Publication Date



This study investigated culturally authentic representations and perspectives on historical events and political issues presented in children’s picture books on Japanese culture. Our analysis of the representation of Japanese culture in the texts and illustrations was based on a sample of 37 children’s picture books written in English or English/Japanese and published in the United States between 1990-2016 for ages 3-8. The majority of the sampled books were found to portray a visible and concrete level of Japanese culture, including clothes, food, holidays, festivals, and traditional activities, some of which had outdated and inaccurate descriptions and illustrations. Social customs and behaviors described in the children’s books reflected traditional Japanese values and beliefs well, including respect, harmony, and Wabi Sabi. Books dealing with the crossing of different cultures showed conflicts, confusion, or identity issues in young Japanese protagonists who were often immigrant or biracial. Stories showing Japanese historical events/political issues as background included the voices of the Japanese/Japanese-Americans with their perspectives, instead of mainstream European/American perspectives. Cultural authenticity, going beyond the superficial level to include marginalization at cultural crossings, and the focalization of historical events and political issues portrayed/illustrated in children’s picture books are discussed.