A Souvenir of Japan: The Crepe-Paper Book "Japanese Fairy Tale Series" from the Late 19th Century

The Crepe-Paper Book - Japanese Fairy Tale Series

This exhibition, held at the conference venue as a related event, mainly consists of the Japanese Fairy Tale Series published in English in late-nineteenth-century Japan by the publisher Takejiro Hasegawa (1853-1938). They are known as "crepe-paper books (chirimen-bon)" because they are printed on Japanese paper with a finely-wrinkled surface like crepe.

In 1885, Hasegawa published the first six volumes of his Japanese Fairy Tale Series, employing as translator the American Presbyterian missionary David Thomson. They were first intended as teaching material for English-language education for Japanese children and as souvenirs from Tokyo for people living in other parts of Japan, but they soon became popular as souvenirs among Western tourists. By 1903, the English series reached thirty volumes in two series. Translations into other European languages, most frequently into French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, also followed.

The combination of Japanese fairy tales retold by Westerners, woodblock-print illustrations by Japanese ukiyo-e artists, and the crêpe-paper printing method utilising traditional craftsmanship to appeal to Western tourists, makes this series an interesting example of cross-cultural circulation of fairy tales in the late nineteenth century.

The Crepe-Paper Book - Japanese Fairy Tale Series