I’ve just spent the past half hour goofing around on the Internet looking at books about Japan. They are all adorable books–but they have one thing in common! They are all American made. American authors. American publishers. American illustrators.
For the most part (I think) they are fairly accurate, but they definitely show Japan the way Americans think that Japan appears. Lots of Kimono. Lots of ninja. LOTS of KIMONO!!!!!!!!
Don’t get me wrong. Kimono is part of Japanese culture. But for my son, kimono is…….a non-existence. Like the cowboy hat in America.
So today I want to show some books which are written by authentic Japanese authors.
Okay, I wrote a post about Japanese toddler books from my local library a few days ago
but I want to expand because I think it’s really important. Japanese people should be telling the world about themselves.
(I don’t want it to sound like I don’t like the “made in America” books about Japan, because I do. They are cutey cutey and there is a place for them. But there is ALSO definitely a place for books which are originally from Japan. It’s a shame almost all of these books are out of print in the United States.)
So here are some “Made in Japan” books.
Amy and Ken Visit Grandma My favorite of the Japanese books. Adorably adorable. I just want to eat it up. The original characters are “Kon and Aki” but it was changed to be more palatable to westerners.
Miki’s First Errand One of the MOST FAMOUS JAPANESE KIDS BOOKS. All kids in Japan know this book. When I did this book with my son, I pointed out, “The man is buying juice in the English version. But in the Japanese version he is buying cigarettes!” (By the way, this is an old book. I doubt that nowadays it would be written with cigarettes in the story.)
Sid the Signal A very famous book. About a confused traffic signal. Didn’t love this as much as the previous two books, but hey I’m a girl. 🙂
Any book by Gomi Taro Gomi Taro is one of the very few Japanese writers/illustators who has crossed over into the western market. He’s definitely famous in Japan. You may know his “Everyone Poops” book.
Any book by Keiko Sena Extremely memorable artwork, and toddler friendly stories. Doesn’t the Balloon Cat just make you want to giggle?
Guri and Gura series Extremely, extremely, EXTREMELY famous. I love the sweet illustrations. I think the writing in English can be a bit clunky.
Books by Mitsuma Anno. Another Japanese which has successfully crossed over into western mainstream books. He has a whole series of Anno’s Journey books. They take place in various countries. I love them because they are wordless and they are all at my library!
Suho’s White Horse. Very famous. A little confusing for westerners, because it is a Japanese book about Mongolia.
Buying Mittens and its sister book Gon the Little Fox are extraordinarily famous. Like, they make movies based off it. That sort of famous.
Jeeper the Fire Engine There is a fire and Jeeper saves the day! No ninjas in this book!
Grandma Baba series Many cute books in this series. I find the English ever so slightly clunky.
The Gigantic Turnip It’s a Japanese book based on a Russian folktale.
Little Daruma books. Okay, here are some books that really look Japanese! So Japanese that it may be too much for westerners. There’s a lot that western kids won’t understand, and their western parents can’t explain. Nevertheless great books.
One Stormy Night Super famous, like they made a children’s play and videos based on it. Sequel: One Sunny Day
Chugging All the Way I love this adorable book. It can be read forward and backward!!!!
Mottainai Grandma “Mottainai” means “to save.” So this Grandma teaches kids not to waste. I bought the bilingual version (English/Japanese) at a local bookstore as a present. Very cute!
Chug-chug Train Get on board with this adorable book!
Little Mouse Wants an Apple I think this is a series?
I Love to Take a Bath Would you be surprised if animals appeared in your bathtub?
The Tree of Courage Traditional wood cuts? I am not sure how the art is done in this book. My son says this book was in one of his elementary school textbooks.
The Restaurant of Many Orders This is not for babies and toddlers due to subject matter and number of words on each page. This story was in my son’s fifth grade Japanese textbook.
Sweet Mouse Family books by Kazuo Iwamura. It looks like they are selling them again, and they are updated translations. (Different from the ones that are in my library.) That’s probably a good thing.
Books by Satoshi Kitamura. He is Japanese but lives in England. I think that counts as a Japanese book. Right? He is in the “Japanese” section in our library, not the western section.
Books by Allen Say Again he is Japanese but lives in America now. I guess his books might be by an American publisher, but I count them as Japanese since Allen Say is still Japanese, even though he lives in the United States. Anyway, both Satoshi Kitamura and Allen Say are very well known in Japan.
I’m getting tired of typing. So here is a fabulous list of books if you ae still interested.
And you know……..these are ONLY the ONES WHICH HAVE BEEN TRANSLATED to English!!!!!!!!! There are loads of Japanese books which never get translated! Yet are much beloved! So come to Japan and experience them for yourself!