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Kamishibai Propaganda Plays

Presented here are digitized versions of 52 kamishibai plays created between 1938 and 1945, from the collection of Professor Sharalyn Orbaugh of the Department of Asian Studies at UBC. The great majority of the plays were produced by the Nippon Kyōiku Kamishibai Kyōkai (Japanese Association for Educational Kamishibai), a quasi-governmental organization charged with producing plays in support of Japanese government policies, to be performed domestically and throughout the Japanese Empire and conquered territories. Each play consists of 15-20 cards with a script on one side and lithographed color illustration on the other, often including explicit instructions for the performer or explanations of the play’s intended effect. Some plays include handwritten emendations to the script. 

Several of the plays have scripts in two languages, such as Japanese and Korean, indicating the composition of the intended audiences. Many were commissioned and sponsored by particular organizations: the Army Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Taisei Yokusan Kai (Imperial Rule Assistance Association), the Gunji Hogoin (Military Relief Association), the Japanese Hygiene Association, the Central Committee of the Production Union, and many others. A few of the plays were winning entries in patriotic script contests sponsored by national newspapers. 

The digitization of these rare and fragile materials was made possible by a generous grant from the Toshiba International Foundation (TIFO), with additional funding from the Office of the Dean of Arts and the Department of Asian Studies at UBC. The process of preparing metadata and obtaining permissions was accomplished by Ai Yamamoto, PhD student in Asian Studies, under the guidance of Tomoko Kitayama-Yen, Japanese Librarian in UBC’s Asian Library. The digitization process was ably managed by Marina Botnaru (Digital Initiatives Assistant), Anne Lama (Conservator) performed miraculous conservation work on the play-cards, and Mimi Lam (Digital Projects Librarian) oversaw the project.