Japan’s National Diet Library (NDL) has a ton of digitized resources in both English and Japanese. So much so that sometimes it’s easy to forget how many of those resources have been curated into mini-exhibitions or databases geared toward specific things in their collection. The International Library of Children’s Literature (ILCL) is one of those special subsections that showcases some of the great material the NDL holds.
The International Library of Children’s Literature serves as a national library for children’s literature, aiming to acquire and make publicly available all such materials. One of the features of their website is an online exhibition entitled “Japanese Children’s Literature: A History from the International Library of Children’s Literature Collections,” which actually emerged from an exhibition once held in the museum section of the library.
Now made digitally available, the Japanese Children’s Literature section of the site follows the emergence of modern children’s’ books in Japan beginning in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and moving through several different periods of history, including pre- and post-war, the bubble era, leading up to the ‘90s, and the 21st century.
The readings examined are not just books, but magazines, cultural and musical guides, and more. There are English-language explanations of each work that touch on their formats, content, and cultural significance. As their site states, “Children’s literature reflects the time periods they were published in ―social conditions, sense of values and how children were represented in the society,” meaning this exhibition provides an interesting peek into each period of history displayed.
The books are all a part of the ILCL collection, and many on the site have been digitized to provide full access to their content. Want to know a little more about the cultural and historical circumstances of growing up in modern Japan? Be sure to check out the International Library of Children’s Literature’s site!