The Imperial Library and the Dawn of Japanese Children's Books

The International Library of Children's Literature (ILCL) uses the renovated building of the former Imperial Library, which was built in 1906, during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). This exhibition traces the birth of Japanese children's books in modern times, which parallels the early days of the Imperial Library and its predecessor, the Tokyo Library.

In the 1880s, 20 years after the Meiji Restoration, several magazines aimed at children were published, before Japanese children's books had developed. In the Taisho era (1912-26), due to the democratic background of the times, the highly artistic children's magazine Akai Tori was launched and became the foundation of doshin (or “the pure heart of children”) literature. Then, in the early Showa era (1926-1945) before World War II, even children's books were used as tools to promote war sentiment.

While tracing the history of children's books in modern Japan, we also introduce anecdotes about the authors of children's books relating to the Imperial Library. Through the texts of Japan’s masters of literature, you will be able to grasp their contributions to children's books and their relationship with the Imperial Library.

During the exhibition, photography is to be permitted in the Museum, which is otherwise not allowed.
*There are some areas where photography is still not allowed.

The Imperial Library was there for the early days of children's books and continues to be a source of imagination. Why not explore its charm at the International Children's Library, which has inherited the building?

Examples of the books on display




  1. Akai tori [Red bird], first issue, Akai Tori Sha 1918
  2. Alice monogatari [Alice's adventures in Wonderland], Translated by Akutagawa Ryunosuke and Kikuchi Kan, Illustrated by Hirasawa Bunkichi, Kobun Sha 1927
  3. Kimitachi wa do ikiruka [How should you live?], Written by Yoshino Genzaburo, Illustrated by Wakita Kazu, Shinchosha 1949
The Imperial Library and the Dawn of Japanese Children's Books
Date From March 26, 2024 (Tue.) to June 23, 2024 (Sun.)
Days closed Mondays, National holidays (except Children's Day on May 5) and the third Wednesday of every month (for refiling)
Hours 9:30-17:00
Venue Brick Building 3F Museum, International Library of Children's Literature (Ueno Park)[ACCESS]
Admission fee Free of charge

Adobe Reader is required to view Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

>> Download Adobe Reader (open link in new window)