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Indiana University


Exploring East Asia through Stories


Kamishibai, or “paper drama,” is a form of storytelling that originated in Japanese Buddhist temples in the 12th century. Monks used picture scrolls to tell stories with moral lessons to a mostly illiterate audience. It endured as a storytelling method for centuries, but it is best known for its revival in the 1920s. The kamishibai storyteller rode from village to village on a bicycle equipped with a small stage. He used two wooden clappers called hyoshigi to announce his arrival. Children who bought candy from the storyteller got the best seats in front of the stage. Once an audience assembled, the storyteller told several stories using a set of illustrated boards. The stories were often serials, and new episodes were told on each visit to the village.

Each kamishibai in our collection consists of 12 to 16 stiff, oak tag cards (15" x 11") that are beautifully illustrated by Japanese artists. The stories range from traditional to modern. Printed on the back of the cards are the original Japanese text and its English translation. The text is written in dialogue form, and the audience is pulled immediately into the dramatic presentation. Because of their generous size, kamishibai can be used easily with both small and large groups.

Kamishibai List
Title Author Illustrator Japanese Name Ages
The Bamboo Princess Iwasaki, Kyoko Endo, Teruyo Kaguya-Hime 6 & up
The Bride with an Unusual Talent Kayama, Yoshiko Kawabata, Makoto Hekkoki Yome all ages
The Dragon’s Tears Hamada, Hirosuke Kawamoto, Tetsuo Ryuu no Me no Namida 3 & up
The Goblin, the Water Imp and the Thunder God Kako, Satoshi Futamata,Eigoro Tengu to Kappa to Kaminari-don 3 to 8
Grow, Grow, Grow—As Big As You Can Matsui, Noriko Matsui, Noriko Ookiku, Ookiku, Ookiku na-a-re 2 to 4
Hats for the Jizos Matsutami, Miyoko Futamata,Eigoro Kasa Jizo 4 & up
How the Witch Was Eaten Up Matsutami, Miyoko Futamata,Eigoro Taberareta Yamanba 4 to 8
How the Years Were Named Kamichi, Chizuko Kanazawa, Yuko Rainen wa Nanidoshi 3 & up
Kon and Pon (Part One) Matsuno, Masako Futamata,Eigoro Kogitsune Kon to Kodanuki Pon 5 & up
Kon and Pon (Part Two) Matsuno, Masako Futamata,Eigoro Kogitsune Kon to Kodanuki Pon 5 & up
Little Chick Chukovsky, Kornei Futamata,Eigoro Hyoko-Chan 2 to 4
The Little Crab Yasuda, Hiroshi Tominaga, Hideo Kogani no Hasami 2.5 to 6
Momotaro, The Peach Boy Matsutami, Miyoko Futamata,Eigoro Momotaro 3 & up
The Monkey and the Crab Matsutami, Miyoko Nishimaki, Kayako Saru to Kani 5 & up
The Mother Cat Watanabe, Kyoko Watanabe, Kyoko Neko no Okasan 3 to 6
The Mouse’s Wedding Horio, Seishi Kubo, Masao Nezumi no Yomeiri 3 & up
The Ogre Who Sank Down to the Bottom of the Sea Matsutami, Miyoko Futamata,Eigoro Umeni Shizundaani 5 & up
The Old Man and the Fox Masuda, Naoko Futamata,Eigoro Jiisama to Kitsune 6 to 9
The Old Man and the Mice Kawasaki, Daiji Kubo, Masao Nequmi Choja 3 to 8
The Old Man Who Made the Trees Bloom Yoda, Jun’ichi Okanao, Kazu Hanasakajii-san 5 & up
The One-Inch Boy Tsubota, Joji Suzuki, Hisao Issun-Boshi 3 to 8
The Story of Tanabata Kitada, Shin Mitani, Yukihiko Tanabata Monogatari 6 & up
The Tongue-Cut Sparrow Matsutami, Miyoko Horiuchi, Seiichi Shitakiri Suzume 4 & up
The Tubmaker Who Flew to the Sky Kawasaki, Daiji Futamata,Eigoro Okeya no ten Nobori 3 & up
Urashima Taro Wakabayashi, Ichiro Nishiyama, Saburo Urashima Taro 8 & up
The Bamboo Princess

An old, childless bamboo-cutter discovers a tiny infant in a bamboo stalk. He and his wife rear her tenderly. The child grows very quickly and soon becomes a beautiful young woman with many suitors. The Bamboo Princess, however, wishes to return to the moon, her true home. Her parents don’t want her to and try to make her stay. She gives them a magic potion to live forever, but because they don’t want to live without her, they burn the magic potion on top of the highest mountain, Mt. Fuji.

The Bride with an Unusual Talent

In this fantastic folktale, a hard-working bride is welcomed by her mother-in-law to her new home. But the bride’s embarrassing "talent" (extraordinarily powerful flatulence) causes the mother-in-law to order her son to return his bride to her parents. The tale ends happily when the husband sees how his bride uses her unusual talent to help others, and she is welcomed back to his family.

The Dragon’s Tears

A small boy befriends a lonely dragon whom everybody else in the village speaks of with fear and hatred. When the boy invites the dragon to his party, the dragon is moved to tears, and the tears become a river that carries them both back to the village.

The Goblin, the Water Imp and the Thunder God

A charcoal maker, walking along a mountain path, is stopped at three different times by three different traditional, impish creatures. They, in turn, demand his young son’s ears, cheeks, and belly-button. When the son hears this from his father, he immediately devises a plan to outwit the three creatures and then successfully carries it out.

Grow, Grow, Grow—As Big As You Can

This contemporary, interactive story is a bestseller in Japan! Very young children love predicting and anticipating what will happen to the very little pig, egg, and strawberry cake.

Hats for the Jizos

On New Year’s Eve, a poor old man goes to the village hoping to sell some cloth that his wife has woven so he can buy some special food to celebrate the New Year. No one is interested in buying the cloth, however, and just to have something different to take home, he exchanges his cloth for the straw hats another man has been trying to sell. On the way home, the old man sees six statues of the deity Jizo, looking cold because they are covered with snow. The old man decides to cover their bare heads using the five straw hats and his own scarf. When he arrives home, he tells his wife what happened. The old woman approves of what her husband has done. The couple celebrate the New Year with the simple food they usually eat and go to bed early. During the night they are rewarded by the statues of Jizo.

How the Witch Was Eaten Up

A young apprentice in a mountain temple goes off to visit an old woman, despite the priest’s warnings that she might be a witch. The woman does, indeed, turn out to be a wicked witch, but the boy, with the help of three paper charms and the old priest, manages to outwit her.

How the Years Were Named

The Emperor of China decides to give each year the name of an animal. The wise wizard chooses twelve and holds a race to decide the order of the names. This story is one of several versions that tell how the years of the twelve-year cycle used in East Asia were named after various animals.

Kon and Pon (Part 1)

Kon, a little fox, and Pon, a little raccoon dog, live in the mountains, on different sides of a river. Their families have never gotten along, but Kon and Pon’s friendship changes everything.

Kon and Pon (Part 2)

Kon, a little fox, and Pon, a little raccoon dog, live in the mountains, on different sides of a river. Their families have never gotten along, but Kon and Pon’s friendship changes everything.

Little Chick

Learning who you are and the importance of being cared for are the underlying themes of this delightful and beautifully illustrated tale for the very young.

The Little Crab

A little crab is allowed to go out alone in the ocean for the first time but is warned by his mother not to use his claws mischievously. This story tells about the little crab’s adventures, which begin when he disobeys his mother and end when he helps others. The themes of this story are personal responsibility and the importance of choosing to use one’s abilities to be helpful, not harmful.

Momotaro, the Peach Boy

One of Japan’s most popular and enduring folk-tales. A baby found inside a peach by an old couple grows into a boy of amazing strength. With the help of a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant, he rescues his village from ogres.

The Monkey and the Crab

A monkey and a crab trade a persimmon seed and a rice ball. After the crab plants the seed and the tree bears fruit, the monkey betrays the crab and steals the persimmons. The crab’s children, with the help of a bee, a chestnut, and others, take revenge on the monkey.

The Mother Cat

In the spring of 1996 in New York City, a mother cat bravely rescued all five of her kittens from a burning, abandoned building where they lived by returning to the building five separate times through an opening in the brick wall that was too small to permit a fireman to enter. This story was reported in the newspapers and on television around the world. This kamishibai memorializes that bravery.

The Mouse’s Wedding

Father Mouse wishes to arrange a marriage for his daughter with the mightiest creature in the world. He first approaches the Sun, then the Cloud, then the Wind and then the Wall. In the end he learns that the mouse is the mightiest of all. An amusing folktale of self-discovery.

The Ogre Who Sank Down to the Bottom of the Sea

A father ogre lives happily with his young son deep in the mountains. One day they meet an old man who tells them how great waves have washed many people of his village into the sea. When another storm threatens the village, the ogre rushes down to the beach to help the old man and the people of his village.

The Old Man and the Fox

In traditional Japanese folklore, the fox is a magically empowered, trickster animal. It often assumes the shape of a woman. In this story an old man happens upon a peacefully napping fox. The old man decides to play a trick on him but ends up learning a lesson himself! This comical, safely scary folktale delightfully illustrates the "Golden Rule."

The Old Man and the Mice

A kind old man befriends and feeds some mice, who then take him to their home. There he is treated to a feast and entertained. As a parting gift, the mice give him a magic mallet that, when shaken, pours out gold coins and other treasures. A greedy neighbor observes this and devises a plan to trick the mice out of their riches. For older children, this story serves as an excellent introduction to a discussion of how the same behavior can result from very different motives.

The Old Man Who Made the Trees Bloom

An old couple prospers because they are kind to their pet dog. When their greedy neighbor takes advantage of them, it only results in his misfortune.

The One-Inch Boy

An old, childless couple prays for a child. A one-inch son is born to them who never grows any larger. They care for him tenderly. Despite his size, when he reaches maturity, Issun-boshi goes out into the world to prove himself. He does not retreat from difficult situations but uses his knowledge and strength of character to prevail.

The Story of Tanabata

The Weaver Princess, who is responsible for weaving the fine cloth for the celestial deities, falls in love with the Herdsman who is responsible for looking after the celestial oxen. They marry, but begin to neglect their duties. This so angers the Heavenly Ruler that he separates them. Eventually, the Heavenly Ruler is moved by their heartbroken pleas and gives permission for the two lovers to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. This ancient folk legend was originally from China. The lovers are the stars Altair and Vega.

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow

A kind old man raises a sparrow, but his ill-tempered wife cuts off the bird’s tongue and sends it away. First the man and then the woman set off to look for the bird. He is rewarded for his kindness and humility and she, punished for her jealousy and greed.

The Tubmaker Who Flew to the Sky

While helping the Thunder God make rain, a Tubmaker falls through a hole in the clouds. The villagers work together to get him down from a very high tree with amusing results!

Urashima Taro

Urashima Taro, a fisherman, saves the life of a baby tortoise. The grateful mother tortoise rewards Taro with a visit to the Dragon King’s palace at the bottom of the sea. There he is welcomed and lavishly entertained by the Dragon King’s daughter, who wants Taro to stay with her forever. Taro grows homesick, however, and decides he must leave. The Princess gives him a beautiful box to take with him but warns him not to open it if he ever wants to see her again. Arriving at his home village, he finds everything changed and is unable to recognize anyone. Taro is completely bewildered, and in his despair he opens the box.