Welcome to the “Land of Children” (Kodomo no kuni): Courtesy of a Gift from the Friends of Princeton University Library

By Dr. Tara M. McGowan

Illus. by Honda Shōtarō 本田庄太郎[1], Kodomo no kuni, Nov. 1922 (Cotsen 30591)

Illus. by Nakahara Jun’ichi 中原淳一, Kodomo no Kuni, March, 1937

In recent decades, Japan has achieved worldwide recognition for its own brand of kawaii, or “cute” aesthetic, epitomized by the wide-eyed, youthful characters of manga and animé. What is not so well known is that this aesthetic can be traced back to a profusion of artistic activity that began during a brief period of almost unprecedented freedom of expression known as “Taishō Democracy.” During the Taishō period (1912-1926) progressive ideas flourished, and Japanese artists and writers who had been studying in Europe began returning home in greater numbers, freshly inspired by modernist artistic movements there—late impressionism, expressionism, cubism, fauvism, and Art Deco (Horie and Taniguchi 6). Artists, illustrators, and designers seamlessly integrated Western and Japanese influences into a fusion of styles that continues to feel fresh and innovative today.

Illus. by Hatsuyama Shigeru 初山滋, “Swings,” Kodomo no kuni, May 1930

Illus. by Fukazawa Shōzō 深沢省三, “Bears making mochi,” Kodomo no kuni, Dec. 1929

The Meiji period (1868-1912), when Japan first opened its doors to the west after more than 200 years of relative seclusion, had seen the creation of museums, theme parks, zoos and aquariums, especially in the major metropolitan centers of Tokyo and Osaka, but it was not until the Taishō period (1912-1926) that these spaces began to be viewed as entertaining and educational for children. In Europe, this was roughly the same period in the wake of WWI (1914-1918) that Swedish designer and social reformer, Ellen Key dubbed “The Century of the Child,” where the creation of spaces that would allow children to thrive, both emotionally and physically, and also to develop as artists in their own right became a matter of world-wide concern. In Japan, too, artistic activity increasingly focused on creating an imaginative world, almost exclusively for children. One of the most significant children’s magazines from this period was in fact called “The Land of Children” (Kodomo no kuni). Started in 1922, toward the end of the Taishō period, Kodomo no kuni ran until 1944—a total of 287 volumes—visually chronicling the development of Japanese modernism and rapidly changing definitions of childhood in the lead up to World War II (Nakamura and Iwasaki 5). Thanks to a generous gift from the Friends of the Princeton University Library, the Cotsen Children’s Library recently acquired 72 volumes of this legendary magazine, greatly adding to the completeness of its holdings (a total of 225 volumes).

Author/illus. Takei Takeo 武井武雄, “In the ‘Land of Children’ a children’s tree grows. What a joy it is to see the little birds at play!”

Kodomo no kuni stood out in what is often called the “golden age” of Japanese children’s magazines because of its high artistic standards and the long duration of its publication. Child psychologist and prominent educator Kurahashi Sōzo (倉橋惣三, 1882-1955) was brought on as the chief consultant for the magazine, which reflected his progressive ideas about the importance of comprehensive engagement in the arts to develop children’s self-expression and quality of life (International Library of Children’s Literature). Illustrator Okamoto Kiichi (岡本帰一, 1888-1930), poets Kitahara Hakushū (北原白秋, 1885-1942) and Noguchi Ujō (野口雨情, 1882-1945), and lyricist Nakayama Shinpei (中山晋平, 1887-1952)—all artists at the pinnacles of their respective fields—were brought on as editors and contributors. Iwaya Sazanami (巌谷小波, 1870-1933)—the “father of children’s literature” in Japan—also contributed frequently. Combining pictures, stories, songs, dance, drama, and crafts, the magazine offered artists opportunities to collaborate with one another and even with their young readers. In line with its child-centered philosophy, the serial was published on large (26 x 18.5 cm), thick paper that withstood rough treatment from little hands and allowed for the high-quality, color printing, which still remains vibrant today (International Library of Children’s Literature).

Illus. by Okamoto Kiichi, Kodomo no kuni, December 1929

Just as authors and lyricists were intent upon creating a literature of poetry and songs (dōyo 童謡) and stories (dōwa 童話) for children, illustrators set to work developing a new kind of children’s imagery (dōga 童画). Kodomo no kuni was at the forefront of these efforts because it was the first magazine to commission multiple illustrators, instead of just hiring one in-house artist. In the process of collaborating and exhibiting their work collectively, these illustrators formed Japan’s first Association of Children’s Illustrators (日本童画家協会) in 1927 (Horie and Taniguchi 100). Between 1922 and 1932, Kodomo no kuni boasted over 100 contributing artists, about a quarter of whom were women (International Library of Children’s Literature).

The primary audience for the magazine was the children of a new and growing urban middle-class, who had access to the best that both Western and Japanese cultures had to offer. Artists imagined for these children a fashionable world that consciously combined Japanese and Western styles and motifs (和洋折衷) (Horie and Taniguchi 6). In this illustration, Shimizu Yoshio 清水良雄 depicts a girl, who voices the accompanying lyrics by Kuzuhara Shigeru 葛原滋 (set to music by Motoori Nagayo 本居長世). With her white chapeau, shawl, and mantle—given to her by a favorite uncle—she compares herself to that most often cited symbol of Japan—Mt. Fuji—and says she no longer needs to fear going out in the cold and the elements.

Illus. by Shimizu Yoshio, “White Mantle,” Kodomo no kuni, Feb.1922

Western styles of clothing freed both girls and boys from former constraints on physical movement, and in Kodomo no kuni they can be seen engaging in all manner of outdoor sports together.

Illus. by Takehisa Yumeji, (Cover) Kodomo no kuni, Feb. 1923

The importance of exercise was emphasized in schools through the institution of a yearly sports field day (運動会), which began at the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and continues in Japanese public schools today.

Illus. by Okamoto Kiichi, “Sports Field Day,” Kodomo no kuni, Nov. 1929

Artists like Okamoto Kiichi and Takehisa Yumeji (竹久夢二, 1884-1934) did not just depict the children they saw around them, they reimagined and redefined a fashionable and active lifestyle for educated children of the urban middle-class. In Kodomo no kuni, children are often shown in charge of themselves and empowered to take control of their modern, urban surroundings.

Illus. by Okamoto Kiichi, Kodomo no kuni, May 1930

In “Moving Picture Show,” Iwaya Sazanami writes about a boy named Gorō, who just received a movie projector as a gift for his birthday, yet again from “an uncle,” as in the Mantle song above. In silhouette, Gorō is showing movies to his friends on a rainy day when they can’t go outside.

Written by Iwaya Sazanami, “Moving Picture Show,” Kodomo no kuni, June 1922

Along with physical freedom and agency in their modern setting, the magazine encouraged children’s freedom of expression through various arts competitions. Winning entries would often be published at the end of the volumes. In the examples below, we see a sampling of children’s artwork. On the left page below, six-year-old Okumura Fukuko 奥村富久子 has drawn a girl playing with a mari (bouncing ball) and, on the right, is seven-year-old Hagihara Kunio’s 萩原邦夫 drawing of okagura, a sacred shrine dance performance.

Kodomo no kuni, Sept. 1922

Entries by winning contestants between the ages of seven and nine. Kodomo no kuni, Sept. 1927

Although vetted by judges, who were also contributing artists of the magazine, these peeks into actual children’s lives both complement and contrast in intriguing ways with the world depicted in the illustrations by prominent artists of the period.

The interactive aspects of the magazine also included collaborations between the magazine’s artists and child contributors. In the poem titled “My Mother” below, six-year-old Toda Tamae 富田玉江 writes about seeing her dead mother, who came back to her in a dream. The wistful scene in this prize-winning poem is romantically portrayed by female artist Tōyama Yūko 遠山陽子.

Toda Tamae, “My mother,” illus. by Tōyama Yūko, Kodomo no kuni, June 1924

As this poem demonstrates, the editors of Kodomo no kuni were not entirely indifferent to the harsher realities of children’s lives, but the fact remains that the brightly-lit modern and fashionable world often depicted in its pages represented the lives of only a very small proportion of children in Japan at the time. Even for families who could afford the magazine, the “Land of Children” was a realm they could only dream about. During the Taishō and early Shōwa periods (1926-1989), the rift between rich and poor widened, and many Japanese children, especially in rural areas, lived in extreme poverty. In the shadows, children of the very poor were being sold into servitude or slavery and a high proportion of children suffered from endemic diseases, such as tuberculosis (Horie and Taniguchi 82). This shadow side of the history of childhood only darkened as Japan continued its military aggression in the Pacific, greatly depleting its resources at home. Quality paper became scarce by the 1940s, and this decline can be traced in the gradual deterioration of materials and printing standards of the magazine by 1944 when it was discontinued after only 3 volumes. Having a nearly full run of this important children’s magazine allows historians to trace this tumultuous transitional period in Japan between wars, and, as such, it is an invaluable resource for scholars of all aspects of Japanese social, cultural, and visual history. The innovative artists who brought Kodomo no kuni to life continue to inspire and inform the work of artists and illustrators, designers and animators, working in Japan today. Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Princeton University Library, this rich and delightful resource is now available for the Princeton community and Japan scholars and enthusiasts everywhere.

Note:

[1] All Japanese names are presented in Japanese order with last name first.

References:

Horie, Akiko, and Tomoko Taniguchi. Kodomo paradaisu: 1920-30 nendai ezasshi ni miru modan kizzu raifu [A paradise for children: Modern kids’ lives, as depicted in picture magazines from the 1920s to 30s]. Tokyo: Kawade shobō shinsha, 2005.

International Library of Children’s Literature, National Diet Library. “Kodomo no kuni: Artists and Children’s Books in 1920s Japan.” http://www.kodomo.go.jp/gallery/KODOMO_WEB/index_e.html. Accessed January 29, 2019.

Nakamura, Etsuko, and Mariko Iwasaki. ‘Kodomo no kuni’ sōmokuji [The complete index for the Kodomo no kuni magazine]. Tokyo: Kyūzansha, 1996-1998.

Recycling Wizards, or, Timely Warnings to Rash and Disobedient Children and Adults

Title page from A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Children  [Edinburgh? : ca. 1721?] (Cotsen 96399)

Wizards are coming soon to the Cotsen Gallery — at least illustrations of them from a wide range of Cotsen Library books, as Andrea Immel wrote last week. While doing photo research for the exhibition, Andrea asked me if I’d come across any good prospects in the course of my cataloging work.  One came instantly to mind: the title page woodcut from A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Children.

Why?  Glad you asked… This book came to mind so readily because  while previously cataloging it, I realized that I’d seen this illustration before – at least reproductions of it — in several modern editions of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.  This woodcut first appeared in the 1616 quarto edition of the play and was recycled in a number of subsequent seventeenth-century printings.  (An earlier quarto version — sometimes referred to as the “A Text” — had appeared in 1604, without this woodcut and with a printer’s device on the title page.)   Faustus is depicted in the middle of his magic circle, book in hand, at the moment when his conjurations have summoned Mephistopheles, depicted as a horned demon with a forked tail, emerging from the infernal depths through the floor of Faustus’ study.  In the background we can see some of his scholar’s books and, ironically, a cross, symbol of all Faustus is abjuring. Somewhere along the way, this woodcut seems to have become something of a visual icon of the play.

Modern reproduction of the title page of 1616 quarto edition of Dr. Faustus.

The woodcuts used for the 1616 quarto of  Dr. Faustus and the reprinted versions of 1619, 1620, 1624, 1628, and 1631 (and possibly others) all look  essentially identical, suggesting that the same woodblock may actually have been reused for them all.  (The woodcuts in the later quartos don’t crop off the right side of the illustration, but I think this is a printing aspect of a cheap book for which a printer was less likely to reprint an imperfectly-printed page, rather than a variation in the actual woodblock. But take a look at the copy of the 1624 title page below and decide for yourself.)  However, the cut appearing on the title page of A Timely Warning is a bit different, as we can see looking at the two woodcuts side-by-side, suggesting that a new block had been cut at some point, using the original cut as a guide.  Compare the Timely Warning cut to the one used in original 1616 version of Dr Faustus. Mephistopheles has become larger relative to Faustus and rendered somewhat differently, Faustus’ library has acquired more books, and the window of his study is now open, revealing the natural world he has forsaken with his “unnatural” conjuring.  But despite these differences, I think it’s remarkable that essentially the same illustration was still in use some one hundred years after it first appeared in the 1616 quarto.  This suggests that the illustration must have resonated strongly with readers and also that it had evolved  into an evocative symbol of the Faustus / Faust story, at least in England.

Illustrated title page of “… The Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Dr Faustus…” (London: [ca. 1700]) (RHT 18th-72)

A very similar, but new version of the Faustus illustration graces the circa 1700 version of The Damnable Life printed by “C. Brown” and sold by “M. Hotham, at the Black Boy on London-bridge.”  This version is more like the original woodcut from 1616 than the one used in the 1721 Timely Warning, but there are clear differences when we look at all three cuts together. Faustus, the devil, and the cross are all packed more tightly together in this version than in the cut used for Marlowe’s play.  The symbols in the magic circle are different, and there are a number of other small variations, all of which suggest that this cut was made by yet another woodblock.

Although the story of Dr Faustus is strongly associated with Marlowe (accused by some of being a blasphemer himself, who “died swearing” and a believer in the dark arts), the Faust legend predates Marlowe’s play.  The basic outline involves a learned man and scholar of theology who becomes bored and disenchanted with his studies — “a greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit,” in Marlowe’s words — who arrogantly makes a pact with the devil and exchanges his soul for knowledge and power.  As such, it’s often presented as a cautionary tale: Faustus forsakes religion and God, makes a deal with the devil, cannot repent, and is himself forsaken to damnation; the mortal sinner gets what he deserves. As an early printed version of the Faust story, the 1592 Historie of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor Iohn Faustus used by Marlowe as a source, phrases the story’s conclusion:

Then came the Devill [sic] and would have me away…as I turned against God, he would dispatch me altogether … [then was heard] a mighty noyse and hissing as if the hall had been full of snakes and adders … Faustus began to crie for help … but shortly [he was] heard no more.

Much like the woodcut of Faustus and Mephistopheles, the (non-Marlovian) language in this first translation of this version of the Faust story into English was also remarkably long-lived, as I was surprised to discover (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

The moral of the story seems intended to be clear to us, as does its title: Damnable Life, and Deserved Death!  But Marlowe used the outline of the story and reworked it as the basis of a tragedy, titled accordingly: The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus in the 1604 quarto; both were published after Marlowe’s 1593 death, so neither title was necessarily his choice).  Marlowe’s protagonist Faustus suffers as a result of a “fatal flaw” — arrogance, pride, and susceptibility to trafficking with the devil — in a way more like Tamburlaine, King Lear, or Macbeth than the main character in Damnable Life, and Deserved Death.  Faustus suffers the same hellish fate — “Faustus is gone, regard his hellish fall, / Whose fiendful fortune may exort the wise” says the speaker of the Epilogue — but most audiences’ response to the “moral” of Marlowe’s play is is more nuanced and complex, as the playwright no doubt intended.

Close up of the title and (long) sub-title of A Timely Warning

Historically, hellfire, brimstone, and eternal damnation in the cauldron of Hell has given pause to both adults and children through the ages.  But would worldly power over kings or  having Helen of Troy as a paramour be the sorts of temptations that might hit home to children?  That moral and plotting dilemma was resolved by the author of A Timely Warning by framing the story as one of an overly indulged prodigal son — “a young gentleman ” — who sells his soul to the devil to get revenge against his father and mother because his father denied him some money.  While that’s an extreme reaction, for sure, what child hasn’t felt some degree of anger, resentment, and even a desire to “get back at” parents who won’t give him / her what’s wanted?  The resentful, demon-trafficking youth undergoes “a sad and deplorable condition” and eventually forfeits his soul on a “dreadful night,” a fate meant to provide a vivid cautionary warning “against temptation.”  This is one of those remarkable earlier titles where essentially the whole story is outlined in the title and sub-title, perhaps just in case a young reader is tempted not to read the whole book.

Modern reproduction of the title page of the 1624 Dr. Faustus quarto.  Compare this with the 1616 quarto’s printing and also the other variations.

The moral is once again meant to be clear.  Added to the usual Faustus moral about blasphemy and dealing with the devil is another familiar moral often found in children’s books from this era: the  punishment of a disobedient child.  Moral works of the time didn’t flinch in scaring children about the possible consequences of disobedience to parents or teachers.  So added to a message about God-faring or moral behavior here is the forceful reminder to be an obedient child.  And at least one later version sought to extend the didactic beyond children: A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Persons, which appeared in a number of editions as did the the A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Children; judging from the number of editions, the Timely Warnings were popular books — at least with adults, generally the ones doing the actual book buying. 

Versions of the Faust story remained popular in England well into the nineteenth century, appearing in the form of books, chapbooks, and updated versions of the play.

Fairly typical of the chapbook-stye publications is a twenty-four page Glasgow publication, apparently from the 1840s, titled: History of Dr. Faustus: Shewing his Wicked Life and Horrid Death, and How He Sold Himself to the Devil, to Have Power for 24 Years to Do What He Pleased… with the Assistance of Mephistopheles; with an Account of How the Devil Came to him at the End of 24 Years and Tore Him to Pieces. That’s a mouthful of a title once, again more or less summing up the whole story.

Upper wrapper of History of Dr. Faustus… (Glasgow: [ca. 1840?]) (Ex 3580.999 v.29)

The cover title is undated and has only “printed for the booksellers” in terms of an imprint, but this Faustus was apparently published as part of a series of popular folk- and fairy-tales, such as Beauty & the Beast and Sleeping Beauty. The woodcut illustration is relatively uninspiring, and I’m not even sure if it’s supposed to depict Faustus or Mephistopheles; it may just be a “stock” woodblock that the publisher had on-hand and used to provide a visual element to spice up the text and get potential buyers’ attention?

More visually striking is Dean & Munday’s six pence version of: The Remarkable Life of Dr. Faustus: Relating the Diabolical Means by which He Raised the Devil to Whom He Sold his Soul and Body on Condition that Lucifer Should Give Him Unlimited Power for Twenty-four Years…  Unlike the demonic depiction of the soul-claiming devil in some earlier versions we’ve looked at, this frontispiece presents Mephistopheles as he reappears to Faustus, deceptively clothed “like a Gray Friar” after his initial devilish appearance terrifies Faustus.  But also clearly visible in the background are flying demons, which the reader can readily see, unlike the duped Faustus perhaps.  And interesting aspect of dual perspective conveyed through illustration?

The Remarkable Life of Dr. Faustus… Dean & Munday, [ca. 1830?] (GAX Cruik 18–.3 )

While this edition seems to have been aimed at a general audience, Dean & Munday was a prominent publisher of short children’s books of the time, in particular “toy books” aimed at children, which typically combined numerous hand-colored illustrations like this one with abridged text.  (The publisher’s advertisement on the lower wrapper lists Dr Faustus under “six-pence each titles,” not under “children’s books, colored plates, 6 d each.”)  The text of this version presents an abridgement of the original 1592 text from The History of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus over 250 years after the original publication, the feat of textual longevity I alluded to above.  As so often was the case with children’s literature, essentially the same content was repeatedly repackaged and “freshened up” with new illustrations to appeal to the market.

But some aspects of the text were jazzed up a bit over time, often adding more “theatrical” elements and details, and some sensational details, often not meant for children (although no doubt enjoyed by some).  After the 1592 version’s concluding “they heard him no more” lines, Dean & Munday’s Remarkable Life and other some nineteenth-century versions add the lines:

But when it was day, the students… arose and went into the hall in the which they left Doctor Faustus, where notwithstanding they found no Faustus, but all the hall lay besprinckled with blood, his brains cleaving to the wall; for the Devil had beaten him from one wall against another. In one corner lay his eyes, in another his teeth, a pitiful and fearful sight to behold… Lastly, they came into the yard where they found his body lying on the horse dung, most monstrously torn, and fearful to behold, for his head and all his joints were dashed in pieces.

In terms of delightful garishness of illustration, my favorite of Princeton’s Faustus illustrations might have to be the one used as a fold-out frontispiece in Thomas Richardson and Son’s The Remarkable Life of Dr. Faustus, a German Astrologer and Enchanter: Relating the Means Adopted by Him to raise the Devil, Who Gave him Extraordinary Magical Powers, on Condition that He Should Have his Soul and Body at the End of Twenty-four Years...   That mouthful of a title — not even the full version! — is more than matched by the hand-colored engraved fold-out, I think.

Title page and fold-out frontispiece of Richardson and Son’s The Remarkable Life of Dr. Faustus… (Derby, [between 1820 & 1840?] (3580.999 v.23)

A terrifying horned devil with fabulous scaly-looking wings sizes Faustus (now an “astrologer,” not a scholar) by the neck, while a serpent twines itself around Faustus’ body, and a chorus of demons worthy of Hieronymus Bosch cheers on the devil in fiendish delight.  Advances in printing technology technology allowed larger and more detailed illustrations in cheap nineteenth books than in the earlier publications ones we’ve already looked at.  And perhaps the sensational presentation here was also meant to cater to a public taste fed by theatrical spectacles in the nineteenth century, when far more elaborate costumes, lighting, and special effects were possible than in Marlowe’s time, when special effects at the relatively plain, outdoor public theater stages were limited to trapdoors, smoke-pots, and rumbling metal thunder, and perhaps a few fireworks.  By the nineteenth century, audiences and readers expected more than plain text and simple woodcuts.  But the message was much the same as in the seventeenth-century The History of the Damnable Life and indeed the text was much the same in this nineteenth-century version too.

And in case you’re wondering the full title of this edition is: The Remarkable Life of Dr. Faustus, a German Astrologer and Enchanter: Relating the Means Adopted by Him to Raise the Devil, Who Gave him Extraordinary Magical Powers, on Condition that He Should Have his Soul and Body at the End of Twenty-four Years; his Various Conversations, Interviews, and Wonderful Events with his Deputy, the Spirit Mephostophiles [sic]; with his Journey to Mount Caucasus, Particulars of his Conjurations and Enchantments; with the Ceremonies Belonging to the Operations of Necromancy; the Bonds; and the Horrible Death Inflicted on Him by the Devil at the Expiration of the Term.  With a title like that, it’s a wonder that the printer had any type left in his case to print the rest of the book!