Shōchan: Japan's First Lovable Comic Book Hero

Readers first meet Shōchan walking by himself one day in the mountains. A squirrel is trapped beneath a branch. "Poor thing!" Shōchan exclaims, "Don't cry!" and rescues it. To thank him, Squirrel offers to take him to some "interesting places" and leads him to a hollow tree, the entrance to another world. Adventures ensue.

Shōchan was "born" on January 25, 1923, on the children's page of the new daily (later weekly) Asahi Graph. Its editor asked Kabashima (the illustrator) and Oda (the author) to create a new picture story with a Japanese hero and an animal companion. Oda had recently returned to Japan after years of foreign travel and gave Shōchan his own adventuresome spirit. Kabashima was already an established professional illustrator, familiar with the work of Aubrey Beardsley, the Vienna Succession, Art Nouveau, and other contemporary movements in Europe. He gave the boy a sweet character, a stylish modern wardrobe, an adorable companion, and his signature wool knit cap. Children adored the cap.

Ehon"”or "picture books," in Japanese"”are part of an incomparable 1,230-year-old Japanese tradition. Created by artists and craftsmen, most ehon also feature essays, poems, or other texts written in beautiful, distinctive calligraphy. They are by nature collaborations: visual artists, calligraphers, writers, and designers join forces with papermakers, binders, block cutters, and printers. The New York Public Library's Spencer Collection holds one of the foremost collections of Japanese illustrated books in the West.

Kabashima Katsuichi (1888-1963), artist; and Oda Shōsei (1889-1967), author. The Adventures of Shōchan for Children (Osaka, 1924-25). The New York Public Library, Spencer Collection.

Treasures Video: Watch a Film About the Library's Popular Culture Collections, including Comic Books, Manga, and More

More Images from The Adventures of Shōchan for Children

Multimedia and Other Resources

Collection Guide: Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan

Exhibition Brochure: Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan

Exhibition Catalogue: Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan

About the Spencer Collection

Classic Ehon at The Library Shop: Momotarō and the Island of Ogres

More Ehon at The Library Shop