (voiced literature) style of telling stories to children is extremely noteworthy.

Portrait of Ranpo Edogawa

Ranpo Edogawa

1894-1965 List of books

Writer. Born in Mie Prefecture. He changed jobs several times after graduating from the School of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University. Edogawa made his literary debut in 1923 while unemployed when his detective short story, Nisen doka [The two-sen copper coin], was accepted and published in the Shin seinen [New youth] magazine. He began to publish a string of fine works with unexpected twists, such as Dizaka no satsujin jiken [The case of the murder on D. hill], Yaneura no sanposha [The stalker in the attic], Ningen isu [The human chair]– becoming a detective novel writer whose works could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with overseas detective novels. In 1936, Kodansha’s Shonen kurabu [Boys' club] magazine requested him to write a serial story, which became to be the Kaijin nijumenso [A mysterious man with twenty faces]. This work was enthusiastically welcomed by children, and the series followed Shonen tanteidan [Troop of boy detectives] and Yokai hakase [A monstrous doctor]. Even after World War II, the Shonen tanteidan series, which features the brilliant detective Kogoro Akechi and his boy assistant Kobayashi, continued in Kobunsha’s magazine Shonen [Boy].

Portrait of Kiichi Okamoto

Kiichi Okamoto

1888-1930 List of books

Illustrator for children’s books. Born in Awaji Island. Studied with the Hakubakai (white horse society) western-style painting research institute. In 1915, he handled the binding, design and illustration for the Masao Kusuyama’s translated version of Arabian naito [The Arabian nights] and Gurimu otogibanashi [Grimm's fairy tales] in Fuzambo Publishing’s Mohan katei bunko [Model family’s library] series. He illustrated lively faces of children on the cover and illustrations throughout the magazine Kin no fune [The golden boat] (subsequently changed to Kin no hoshi [The golden star]), which was first issued in 1919. Also having a deep interest in stage design, he produced the costumes and stage sets for the play Aoi tori [Blue bird], staged at the Yurakuza Theater in 1920. He became the chief illustrator for the magazine Kodomo no kuni [Children’s land], which was founded in 1922. In 1927, he participated in forming the Nihon Dogaka Kyokai (Japan Association of Illustrators for Children) with Takeo Takei and Yoshio Shimizu.

Portrait of Mimei Ogawa
Courtesy of Mimei Ogawa Literature Museum

Mimei Ogawa

1882-1961 List of books

Writer. Born in Niigata Prefecture. Ogawa began writing novels while studying at Waseda University. After graduation, he was involved in editing Shonen bunko [Children’s library] magazine and began writing children’s stories. In 1907, he published his first collection of short stories, Shujin [Bundle of sorrow]. His first dowa (children’s stories) collection Akai fune [Red boat] was published in 1910. After the announcement of Kongo wo dowa sakka ni [Mimei’s intention to dedicate himself to writing children’s stories] in 1926, he decided to devote himself to dowa. Some 1,200 dowa were published in his lifetime.

Following World War II, Mimei’s dowa were criticized as addressing negative themes and incantation-like sentences. These criticisms have driven the shift of Japanese children’s literature around 1960, from the ‘modern dowa style’ represented by Mimei to ‘contemporary children’s literature.’

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Portrait of Shiro Kawakami

Shiro Kawakami

1889-1983 List of books

Illustrator for children’s books. Born in Niigata Prefecture. Graduate of Western Painting Department at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, the present Tokyo University of the Arts. After working as a middle-school art teacher, he entered Kodomo-sha, where he illustrated for children’s magazines such as Kodomo [Child], Ryoyu [Good friends] and Dowa [Children’s stories]. Having grown up in a farming village, his works often feature children in the traditional Japanese farming village. He drew a frontispiece for Shozo Chiba’s collection of folktales, Tote basha [The horn of a village omnibus] and was also responsible for binding, designing and illustrating Chiba’s Wanwan monogatari [The story of doggie]. He is highly acclaimed for his skills for line drawing with an ink pen. Together with Takeo Takei and Shigeru Hatsuyama, Kawakami is considered one of Japan’s pioneering illustrators for children’s books.

Portrait of Hakushu Kitahara

Hakushu Kitahara

1885-1942 List of books

Poet, Tanka (Japanese short poems) poet. Born in Fukuoka Prefecture. After entering Waseda University, he became a member of the group of the magazine Myojo [Morning star] which was founded by Tekkan Yosano. In 1909, he published a collection of poems, Jashumon [Heretics] and, in 1911, published his second collection of poems, Omoide [Remembrance], and followed them with many subsequent poem and tanka verse collections. When the children’s magazine Akai tori [Red bird] was launched, he was asked by Miekichi Suzuki to create doyo (children’s songs) and to screen the doyo submitted to the magazine. Kitahara aimed to modernize the traditional Japanese warabeuta (nursery songs) and published a large number of collection of doyo, such as his first collection Tonbo no medama [Eyes of a dragonfly]. He also published a translation of Mother Goose entitled Maza gusu in 1921 and a collection of essays on doyo entitled Midori no shokkaku [The feel of green] in 1929. Of his doyo that have been put to music, Kono michi [This trail], Karatachi no hana ga saita yo [The trifoliate orange flowers have bloomed] and Awate tokoya [A flurried barber] are still sung today.

Portrait of Ioe Saito

Ioe Saito

1881-1966 List of books

Illustrator. Born in Chiba Prefecture. Graduate in Western Painting Department at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, the present Tokyo University of the Arts. The cover of the first issue of Shonen kurabu [Boys' club] magazine was drawn by Saito in 1914, and since then, he subsequently created covers, frontispieces and illustrations for the magazine. He established reputation as an illustrator with solid design skills. He also provided illustrations for Koroku Sato’s A gyokuhai ni hana ukete [Ah! Flowers in a jade cup] and Shonen sanka [Anthem of youth], Jiro Osaragi’s Sangakuto kidan [The strange story of the Montagnards] and Hanamaru Kotorimaru [Hanamaru and Kotorimaru], and Eiji Yoshikawa’s Shinshu tenmakyo [Heavenly horse in the divine land].

Portrait of Satoru Sato
Courtesy of Yurindo

Satoru Sato

1928- List of books

Children’s literature author. Born in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Graduate of the Department of Architecture at the Kanto Gakuin Technical Collage, the present Kanto Gakuin University, where he began writing dowa (children’s story) and subsequently became an apprentice to the children’s literature writer Takeji Hiratsuka. In 1950, he began publishing the dojinshi (literary coterie magazine) Mame no ki [Beanstalk] with Gennosuke Nagasaki, Tomiko Inui and others. He self-published his prosaically worded full-length fantasy novel Dare mo shiranai chiisana kuni [The tiny country that nobody knows] in 1959, which was soon picked up for publication by Kodansha. The book depicts the growth and self-realization of the protagonist during and after World War II. This and other works have mostly defined the readers of contemporary children’s literature – it was no longer for the young children to hear it read out loud, but for the low teens to read to themselves. The series Korobokkuru monogatari [Tales of Korobokkurus] starts from this book. Sato is also the author of Obaasan no hikoki [Grandma’s airplane], a dowa for young children, and the picture book Ookina ki ga hoshii [I wish I had a big, big tree].

Portrait of Yoshio Shimizu

Yoshio Shimizu

1891-1954 List of books

Painter and illustrator for children’s books. Born in Tokyo. Graduate of Western Painting Department at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, the present Tokyo University of the Arts. In 1917, he drew the cover for Ogoncho [The golden bird], the first book in Miekichi Suzuki’s Sekai dowashu [Collection of world tales for children] series. In 1918, he became the chief artist at Miekichi’s Akai tori [Red bird] magazine, creating covers and illustrations throughout the magazine’s whole issues. His modern illustration style was an excellent match for the doyo (children’s songs) of Hakushu Kitahara and Yaso Saijo. Shimizu also drew a large number of illustrations for picture magazines such as Kodomo no kuni [Children's land], Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] and Kinda bukku [Kinderbook].

Portrait of Miekichi Suzuki

Miekichi Suzuki

1882-1936 List of books

Writer. Born in Hiroshima City. While a student in the School of English Literature at Tokyo Imperial University (the present University of Tokyo), he published his first novel Chidori [The Plover] on the recommendation of his instructor, Soseki Natsume. He continued to publish short stories full of poetic sentiment, which led him to become a popular writer. He eventually had a creative impasse and switched to the publishing side of the business. In 1918, he founded the children’s magazine Akai tori [Red bird]. Writers such as Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Takeo Arishima, Koji Uno, Haruo Sato, Toson Shimazaki, Yoshio Toyoshima, and poets such as Hakushu Kitahara, Rofu Miki and Yaso Saijo provided dowa (children’s stories) and doyo (children’s songs). In the context of the Taisho era free education movement, Akai tori dramatically raised the artistry of children’s literature and culture in Japan. Composers such as Kosaku Yamada and Tamezo Narita provided musical scores for doyo while artists such as Yoshio Shimizu and Shozo Fukazawa provided doga (illustration for children) which appeared on the magazine. Suzuki himself created titles such as Poppo no otecho [Poppo’s small notebook] and Kojiki monogatari [Tales of ancient matters].

Portrait of Shuntaro Tanikawa
Photograph taken by Ichiro Kikuchi

Shuntaro Tanikawa

1931- List of books

Poet. Tanikawa grew up in Tokyo as the only child of his philosopher father Tetsuzo and music school graduate mother Takiko. He began writing poetry as a student of Tokyo Metropolitan Toyotama high school, when he was troubled by a feeling of uncomfortableness about school. On the recommendation of his father’s friend (the poet Tatsuji Miyoshi), his poem Nero hoka gohen [Nero, and other five poems] was published in Bungakukai [Literary world] magazine the same year he graduated high school, and marked his debut as a poet. In 1952, he published his first poetry collection, Nijuoku konen no kodoku [Two billion light-years of solitude]. In Nero, one of the poems in his debut work, he speaks about leaving his childhood behind while addressing the dead little dog Nero.

Tanikawa remains active in the world of children’s books. He writes poems, picture books and dowa (children’s stories) for children and translates foreign titles, while continuing to unearth children’s rich and deep words.

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Portrait of Shinta Cho

Shinta Cho

1927-2005 List of books

Manga artist, illustrator and picture book author. Born in Tokyo. He is well known for his unique nonsensical picture books illustrated in a bold brush style. In addition to producing picture books such as Boku no kureyon [My crayon], Chiheisen no mieru tokoro [What appeared on the horizon], Kyabetsu-kun [Cabbage boy] and Watashi [Me], he also designed and illustrated many works such as Yoshitomo Imae’s Yama no muko wa aoi umi datta [Over the mountain there was the blue sea] and Gennosuke Nagasaki’s Aho no hoshi [The star of a fool].

Portrait of Masamoto Nasu

Masamoto Nasu

1942- List of books

Children’s literature author. Born in Hiroshima City. At the age of three, he was exposed to radiation in Hiroshima, where the atomic bomb was dropped. Graduate of the Department of Forestry at Shimane Agricultural University. Guided by his older sister, children’s literature author Mayumi Takeda, he began writing children’s literature and debuted in 1972 with the novel Kubinashi jizo no takara [The treasure of the headless jizo]. Many of his works poses problems to children, such as Yaneura no toi tabi [Distant journey in the attic], which use science fiction techniques to help children experience what is was like when Japan was at war. In 1980, Nasu published Bokura wa umi e [We'll go out to the sea], which was a departure from idealistic works of contemporary children's literature. On the other hand, from 1978 to 2004, he also published fifty volumes of Zukkoke sanningumi [Funny trio] series. Written in an entertaining manner, the series presented the children readers various problems they face in the past, present and future and gained a large number of children readers. It may be said that this series contributed in expanding the range of knowledge of children in a certain generation.

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Portrait of Nankichi Niimi
Courtesy of Niimi Nankichi Memorial Museum

Nankichi Niimi

1913-1943 List of books

Dowa (children’s stories) author. Born in Aichi Prefecture. While working as a substitute teacher at the elementary school after graduating from Handa middle school under the old Japanese educational system, he began submitting doyo (children’s songs) and dowa to the children’s magazine Akai tori [Red bird]. Many of his doyo and dowa such as Gongitsune [Gon, the little fox] were published in Akai tori. He was also associated with the doyo poets’ magazine Chichinoki [Ginkgo] put together by followers of Hakushu Kitahara, screener of the doyo submitted to Akai tori. He subsequently moved to Tokyo, where he graduated from the department of English at the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages (present Tokyo University of Foreign Studies). After experiencing several jobs, he became a teacher at the Anjo women’s high school (present Anjo high school) in Aichi Prefecture. He published his first collection of dowa, Ojiisan no ranpu [Grandfather’s lamp] in 1942. In 1943, he died at 29 from illness. After his death, two dowa collections were published: Ushi wo tsunaida tsubaki no ki [The cow tied to the camellia tree] and Hananokimura to nusubitotachi [Hananoki village and the thieves]. The dowa written by Nankichi unfolds rich stories based in country-lives. They are still read after the war, including Gongitsune which appears in today’s Japanese elementary school textbooks.

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Portrait of Shigeru Hatsuyama

Shigeru Hatsuyama

1897-1973 List of books

Illustrator for children’s books and woodblock artist. Born in Tokyo. After graduating from elementary school, he apprenticed to Nihonga (Japanese-style paintings) artist Sengai Igawa. In 1919, after becoming the chief illustrator for Mimei Ogawa’s children’s magazine Otogi no sekai [The world of fairy tales], he specialized in doga (illustration for children). His fantastical style is well known from the artwork in Mimei Ogawa’s dowa (children’s stories). He also published his own picture books such as Taberu Tonchan [Ton-chan is eating] and Mozu [Shrike]. Mozu is a woodblock print book.

Portrait of Shozo Fukazawa and Koko Fukazawa

Shozo Fukazawa

1889-1992 List of books

Koko Fukazawa

1903-1993 List of books

Shozo and Koko, husband and wife, are both oil painters and illustrators for children’s books. They were both born in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture. Shozo graduated from Tokyo Art School, the present Tokyo University of the Arts. He provided illustrations for the children’s magazine Akai tori [Red bird], including the illustrations for Yasunari Kawabata’s Kyucho no tantei [Class president as a detective] and Nankichi Niimi’s Gongitsune [Gon, the little fox]. He also illustrated for magazines such as Kodomo no kuni [Children's land] and Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion].

Koko graduated from Women's School of Fine Arts, the present Joshibi University of Art and Design. She illustrated for Kodomo no tomo. She also designed and illustrated Joji Tsubota’s Maho [Magic] and Seika Tatsumi’s doyo (children’s songs) collection Yuki to roba [Snow and a donkey].

Portrait of Taruhi Furuta
Photograph taken by Eiji Ito

Taruhi Furuta

1927-2014 List of books

Author and critic of children's literature. Born in Ehime Prefecture. He left the School of Humanities and Social Studies at Waseda University. In 1953, while still a student at Waseda, he published the manifesto “Shonen bungaku no hata no moto ni” [Under the flag of children's literature] with Shin Torigoe, Teruo Jingu, Hisashi Yamanaka and other members of the Waseda Dowa Society, declaring their aim to surmount the tradition of dowa (children’s stories) and create a new era of children’s literature. In order to raise awareness of this declaration, Furuta wrote critical pieces and published his first collection of commentaries, Gendai jido bungakuron [Discourse on contemporary children's literature], in 1959. Since the publication of his novel Nusumareta machi [A stolen town] in 1961, he began to put his critical opinions into practice as a writer, speaking directly to children about the contemporary issues they faced. He also published many fine works aimed at young children such as Robotto Kamii [Kammy, the robot] and the picture book he co-authored with Seiichi Tabata, Oshiire no boken [Adventure in the closet], is still read today.

Portrait of Miyoko Matsutani

Miyoko Matsutani

1926-2015 List of books

Author of children’s literature. Born in Tokyo. Graduate of Toyo Girls' High School, present Toyojoshi Senior High School. Matsutani evacuated from Tokyo to Nagano Prefecture toward the end of World War II. After the war, she visited children’s writer Joji Tsubota, who had also evacuated to Nagano’s Lake Nojiri area from Tokyo, and asked him to keep her notebook full of unpublished dowa (children’s stories). In 1948, Tsubota recommended her story Kai ni natta kodomo no hanashi [The child who turned into a shellfish] for publication in the magazine Dowa kyoshitsu [Classroom of children's stories], which was her writing debut. In 1960, she recreated the Shinshu area legend of Kotaro Koizumi into the full-length novel Tatsu no ko Taro [Taro, the dragon boy], portraying the growth of Taro as he overcomes the poverty of his village. This book became one of the hallmark works of the early contemporary children’s literature era in Japan. She was involved in a wide range of activities in the fields of children’s literature, publishing stories for young children such as Chiisai Momochan [Little Momo], picture books such as Inai inai ba [Peek-a-boo], children’s literature of war such as Futari no Iida [Two little girls called Iida] and collecting contemporary Japanese folklore.

Portrait of Michio Mado
Photograph taken by Eiji Ito

Michio Mado

1909-2014 List of books

Poet. Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Went to Taiwan as an elementary school student and graduated from the Department of Woodcraft at the Auxiliary Industrial Institute (present National Taipei University of Technology). In 1934, he tried submitting doyo (children’s songs) to the picture magazine Kodomo no kuni [Children’s land] and was selected by the screener Hakushu Kitahara for a special commendation. He then began writing doyo and publishing them in magazines. After being drafted, he returned to Japan from Singapore at the end of World War II. He began working as an editor for a children’s magazine in Tokyo while continuing to create doyo. It was during this time that he wrote Zosan [Little elephant] and many other famous doyo. His first poetry collection, Tenpura piripiri [Tempura piri piri (sizzling)], was published in 1968. In addition to Mametsubu uta [Miniature songs] and other poetry collections, he also published dowa collections such as Zosan [Little elephant]. Both his doyo and his poems use plain words that touch upon the primordial matters of life and the universe. Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing.

Portrait of Kenji Miyazawa

Kenji Miyazawa

1896-1933 List of books

Poet, author of children's stories and agricultural chemistry scientist. Born in Iwate Prefecture. Graduate of Morioka Agriculture and Forestry College (present Iwate University). Miyazawa began writing tanka (Japanese short poems) while at Morioka Junior High School. After graduating junior high school, Miyazawa was strongly influenced by Kanwa taisho myoho rengekyo [Comparison of the Chinese and Japanese Lotus Sutras] edited by Daito Shimaji. During his college days, he began writing dowa (children’s stories) while being an admirer of Masao Katayama’s Kagaku honron [A discourse on chemistry]. The interpretation of the world that Kenji created by blending literature, Buddhism and natural science was a unique one. In 1924, while working as a teacher at the Hienu Agricultural School (present Hanamaki Agricultural High School), he published the poem collection Haru to shura [Spring and Asura] and the dowa collection Chumon no ooi ryoriten [The restaurant of many orders]. He titled his collection of dowa as Ihatov dowa (Children’s stories of Ihatov). Ihatov, is coined to mean Iwate Prefecture, Japan as a dreamland. The world of his tales overlays the realities of actual poverty and difficulty with imagination with a utopia-like vision.

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