The publishing of children's books in Japan has had a relatively short
history, beginning only in the late nineteenth century. Whilst historical
fiction has formed an important part of children's literature published
since that time, it has not previously been the subject of any
The aim of this thesis is to trace the progress of Japanese children's
historical fiction and to look at the influence of Japanese society.
The study shows that since its inception Japanese children's
historical fiction has neither reached a high level of quality nor
apparently become very popular with children. Until the late 1950's there
was no real historical fiction produced in Japan - historical stories were
little more than short recounts of events written only to instruct children
how to behave and to influence them to support the state and its policies.
From the late 1950's, however, real children's historical fiction began to
be produced with long stories, plots and developed characters. Since then
the genre has become established and many works have been published.
During this time it has in the main shown consistent strengths and
weaknesses. Most works have all the essential historical features but have
serious literary flaws - in particular a lack of interesting plots and
The main reasons why these literary weaknesses have occurred appear to
be firstly that children's historical fiction has been written to teach the
child reader how to behave, and secondly that authors have concentrated on
providing historical information instead of interesting plots. Whilst the
weaknesses have apparently been recognized by children themselves, as demonstrated by their preferences for other fiction and biographies,
influential adults - in particular librarians and critics- continue to
value a historical novel on the instruction it contains rather than the
pleasure it gives to the reader.
A Master's Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Philosophy of Loughborough University.