• Top
  •  > Part 5 Picture Books of Today: From the Post-War to 1999

Part 5 Picture Books of Today: From the Post-War to 1999

Not long after the end of the Pacific War in 1953, the publishing house Iwanami Shoten launched the Iwanami no kodomo no hon [Iwanami children’s books] series under the editorship of Momoko Ishii and Natsuya Mitsuyoshi. In addition to Japanese translations of children’s books from Europe and the United States, the new series included dowa (children's stories) and retold folktales of Japan.

In 1956, the monthly picture book, Kodomo no tomo [Children’s companion], was inaugurated by the publishing house Fukuinkan Shoten. This monthly mainly featured original stories and retold tales by Japanese writers.

Thanks to these continuing publications, the “story picture book (a picture book with one story)” became well established in Japan.

Picture books for children generally present pictures and text on double-page spreads so that each turn of the pages carries the story forward or introduces something new. Japanese picture books today have been drawing increasing attention from overseas for the way they explore the potential of diverse themes and forms of expression.

Thumbnail of Ienakiko[Nobody's boy]

Open the enlarged image of Ienakiko[Nobody's boy]

5-1Ienakiko [Nobody's boy]
Originally written by Hector Henri Malot/Written by Fumiko Hayashi/Illustrated by Hisashi Suda
Shinchosha 1949
(Sekai no ehon chugataban [World picture books, middle-size edition] 1)
Call No. 児94-H-1
A picture book series of the earliest time published after World War II. Mainly the stories were re-written from overseas classics, by appointing famous scholars of literature.

Thumbnail of Nihon'ichizukushi[The best of Japan]

Open the enlarged image of Nihon'ichizukushi[The best of Japan]

5-2Nihon'ichizukushi [The best of Japan]
Written by Isoji Sekiya/Illustrated by Shozo Oonuki and others
Shinchosha 1949
(Sekai no ehon ogataban [World picture books, large-size edition] 1)
Call No. Y17-1614
An educational picture book which was influenced by the Kodansha no ehon [Kondansha's picture book] published before the World War II.

5-3Hana no sukina ushi [The story of Ferdinand]
Written by Munro Leaf/Illustrated by Robert Lawson/Edited and translated by Iwanami Shoten
Iwanami Shoten 1954
(Iwanami no kodomono hon, yo/ichi/ni nenmuke [Iwanami children's books for Kindergarten, first and second grade students] 11)
Call No. 児726.7-cL43hI
A pioneering series launched by Momoko Ishii and others, introducing fine picture books from Western countries.

Thumbnail of Bippu to chocho[Bip and the butterfly]

Open the enlarged image of Bippu to chocho[Bip and the butterfly]

5-4Bippu to chocho [Bip and the butterfly]
Written by Jun’ichi Yoda/Illustrated by Fumiko Hori
Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] no.1
Fukuinkan Shoten 1956
Call No. Z32-210
Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] was the first monthly illustrated children's picture book series. Contributed to the popularization of picture books and brought many picture book authors of talent. Edited by Tadashi Matsui.

Thumbnail of Serohiki no Goshu [Gauche the cellist]

Open the enlarged image of Serohiki no Goshu [Gauche the cellist]

5-5Serohiki no Goshu [Gauche the cellist]
Originally written by Kenji Miyazawa/Planned by Yoshimi Sato/Illustrated by Takeshi Motai
Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] no.2
Fukuinkan Shoten 1956
Call No. Z32-210
This book is based on the original story by Kenji Miyazawa, retold by Yoshimi Sato. It became the last work of Takeshi Motai, one of the best illustrators of doga (illustrations for children) after World War II.

5-6Guri to Gura [Guri and Gura]
Written and illustrated by Rieko Nakagawa and Yuriko Oomura
Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] no.93
Fukuinkan Shoten 1963
Call No. Z32-210
Fascinates the children with words with rhythm and the sponge cake made from a huge egg. A book that represents the golden age of monthly picture books.

Thumbnail of Gurunpa no yochien [Grumpa's kindergarten]

Open the enlarged image of Gurunpa no yochien [Grumpa's kindergarten]

5-7Gurunpa no yochien [Grumpa's kindergarten]
Written by Minami Nishiuchi/Illustrated by Seiichi Horiuchi
Fukuinkan Shoten 1966
(Kodomo no tomo Kessakushu [Masterpieces of Children's companion] 32)
Call No. Y17-M98-800
Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] contributed to create high quality picture books by actively adopting new artists as their illustrators, which was one of the feature of this series.

5-8Inai inai ba [Peek-a-boo]
Written by Miyoko Matsutani/Illustrated by Yasuo Segawa
DOSHINSHA PUBLISHING 1967
(Matsutani Miyoko akachan no hon [Baby’s books by Miyoko Matsutani])
Call No. Y17-267
Pioneer of what is called 'Akachan ehon (Baby's picture book)' and Babies’ first book. Yasuo Segawa received the Grand Prix at the first Biennial of Illustration Bratislava in 1967.

【Column】Influences of Kodomo no tomo

Thumbnail of Daiku to Oniroku[Oniroku and the carpenter]

Open the enlarged image of Daiku to Oniroku[Oniroku and the carpenter]

5-9Daiku to Oniroku [Oniroku and the carpenter]
Retold by Tadashi Matsui/Illustrated by Suekichi Akaba
Fukuinkan Shoten 1967
(Kodomo no tomo Kessakushu [Masterpieces of Children's companion] 36)
Call No. Y17-M98-801
A folktale picture book. Suekichi Akaba was talented in illustrating the climate and culture of Japan. He received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 1980.

Thumbnail of Watashi no wanpisu [My miracle dress]

Open the enlarged image of Watashi no wanpisu [My miracle dress]

5-10Watashi no wanpisu [My miracle dress]
Written by Kayako Nishimaki
KOGUMA Publishing 1969
Call No. Y17-609
The dress made by a rabbit constantly changes its pattern which fits into the scenery. Picture book authors capable of both words and illustration made their debut.

5-11Fushigina e [Topsy-Turvies: Pictures to stretch the imagination ]
Written by Mitsumasa Anno
Fukuinkan Shoten 1971
(Kodomo no tomo Kessakushu [Masterpieces of Children's companion])
Call No. Y17-3472
Created a picture book using trompe l'oeil with detailed expressions. Mitsumasa Anno received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 1984.

5-12Fukimanbuku [The girl and the butterbur sprout]
Written and illustrated by Seizo Tajima
Kaiseisha 1973
(Sosaku ogata ehon [Original large-sized picture books])
Call No. Y17-3993
Seizo Tajima is known as a picture book author that also engages in agriculture. He illustrates nature and children with a powerful drawing style.

Thumbnail of Ame no hi no orusuban [Staying home alone on a rainy day]

Open the enlarged image of Ame no hi no orusuban [Staying home alone on a rainy day]

5-13Ame no hi no orusuban [Staying home alone on a rainy day]
Written and illustrated by Chihiro Iwasaki/Planned by Yasoo Takeichi
Shiko-Sha 1974
Call No. Y17-8334
Chihiro Iwasaki, who drew many pictures featuring children using pale tone water color paint, wrote the text for the first time. First edition was published in 1968.

Thumbnail of Nezumikun no chokki [Little mouse's red vest]

Open the enlarged image of Nezumikun no chokki [Little mouse's red vest]

5-14Nezumikun no chokki [Little mouse's red vest]
Written by Yoshio Nakae/Illustrated by Noriko Ueno
POPLAR Publishing 1974
(Ehon no hiroba [Picture book square] 5)
Call No. Y17-4254
One after another, animals borrow the vest of little mouse. Blank area in pages are used effectively, which emphasizes the differences of the animal sizes.

Thumbnail of Oshiire no boken[Adventure in the closet]

Open the enlarged image of Oshiire no boken[Adventure in the closet]

5-15Oshiire no boken [Adventure in the closet]
Written by Taruhi Furuta/Illustrated by Seiichi Tabata
DOSHINSHA PUBLISHING 1974
(Ehon/Bokutachi kodomo da [Picture book/We are children] 1)
Call No. Y17-4289
The author visited nurseries, and depicted children's behavior by effectively using monochrome and color scenes.

Thumbnail of Kasa [Umbrella]

Open the enlarged image of Kasa [Umbrella]

5-16Kasa [Umbrella]
Written and illustrated by Daihachi Ota
Bunken Shuppan 1975
(Joifuru ehon kessakushu [Best of Joyful picture books] 10)
Call No. Y17-4545
A wordless picture book. Only the main character's umbrella is colored in red, making the story line easy to follow.

5-17Hajimete no otsukai [Mii-chan's first errand]
Written by Yoriko Tsutsui/Illustrated by Akiko Hayashi
Fukuinkan Shoten 1977
(Kodomo no tomo Kessakushu [Masterpieces of Children's companion])
Call No. Y17-5153
First published in 1976. "We need milk for the baby, but Mom is busy to go" ―this is how five year old Mii-chan's first shopping trip starts. Detailed illustration by Akiko Hayashi have various stories to tell.

Thumbnail of Watashi [Me]

Open the enlarged image of Watashi [Me]

5-18Watashi [Me]
Written by Shuntaro Tanikawa/Illustrated by Shinta Cho
Kagaku no tomo [Children’s science companion] no.91
Fukuinkan Shoten 1976
Call No. Z32-26
Kagaku no tomo [Children’s science companion] is a science picture book series started in 1969, which is a sister magazine to Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion]. Watashi [Me] is a picture book that gives an objective view of self.

5-19Saru, rururu [Monkey, rururu]
Written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
Ehonkan Publishers 1980
Call No. Y17-7383
A word game picture book making the combination of the word saru (monkey) and two syllable verbs ending with the sound "ru" such as "saru, kuru", using simple lines and colors. First edition published in 1979.

Thumbnail of Hiroshima no Pika [The Hiroshima story]

Open the enlarged image of Hiroshima no Pika [The Hiroshima story]

5-20Hiroshima no Pika [The Hiroshima story]
Written and illustrated by Toshi Maruki
Komine Shoten 1980
(Kiroku no ehon [Picture book of memory])
Call No. Y17-7130
Picture books with war themes started to appear in the 1970s. The theme of this picture book is the atomic bomb, and the tragedy of war is expressed inside.

Thumbnail of Kyabetsukun[Cabbage boy

Open the enlarged image of Kyabetsukun[Cabbage boy

5-21Kyabetsukun [Cabbage boy]
Written and illustrated by Shinta Cho
Bunken Shuppan 1980
(Miru miru ehon [Look look picture book])
Call No. Y17-7209
Shinta Cho is known for his nonsense picture books. He humorously depicts what happens to animals after they eat the Cabbage boy.

Thumbnail of Hana no ana no hanashi [The holes in your nose]

Open the enlarged image of Hana no ana no hanashi [The holes in your nose]

5-22Hana no ana no hanashi [The holes in your nose]
Written and illustrated by Gen’ichiro Yagyu
Fukuinkan Shoten 1982
(Kagaku no tomo kessakushu [Masterpieces of Children’s science companion])
Call No. Y17-8999
A science picture book featuring the nostril, a function of our body.

Thumbnail of Hasegawakun kiraiya [Can’t stand Hasegawa]

Open the enlarged image of Hasegawakun kiraiya [Can’t stand Hasegawa]

5-23Hasegawakun kiraiya [Can’t stand Hasegawa]
Written and illustrated by Shuhei Hasegawa
Subaru Shobo 1984
Call No. Y18-1297
Through a child's point of view, the author depicted a social problem (the Morinaga milk arsenic poisoning incident) from his experience. First edition was published in 1976.

Thumbnail of Oyasuminasai Kokkosan [Good night, Kokko]

Open the enlarged image of Oyasuminasai Kokkosan [Good night, Kokko]

5-24Oyasuminasai Kokkosan [Good night, Kokko]
Written and illustrated by Ken Katayama
Fukuinkan Shoten 1988
(Yoji ehon sirizu [Infant’s picture book series])
Call No. Y18-3025
A oyasuminasai no hon (bedtime book) makes young children to relax and lead them to sleep. One thing after another, from far to near, fall asleep in order, and this is depicted in rhythmical words.

Thumbnail of Magareba magarimichi [Around the Corner]

Open the enlarged image of Magareba magarimichi [Around the Corner]

5-25Magareba magarimichi [Around the Corner]
Written and illustrated by Yosuke Inoue
Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] no.417
Fukuinkan Shoten 1990
Call No. Z32-210
In the twilight, unbelievable things happen one after another on a winding road in a town.

Thumbnail of Gorira nikki[Gorilla diary]

Open the enlarged image of Gorira nikki[Gorilla diary]

5-26Gorira nikki [Gorilla diary]
Written and illustrated by Hiroshi Abe
Shogakukan 1998
Call No. Y17-M99-131
The expressions of a gorilla is attractively depicted by the author who was once a zoo keeper.

Thumbnail of Mori no ehon [A picture book about the forest]

Open the enlarged image of Mori no ehon [A picture book about the forest]

5-27Mori no ehon [A picture book about the forest]
Written by Hiroshi Osada/Illustrated by Ryoji Arai
Kodansha 1999
Call No. Y17-M99-1105
Ryoji Arai has been highly recognized also in overseas, as seen in winning the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. His colorful art style is even compared to music.

【Column】Picture Books of Today

ColumnInfluences of Kodomo no tomoBack

Fukuinkan Shoten began publishing a monthly picture book magazine called Kodomo no tomo [Children's companion] in April 1956, with Tadashi Matsui serving as editor. The first issue was Bippu to chocho [Bip and the butterfly] written by Jun’ichi Yoda and illustrated by Fumiko Hori. Kodomo no tomo established the picture book format in Japan. Issues from no. 64, Torakku, torakku, torakku [Trucks, trucks, trucks] written by Shigeo Watanabe and illustrated by Tadayoshi Yamamoto began to be published in a horizontal format. Early authors included Teiji Seta and doyo (children’s songs) writers such as Jun’ichi Yoda, Akira Nogami and Jun’ichi Kobayashi. Later, Kodomo no tomo gave rise to the Guri to Gura [Guri and Gura] series written by Rieko Nakagawa and illustrated by Yuriko Oomura.

ColumnPicture Books of TodayBack

After long-running picture books were released during the 1960s and 70s, expressions of picture books become more diverse. Picture books had become closer to art forms, incorporating new engraving and printing technologies. As children's literature has widened its readership, picture books also have broadened its readership to adults, even though it was intended for children. Today, we may need to reconsider, through the child’s personal reading (or story time) experience, in order to re-examine what picture books are.