...bibliographic notes about manga...


The Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita Collection of Manga, Part II

The following is Part II of a two-part essay that was published on the Spotlights blog of the The North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources (NCC) in October 2022. The essay was co-written by Jeremy Joseph (OSU Class of 2024) and Japanese Studies Librarian, Dr. Ann Marie Davis. Part I of this essay is available here.

Capturing the Mundane to the Extraordinary: Tobita’s Valuable Sketches

A trove of details, from the mundane to the extraordinary, about life at Sugamo naturally surfaced as a result of this Project. For example, extensive interviews with Tobita revealed that he began gifting his art to fellow inmates at the behest of Prince Nashimoto Morimasa, an uncle-in-law of Emperor Shōwa and Tobita’s fellow inmate and confidant at Sugamo. When Prince Nashimoto was released in April 1946, he asked Tobita to offer him one of his drawings as a parting gift.

Figure 5. In “Inmates Sleeping in a Cell,” Tokio Tobita depicts convicts suffering haunting nightmares as well as a cacophony of late-night prison sounds. The emblem “American Red Cross” is visible on the backside of a presumably rationed and donated leaf of paper. Pencil on paper, 13.8 × 21.5 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.

Tobita had drawn pictures for himself in private, but he had never shared his work before the prince’s request. After some thought, he drafted a cartoon-like watercolor, entitled Senpan haishoku no zu (roughly translated, “An Illustration of the Cafeteria Line for War Criminals”) in which about two dozen Class-A and Class-C suspects, including Hideki Tojo, Prince Nashimoto, and Tobita himself, stand in single file as they advance toward a meal distribution table. At the head of the line, a couple of men bow to fellow prisoners who are serving their food. An American serviceman stands by idly observing with a cigarette in his mouth.

After composing this watercolor, Tobita began drawing manically to alleviate his extreme anxiety and fear of execution as he awaited sentencing before the Tokyo Trials. Reflecting this mood, his earliest drawings took up haunting scenes, such as the routine cavity searches of naked convicts and the confiscation of shaving razors by guards at public baths. In one such troubled drawing (Figure 5), a prisoner struggles with insomnia while his cell mates sleep through an onslaught of threatening noises that breach the vent in their prison cell door. While most of the men snore, two are shown experiencing dark nightmares, as indicated by image-filled “speech” bubbles, one with a horn-headed monster and the other a knife-wielding assailant and bomber plane flying overhead.

Figure 6. The cover page of P-ko Sugamo Seikatsu, a scrapbook containing sixty-six sheets of hand-colored 4-coma (4 panels per page) “gag” manga strips by Fumio Fujiki. This serialized cartoon strip, named after the “everyman” prisoner, “Mr. P-ko” often appeared in the bi-weekly prison newspaper, “Sugamo Shimbun.” Hand painted on paper, 24.8 x 17.1 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.

Fumio Fujiki, “P-ko” and the Humbling Realities of Daily Life

As Tobita depicted early tensions between the American jailers and Japanese prisoners, other amateur artists emerged who copied his work and took up new themes. According to Powell and Du (2015), the Sugamo Project was ultimately able to identify nine prison artists whose work resembles Tobita’s. Among these, many took up the theme of prostitution, a flourishing post-war business that the Japanese convicts recognized just beyond the prison gates.

One of the most prolific prison artists was Fujiki Fumio, who, like Tobita, spent his time sketching and drawing while awaiting and eventually serving his sentence for Class-C war crimes. However, in contrast to Tobita, a poorly educated peasant from Ibaraki prefecture, Fujiki hailed from Osaka, attended private schools, and was tutored in English. One of the more sophisticated inmates, he was able to use his foreign language skills to form important connections with the prison guards. These relations, in turn, influenced his artwork in various ways. Despite never having been trained, he enjoyed drawing and studying caricature and cartooning manuals that the Americans shared with him in prison. He subsequently composed some of his cartoons in English for the entertainment of the Americans (Figures 7 and 8). Soon after his release, he drew on these experiences to publish his first book, Nakiwarai Sugamo nikki (or, roughly translated Laughing While Crying: The Sugamo Prison Diary) in 1953.

Figure 7. Suggesting an acute awareness that his audience included American prison guards, the artist Fumio Fujiki sometimes wrote his comics in English. In this example from P-ko Sugamo Seikatsu, Fujiki pokes fun at the strange relations that developed between the American soldiers and Japanese war criminals. Presumed adversaries, they test prison regulations by enjoying a game of chess together, a shared prison infraction that even the “chief jailor” is willing to commit. Handpainted on paper, 24.8 x 17.1 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.


Figure 8. English language cartoons from P-ko Sugamo Seikatsu created by Fumio Fujiki. Here the artist shares with American soldiers the perspective of the Japanese inmate as he is frequently woken up by inexplicably loud and ominous sounds in the middle of the night. Handpainted on paper, 24.8 x 17.1 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.

Occupation authorities officially sanctioned drawing in the prison in 1948. At this time, Fujiki was assigned to serve out his hard labor sentence with Tobita at the newly formed Sugamo Prison Art Shop. Together the two collaborated on several submissions of cartoon drawings for The Sugamo Weekly News (すがも新聞 Sugamo Shimbun). Honing his skills, Fujiki next created a serialized comic strip for the same newspaper. Named after its main protagonist “P-ko” (P公), the series featured a composite “everyman” who wore a standard American-issued prison uniform that the inmates were required to paint with the letter “P” (Figure 6).

In the current collection at the Billy Ireland, scrapbook cut-outs of “P-ko” reveal that Fujiki, like many of the other prison artists, did not shy away from difficult topics. In one of his four-panel strips (subtitled “Hubba Bubba Joe”), for example, he deals head on with the humbling reality of post-war prostitution. As Fujiki confirms, the dire circumstances of the war had forced many Japanese women unexpectedly into the so-called “water trade” in order to survive. In the second strip from right (Figure 9), he pokes fun at this shameful situation by depicting P-ko’s encounter with a prostitute whom he calls beautiful. After exchanging a few words with her, however, P-ko recognizes that the woman is his little sister, and thus startled, he stumbles out of his chair.

Figure 9. Four sample cut-outs of the serialized manga “Mr. P-ko” from The Sugamo Weekly News. In the second strip from the left, the main protagonist P-ko is thrilled to meet a prostitute only to discover that she is his little sister whom he has not seen in many years. Colored ink on paper. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita Collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.


The Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita Collection is an invaluable resource that tells of somber scenes and difficult emotions experienced by the jailers and jailed alike at Sugamo Prison. The museum exhibits, oral interviews, and academic publications resulting from the Sugamo Project underscore the power and lasting impact of this important collection. While offering a rare window on the respective experiences of former war criminals, the collection also documents personal intimacies that were shared and unexpectedly treasured for decades after the American Occupation.

In many ways, the Sugamo artwork is more dynamic than spoken words or written text. To this day, the drawings and sketches in this collection teach about the profound human capacity for self redemption and communication across national and linguistic divides. Retrospectively, the collection imparts important lessons that go well beyond the common curriculum. As soldiers on both sides emerged from the dark chasm of war, the prisoner artwork became significant vehicles for reconciliation and friendship. Their story of human resilience and recovery offer an indispensable supplement for any history textbook. Art scholars and Japanese teachers as well will certainly draw vital lessons from these materials for decades to come.

The Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita Collection of Manga, Part I

The following is Part I of a two-part essay that was previously published on the Spotlights blog of the The North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources (NCC). It was co-written by Jeremy Joseph (OSU Class of 2024) and Japanese Studies Librarian, Dr. Ann Marie Davis. Note: To conform with library collection titles, all Japanese names in this article follow Western conventions with given names appearing first and family names last.

The cover page of Sugamo Life

Figure 1. The cover page of Sugamo Life, a sketch book containing 65 rough cartoons by convicted war criminal Fumio Fujiki. The original art cover verso has a brief handwritten description identifying the images as rough sketches from Sugamo Prison sent by request to the U.S. Department of State. Watercolor and ink, 20 × 28 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012

Emblematic of rare and distinctive manga collection at OSU is the Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita Collection, held at the University Libraries’ Billy Ireland Cartoon & Library Museum (BICLM). Stored in a full-size document box (measuring 5 inches in width), the collection is relatively small, yet offers a seismic punch. Its many files of sketches and cartoons offer first hand testimony to the daily experiences of roughly 2,000 alleged and convicted war criminals incarcerated at Sugamo Prison (巣鴨拘置所 Sugamo Kōchiso) after World War II. The sketches also reveal everyday interactions between Japanese Prisoners of War and American guards during the post-war occupation era (1945-52). The act of producing such art was, in itself, a significant gesture that not only reduced the anxieties of prison life but also served as a vehicle for meaningful exchanges between the Japanese inmates and American GIs running the prison.

Sugamo Prison History and the Post-War Occupation

Sugamo Prison was the main prison for Japanese war criminal suspects and convicts after World War II. Located in northwest Tokyo, it was about a ten-minute walk east of present-day Ikebukuro Railway Station and designed as a modern, state-of-the-art facility modeled after European prisons at the turn of the 20th century. By the 1930s, it gained notoriety as an incarceration facility for political prisoners including communist party members and sympathizers. Allied officers, spies and airmen joined the ranks of the incarcerated there in the 1940s.

Artistic rendering of Sugamo Prison

Figure 2. Artistic rendering of Sugamo Prison. One of 75 original drawings by Fumio Fujiki used in the book Nakiwarai Sugamo nikki (1953) and Sugamo densetsu (1966). Pencil/Paper/Ink, 20 × 28 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.

1949 aerial view of Sugamo Prison

Figure 3. 1949 aerial view of Sugamo Prison with the prison sports field visible in front and baseball diamond visible in back. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

When Japan surrendered in 1945, the US Army took control of the prison to hold suspected war criminals in anticipation of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE). Not coincidentally, Sugamo Prison was one of the few sites that remained completely intact despite the destructive US Army Air Force firebombing raids in Tokyo in the 1940s. Following the Tokyo Trials, the prison saw the execution of the seven military leaders, including General Hideki Tojo (東條 英機, Tōjō Hideki), architects of the war who were sentenced to death by hanging for “Class A” war crimes, or “crimes against peace.” The remaining “Class B” and “C” inmates (convicted of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” respectively) served out their sentences at Sugamo until May 1952. When the Occupation ended, control of the prison was transferred to the Japanese civilian government, and the remaining inmates were eventually pardoned or released on parole. Ultimately in 1962, Sugamo Prison ceased to function, and in the 1970s, it was demolished and replaced by the Sunshine 60 (サンシャイン60, Sanshain rokujū), the then tallest skyscraper in Asia.

Bill Barrette and the Sugamo Project

Throughout the Allied Occupation (1945-52), a total of 2500 American GIs of the Eighth US Army patrolled and guarded Sugamo Prison. Among these, five hundred soldiers were needed at any given time to serve as jailers and guards. Typically 17 to 19 years of age, only young recruits who had never seen active combat were chosen for this post. Upon completing their tours in Asia, many of the American guards felt nostalgic for the unexpected relationships they formed with the war criminals under their care. Buoyed by the rituals of daily life and gift giving, some held onto the prisoners’ handmade gifts and sketches for the rest of their lives, and some corresponded with the inmates for decades. Many shared these cherished mementos with other American veterans at reunions into the early 2000s (Barrette 2013).

The present collection at OSU came into existence through the research of Bill Barrette, an artist from New York and the younger relative of one of Sugamo’s former jailers, George Picard. At a family reunion in the late 1990s, Barrette learned with fascination about Picard’s various keepsakes, which he had saved from the prison for a half a century. Among these objects, Barrette discovered, were several delicate pencil drawings, including portraits and a sketch of a prison cell.

What ensued was dubbed the Sugamo Project, a collaboration in which Bill Barrette, Midori Sato, and Toyota Naurmi began collecting surviving mementos and drawings, mainly at the reunions of military veterans in the US, and from the artists Tokio Tobita and Fumio Fujiki in Japan. As Barrette once said of the Project, these artifacts show “how art and history might benefit from each other… [and the art] deals with issues like the politics of memory — who gets to tell the story and how…” (Wakin, 2004).

One of 65 rough sketches from the “Sugamo Life Sketchbook” by Fumio Fujiki

Figure 4. One of 65 rough sketches from the “Sugamo Life Sketchbook” by Fumio Fujiki. Text typed and mounted in English reveals the amusement of American guards as they observe Sugamo inmates playing baseball on prison grounds. Pencil on paper, 20.5 × 26.7 cm. Fumio Fujiki and Tokio Tobita collection, The Ohio State University, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum; SPEC.CGA.SUG.2012.

Eventually, enough Sugamo-related research accumulated to result in several exhibitions. The third and final exhibition, “Encounters: Sugamo Prison 1945-52; The American Occupation of Japan and Memories of the Asia Pacific War,” was held in April 2003 at the East Asian Library at Princeton University. The exhibit was followed by a 3-day symposium, convened by Martin Collcutt, then Director of East Asian Studies, where scholars and former inhabitants of the prison, including Tobita, appeared and presented papers.

Many of the collected keepsakes, which had been on extended loan from Army veterans, later had to be returned. However, other important materials as well as interviews and research papers came together as a result of the project. Barette’s team recorded extensive videotape footage of the exhibitions and conversations with Tobita, Fujiki, and many of the American soldier collectors of the Sugamo drawings (Powell and Du, 2015). Following Fujiki’s passing in 2004, his widow donated all of her late husband’s materials to the OSU Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. A former Sugamo prison guard, B. A. “Buck” Langdon, gifted additional Tobita drawings to OSU. Thus, the works of the two most important Sugamo visual artists and the namesakes of the collection were preserved for research and teaching. Since their donation, high resolution images of these materials have been reformatted and are now accessible online via The Ohio State University Libraries’ Digital Collections.

End of Part I. (To continue to Part II, please click here).

References and Further Reading

C-kyū senpan ga suketchishita Sugamo Purizun. (Tokio Tobita, 2011)

“Escaping Sugamo Prison with a no. 2 pencil: the drawings of Japanese war criminal Tobita Tokio.” Visual Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1. (Powell and Du, 2015)

I was defeated / a translation from the Japanese. (Yoshio Kodama, 1951)

Nakiwarai Sugamo nikki. (Fumio Fujiki, 1953).

Sugamo densetsu : manga de tsuzuru Sugamo Purizun to GI. (Fumio Fujiki, 1994)

Sugamo life : prison arts under American occupation, 1945-52. (Bill Barrette, 2013)

Sugamo Prison, Tokyo : an account of the trial and sentencing of Japanese war criminals in 1948, by a U.S. participant. (John L. Ginn, 1992)

Sugamo Purizun : kyōkaishi Hanayama Shinshō to shikei senpan no kiroku (Hirotada Kobayashi, 1999)

Our New and Improved Manga Resource Guide

By Chase Conner

Some of you may have already noticed that our Manga Studies library resource guide has gotten a facelift. If you haven’t checked it out lately, now is the time for a fresh visit! With the recent updates, we wanted our manga guide to better reflect the diversity of our collection and simplify access for researchers and students.

 The most notable change to this guide is its visual overhaul. Upon opening the page, you will be greeted with a lovely assortment of photos of some of our rare and distinctive manga materials stored at The OSU Libraries’ Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. On the right panel, you will now find a navigation box for searching our online library catalog for any piece or title that catches your interest. We’ve also added links to a key word search and a list of manga genre terms to help narrow your online catalog search.

Also on this refreshed guide, you’ll find a showcase of selected manga titles that are available in circulation at OSU. From time to time, we will update this showcase, so please visit us regularly to learn about the latest additions to the collections!

Another change to this guide is a panel of links to manga and anime journals, other relevant OSU library resources, and a small showcase of circulating materials in manga studies. These showcases are by no means a comprehensive but serve as a launching point for helping you find what you need. 

Whether for leisure or research purposes, we hope our new layout will make searching for manga more appealing and approachable. Please check it out sometime and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for further improvements!

Checking Out Manga – Three Online Manga Readers

Image: Screen Captures of 3 Featured Manga Reader Catalogs:
ShonenJump+, Manga Library Z, and Sukima

By Chase Conner

Hello again, everyone. I hope the new year is being kind to you all. Today we’d like to return to our list of online manga resources compiled originally by Michiko Ito at UKansas. So let’s look at some of the list’s “Open Access Comics,” which allow us to read manga for free online! There is a plethora of content available on the Internet these days, and many manga publishers have jumped on the bandwagon to provide online comic apps. In addition to newly published manga, we can find many out-of-print comics that have found new life through online manga readers. Let’s get started and take a look at a few resources for accessing some.

ShonenJump+ Website Banner

少年ジャンプ+ (Shonen Jump+)

Shonen Jump has always been a big name in the industry and one that anyone with a passing interest in manga is likely aware of. Given its vast influence and collection of popular print titles, it’s no surprise that Shonen Jump is a leader in the digital comic market. On the Shonen Jump+ site, many segments of their popular manga titles — including One Piece, Death Note, Dragonball, Naruto, and more – are available at no cost! A good number of chapters are available for free, but newer chapters require the purchase of “points,” which users must redeem in order to read. While paying for points is certainly an option, this post aims to highlight its many great “open access” offerings as well.

MangaToshokanZ Website Banner

マンガ図書館Z (Manga Library Z) []

マンガ図書館Z (manga toshokan Z) or Manga Library Z is another site that offers plenty of manga completely free of charge. Specifically, the titles included here include numerous out-of-print series that have been granted uploading rights by the original creators. While its various titles are not as widely known as Shonen Jump+’s, researchers and manga fans alike will certainly value this web site for its older and off-the-beaten-path titles. In addition to the many free manga on this site, there is also some adult-oriented manga, which are locked behind a paywall. Because you might encounter images of these adult titles while browsing the front page, I would advise exercising caution when browsing, especially if you have privacy concerns.

Sukima Website Banner


Sukima is yet another valuable online resource for reading manga in Japanese. The Sukima site essentially operates like many other online manga readers that sell access to large collections of titles — including the more recent volumes – through a pay-per-point redemption system. Despite this limitation, I find that Sukima’s big appeal is that it also offers a plethora of new and old manga titles completely free of charge! It’s true that the open access manga tend to lean towards older and lesser known titles, but among these you’ll also find some of the popular classic titles like Kimagure Orange Road or even more recent titles like Gokushufudō (Way of the House Husband). You’ll definitely want to take a trip through Sukima’s library. While an account is not required to read the free manga, users must create a username and password to purchase or peruse some of the more mature titles for the 18-and-over crowd.

I recommend that anyone check out these three sites to see what titles you can find — You may just find something new and interesting! If you encounter something that you would you like to read in print at OSU Libraries, please feel free to contact OSU’s Japanese Studies Librarian, Ann Marie Davis,  at, with questions and suggestions.


Manga Resources While Teaching and Learning from Home

“Girl in Mask” clip from the anime Laughing Salesman
(笑ゥせぇるすまん) Ep. 4, adapted from the manga
by the same title created by Fujiko A. Fujio,

One of my colleagues, Michiko Ito, Japanese Studies Librarian at the University of Kansas, recently put together a truly fantastic library guide that lists tons of links to online, Japanese-language manga (including comics, graphic novels, and anime) and manga resources.  Her collection definitely deserves a shout-out and share, so  I am shamelessly copying much of it verbatim here.  As Ito notes herself, a word of caution and a disclaimer is in order:  This online guide is meant to provide links to web resources created by third parties. Contents available through these websites may contain materials not suitable for educational purposes. The compiler of this guide has no control over these websites and cannot be held responsible for website contents.

To jump down to the various sections below, click on the section guide you want to see first:

Open Access Comics,
Websites by Comic Publishers,
Serialized Web Comics,
E-comic Stores,
Online Archives and Databases, and
Organizations, Museums, and Institutes.

Open Access Comics

This section lists individual Open Access (=free) manga, selected by Ito:

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Websites by Comic Publishers

The following websites are operated by major comic publishers to announce their new comic publications. Some publishers separately operate serialized web comics (see the section immediately below.) Free previews are available:

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Serialized Web Comics (includes free previews)

This section lists selected websites for serialized web comics, most of which are operated by well-known comic publishers. Each website includes dozens of titles, and in most cases, the first few episodes and the most recent episodes are available for free. Registration and/or purchase is often required to read full contents, such as when users are required to purchase “coins” or “points” to read chapters. Note: some of these services are limited to within Japan, and some require credit cards issued in Japan.

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E-comic Stores

Many of these E-comic store websites provide free previews, and they typically require membership or registration for purchase.  As with the list above, some services are limited to within Japan and/or require  a credit card issued in Japan. (If your membership is canceled, you may not retain access to the materials you purchased.)

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Other Comic Websites

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Online Archives and Databases

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Organizations, Museums, Institutes


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“Ohio State Manga Collection at Ohayocon!”

Last month, our manga collection was featured at the 2020 Ohayocon, and then, as a result, in the student-run newspaper, The Lantern. We have been so very proud and grateful for this unique opportunity to share information about our wonderful collection!

Thanks to a lovely invitation to participate from the Japan-American Society of Central Ohio (JASCO), we were able to offer a table display in the Yuki Matsuri room at the Con, and we also held a well-attended panel presentation (full of cosplayers in the audience) on Manga at Ohio State University Libraries. If you check out the video, you’ll see that the members of our panel were me (Ann Marie Davis, Japanese Studies Librarian); Kapil Vasudev, Education Librarian; and Kay Clopton, Mary P. Key Cultural Diversity Inquiry Resident Librarian. Covering our activities at this event was student journalist, Aaron Lien, who in turn published the following video article about our work: 


Thank you so much, Aaron!

Ohio State Manga Collection at Ohayocon

A Brief Introduction to Manga for Teachers, Part 2

Written by Guest Contributor Kapil Vasudev, Education Librarian

This is the second in a series of posts introducing teachers to manga. The previous post covered the origins of manga and the manga publishing industry. This week’s post will explain how to read manga and manga visual shorthand. It will conclude with a classroom activity inspired by manga’s visual style.

A Brief Introduction to Manga for Teachers, Part 2

How to Read Manga

Manga translated and published in English was originally flipped in orientation so that it could be read from left to right. However, due to production costs, a desire to reduce the length of translation from Japanese to English, and an interest in creating a reading experience more akin to reading manga in Japan, manga in English is mostly published right to left. This creates an obstacle for English readers who are not used to reading in that direction.

A guide depicting the proper order for reading panels on a manga page.
(Source: Wikihow)

In general, manga will be read from right to left and then top to bottom. This applies to reading both the panels in a page as well as the speech bubbles within each panel.

Continue reading

A Brief Introduction to Manga for Teachers, Part 1

Written by Kapil Vasudev, Education Librarian, with intro by Ann Marie L. Davis

Happy New Year! This week we are preparing an interactive exhibit table and special panel on our world-class manga collection for the annual 2020 Oyahocon!  More to come on that later, but for now, it’s time for this very helpful, two-part, guest blog, written by Kapil Vasudev, Education Librarian at OSU Kapil wrote this blog after delivering a well-received half-day workshop on Japanese and Korean comics as part of the 2019 National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA).  Together with Dr. Kay Clopton, Mary P. Key Resident for Cultural Diversity Inquiry,  he offered an informative presentation on “Teaching, Manga, and Manga Clubs.”   What follows is a summary article:

An issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump, the most popular manga magazine, featuring characters from Dragonball. (Source: Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A Brief Introduction to Manga for Teachers, Part 1

Manga – the Japanese style of cartoons, comics, and graphic novels – has become a fixture in American culture. While it was once rare to find even American comics in libraries, it is now common to see entire library sections devoted just to English translations of manga. This series of blog posts aim to provide an introduction to manga for teachers seeking to engage with this popular art form and incorporate it into classroom activities. This week’s post discusses the origins of manga and the manga publishing industry.

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Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: Kyōsai’s Hyakki Gadan Now at BICLM

By Nick Castle

As Halloween draws nearer, so does our fanatical obsession with all things spooky and scary, peeking their heads around the corner like ghosts behind a gravestone. Why not indulge in some vintage scares at the OSU Libraries?

Japanese Studies invites you to learn about the mythology and artistic culture of Meiji Japan (1868-1912) through the newly acquired Kyōsai Hyakki Gadan (暁斎百鬼画談), a color woodblock print by eccentric painter and manga forerunner, Kawanabe Kyōsai (河鍋 暁斎, 1831-1889). The long, accordion book (orihon) depicts a parade of all manner of weird and wicked yōkai (妖怪), spirits and demons from Japanese mythology. This particular scene is evocative of the hyakki yagyō (百鬼夜行) idiom, a historic theme in Japanese visual representation wherein a procession of legendary creatures sets foot upon the communities of mortal men and women.

A view of the book’s cover with title
Kyōsai hyakki gadan

Continue reading

New in the Collection: Rare Taishō-Period Life Insurance Pamphlet by Okamoto Ippei

By Justine Kang (

Recently, the Japanese Studies section at OSU Libraries acquired an advertisement manga illustrated by the early manga artist Okamoto Ippei (岡本 一平, 1886-1948), one of the most influential writers and illustrators of the Taisho era (1912-1926).  Okamoto combined cartoon books and comic strips and produced cartoons and serial comics in prominent newspapers including the Asahi Shinbun (朝日新聞).

Entitled On Brightening the Home! (Katei wo akarumi he, or 家庭を明るみへ!), the new acquisition is unusual as a pre-war advertisement for life insurance that featured colorful comics.  Okamoto was commissioned to develop a manga story as the central focal point of this pamphlet advertising the products of the Nisshin Life Insurance Company (Nisshin Seimei, or 日淸生命保險株式會社).

With no date on the document itself, there is no evidence as to when the advertisement was published.  However, we can find some clues about it through the well-known Nisshin Life Insurance Building, featured on the back of the pamphlet.  Constructed in 1932, this building was located in Chiyoda ward, near the Imperial Palace, in central Tokyo. Because the company was eventually absorbed by the Nomura Life Insurance Company in 1941 (and the building was later known as the Marunouchi Nomura Building), we know that the booklet must have been made in the 1930s.

During the tumultuous Taishō and early Show (1926-1989) eras, many Japanese people must have felt a need for life and health insurances.  Above are some pictures from the pages of the pamphlet with illustrations by Okamoto Ippei.  In the bottom right corner is an image of the iconic Nisshin Seimei building, featured on the last page of the pamphlet.

To learn more about Okamoto Ippei and discover some of his original work, please check out these OSU Library resources:

Okamoto, Ippei. Ippei Manga. Tōkyō: Monkkōsha, 1924.

Okamoto, Ippei. Ippei Manga Kōza. Tōkyō: Sōshisha, 1981.

Okamoto, Ippei, and Yukio Sugiura. Ippei Zenshū. Tōkyō: Ōzorasha, 1990.

Okamoto, Ippei, and Isao Shimizu. Okamoto Ippei Manga Manbunshū. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten, 1995.

Okamoto, Ippei, Kanoko Okamoto, and Tarō Okamoto. Okamoto Ippei Ten: Botsugo 50-Nen : Gendai Manga No Paio’nia. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha Bunka Kikakukyoku, 1997.

Okamoto, Ippei. Tesei No Ningen. Tōkyō: Gendai Yūmoa Zenshū Kankōkai, 1928.

Shimizu, Isao, and Kōichi Yumoto. Manga to Shōsetsu No Hazama De: Gendai Manga No Chichi Okamoto Ippei. Tōkyō: Bungei Shunjū, 1994.

For even more resources on these and related topics on the world wide web, please check out the following:

Honjo, Eijiro. “The Development of the Study of the Economic History of Japan Subsequent to the Meiji Restoration.” The Kyoto University economic review 16.1 (1941): 18-31.

McCarthy, Helen. 2010. “The Attraction of Ippei Okamoto.” “丸ノ内野村ビルディング” (Marunouchi Nomura Building).