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Children's Song
Kodomo no kuni and It's Artist
The Children of Kodomo no kuni

The Picture Book Gallery No. 2 Exhibit centers around some 300 illustrations published in the Kodomo no kuni picture book magazine during the first decade after its inauguration in 1922.

Earlier-established journals had featured literature and music for young children, but Kodomo no kuni was the magazine of this type to support the education of young children with focus on art. Tokyo in the 1920s was entering a new era of urban development. In addition to the promulgation in 1919 of the City Planning Law and the Urban Building Law, the widespread devastation following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 set in motion housing construction projects and improvement of traffic networks. Kodomo no kuni was targeted mainly at children of the urban middle class.

In Europe, the Bauhaus School of Art had been established in Weimar, Germany in 1919 and the influence of its pioneering achievements in industrial design for furniture and household goods spread throughout the world. Out of the exposition of modern decorative and industrial arts held in Paris in 1925 grew the style that came to be known as art deco, and left its mark not only in art, but architecture, fashion, and many other aspects of daily life. Carried by the expanding ripples of the information age, the impact of Western interior design and fashions was felt and embraced in the lives of urban citizens in faraway Japan.

The images in Kodomo no kuni depicting the children in the latest fashions reflected a mingling of reality with dreams and aspirations.

At that time, advances in mechanical technology were reflected in the daily life of urban society. A major theme of children's picture books around the world was technology, at a time when technology was seen as holding out the promise of future happiness. One of the newest themes for illustrations in Kodomo no kuni, too, was the affluence and comforts provided by machines.

The magazine also featured illustrations of children in the countryside and in farming villages, helping their parents gather in the harvest in the fields, engaged in rice planning with their elementary school class, and so forth. In contrast to scenes of the city, the rural landscape and people working there are strongly tinged with nostalgia. Due to limited space, illustrations of rural scenes, which were not a major theme in Kodomo no kuni, have had to be omitted from this exhibit.

The editorial policy of Kodomo no kuni was to encourage the free and unrestrained imagination of children by way of art and present fine works of decorative art that would foster the wholesome development of their best human qualities. The Gallery of major artists of the Kodomo no kuni is intended to show how these illustrators, close observers of the children of the time, gave free and artistic expression to their depiction of children.

This exhibit presents the melodies for ten children's songs and the lyrics for thirty in chronological order in audio and visual form. Nine stories by Kishibe Fukuo and one each by Hamada Kosuke and Ogawa Mimei are available in audio form. The commentary section is designed to visually demonstrate, mainly through the Kodomo no kuni, how Japan was linked to the world in every aspect of people's lives. It also exhibits all the pages of two issues of the magazine to show the editorial presentation of a picture magazine in those days.

Thus Kodomo no kuni in its early days represented an attempt rare anywhere in the world to commercially market a journal targeted at the general public and devoted to a high-minded perspective on and an enlightened ideal of preschool education. This Gallery makes available the precious record of the creative forces in 1920s urban Japanese culture led by editors and artists who believed that art had an important role to play in the education of children.

Original Materials on Which This Program is Based

This program was created as part of the Picture Book Gallery project of the International Library of Children's Literature to introduce in digital form the story of the picture book genre from its beginnings until the present. The program was designed to reproduce the works contained in the journal Kodomo no kuni [Children's Land] and convert them to digital images, which have been edited and titled and made available to the public as a virtual exhibit.

In preparation for the production and exhibit of this program, permissions for use of original materials were obtained from the copyright holders (in cooperation with the Agency for Cultural Affairs).

Reproductions of Kodomo no kuni were made from original copies of the journal. Most of the reproductions were made from issues loaned by the International Institute for Children's Literature, Osaka, and others were loaned by the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature, the Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya Library (now in the collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Tama Library). Some materials for completing the commentaries were borrowed from the Musashino Art University Museum and Library. These original materials were photographed and scanned to create the digital images for this exhibit program.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the copyright holders and the above-mentioned libraries and institutions who lent the materials from their holdings without whose cooperation it would not have been possible to create this program and make it available to the public.


Narration and readings: Nagai Ichiro
Reading: Asada Yukari
Songs: Kawaguchi Kyoko
Piano: Kono Harumi
Research: Kano Kimiko, James Fraser
Source materials and commentaries: Araki Mizuko, Ishikawa Haruko
Translation: Takechi Manabu and Lynne Riggs
Data inputting: Ichikawa Noriko
Commentary document photography: Horikiri Yasuro, Kitagawa Hideo
Artwork/typography: Hirano Koga
Design: Tanaka Naoko
Presentation and authoring: Hisui
Music: Shinzawa Ken'ichiro
Recording technician:Fukuhara Masahiro
Website production: Katayama Nakazo
Coordination: Shin Maiko
Composition and production: Kitamura Hiroaki

General supervisor: Ono Kaoru
Composition and supervision: Shima Tayo
Production: International Library of Children's Literature