Monday, May 18, 2009

Japanese Government Railways Tourist Library

A recent post at A Journey Round My Skull reminded me about these pamphlets, which were published in the 1930s and early '40s as part of efforts by the Board of Tourist Industries of the state-owned Japanese Government Railways to promote travel in the country.

Joseph Rogala's A Collector's Guide to Books on Japan in English (Routledge, 2001) describes the series:

"One of the better short essay series on specific cultural information on Japan. Most are still available, not only in rare book stores but in used book stores as well. The first of the series, Tea Cult of Japan, was published in 1934; the last, Japanese National Character, No. 40, coming out in 1942. Some of the latter numbered booklets - thirty-five to forty - are more difficult to find, particularly number thirty-nine, Hand-made Paper of Japan. Many of the authors of these little gems have published other books in their specialties. Subsequent editions, most in hard cover, were published after the war. [...] Some of these little booklets were issued with onion paper covers, though most are now found without them."

The following editorial note was included at the beginning of some or all of the volumes:

"It is a common desire of tourists to learn something of the customs, manners, and culture of the countries they visit, but flying visits merely for sightseeing furnish neither the time nor opportunity for more than a passing acquaintance with the life of the people. The Board of Tourist Industry recognizes this difficulty and is endeavoring to meet it by publishing this series of brochures.

"The present series will, when completed, consist of more than a hundred volumes, each dealing with a different subject, but all co-ordinated. By studying the entire series the foreign student of Japan will, we hope, gain a general knowledge of the country and its people."

Once Japan was at war with all of the major English-speaking countries there was obviously no point in continuing to issue further volumes, and the project was abandoned well short of the projected hundred. In the list that follows I have not attempted to reproduce the diacriticals over some of the vowels, and I have left some spellings (i.e. "Hirosige") as they originally appeared in lists found within the volumes.

1. Tea Cult of Japan by Y. Fukuhita, B.A.
2. Japanese Noh Plays by Prof. T. Nogami, D. Litt.
3. Sakura (Japanese Cherry) by M. Miyosi, D. Sc.
4. Japanese Gardens by Prof. M. Tatui
5. Hirosige and Japanese Landscapes by Prof. Yone Noguti, D. Litt.
6. Japanese Drama by B. T. I. (sic)
7. Japanese Architecture by Prof. H. Kisada, D. Sc.
8. What is Shinto? by Prof. G. Kato, D. Litt.
9. Castles in Japan by Prof. S. Orui, D. Litt. and Prof. M. Toba
10. Hot Springs in Japan by Prof. K. Huzinami, M. D.
11. Floral Art of Japan by Issotei Nisikawa
12. Children's Days in Japan by Z. T. Iwado, B. A.
13. Kimono (Japanese Dress) by Ken-iti Kawakatu
14. Japanese Food by Prof. Kaneko Tezuka
15. Japanese Music by Katsumi Sunaga
16. Zyudo (Zyuzyutu) by Zigoro Kano
17. Family Life in Japan by Syunkiti Akimoto
18. Scenery of Japan by T. Tamura, D. Sc.
19. Japanese Education by Prof. K. Yosida, D. Litt. and Prof. T. Kaigo
20. Floral Calendar of Japan by T. Makino, D. Sc. and Genziro Oka
21. Japanese Buddhism by Prof. D. T. Suzuki, D. Litt.
22. Odori (Japanese Dance) by Kasyo Matida
23. Kabuki Drama by Syutaro Miyake
24. Japanese Wood-Block Prints by Prof. S. Huzikake, D. Litt.
25. History of Japan by Prof. K. Nakamura, D. Litt.
26. Japanese Folk-Toys by Tekiho Nisizawa
27. Japanese Game of "Go" bu Hukumensi Mihori
28. Japanese Coiffure by R. Saito, D. Litt
29. Japanese Sculpture by Seiroku Noma
30. Japanese Postage Stamps by Yokiti Yamamoto
31. Japan's Ancient Armor by Hatiro Yamagami
32. Angling in Japan by Meizi Matuzaki
33. Japanese Proverbs by Otoo Huzui, D. Litt.
34, Sumo (Japanese Wrestling) by Kozo Hikoyama
35. Japanese Birds by Prince Nobosuke Takatukasa
36. Ainu Life and Legends by Kyosuke Kindaiti, D. Litt.
37. Japanese Family Crests by Yuzura Okada
38. Japanese Industrial Arts by Seiiti Okuda
39. Hand-Made Paper of Japan by Bunsyo Zyugaku
40. Japanese National Character by N. Hasegawa

D. T. Suzuki's name leaps out as probably the most familiar one to Western audiences, but the writers in general appear to have been recognized authorities rather than hacks. There's no indication, at least in the volumes I've examined, of who was responsible for the translations.

The papermaking volume -- which isn't as hard to come by as Joseph Rogala suggests -- features some nice sepia-toned photos as well as tipped-in paper samples such as the one on the left-hand page below. It's not as elaborate as Dard Hunter's limited-edition A Paper-making Pilgrimage to Japan, Korea and China (which is mentioned in the bibliography of the Tourist Library pamphlet), but it's a not a bad little book itself.

The approach, or at least the terminology, in the Ainu volume may now strike us as, well, a little quaint:

"What is, then, the constitutional characteristic of the Ainu? The most conspicuous is, as is commonly believed, that he is hairy. This used once exaggeratedly [sic] to be reported, but it has been proved that he is neither more nor less hairy than the white man. Many Ainu people have wavy hair, but some straight black hair. Very few of them have wavy brownish hair. Their skins are generally reported to be light brown. But this is due to the fact that they labor on the sea and in briny winds all day. Old people who have long desisted from their outdoor work are often found to be as white as western men. The Ainu have broad faces, beetling eyebrows, and large sunken eyes, which are generally horizontal and of the so-called European type. Eyes of the Mongolian type are hardly found among them. In view of these points some scholars are of opinion that the Ainu are a white race. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that this opinion is gradually gaining ground among ethnologists."

At least a small number of these books have been reprinted within the last years by Routledge, although the price (around $160) is likely to deter most buyers.

Also published by the Tourist Board although not actually numbered as part of the series is the little book on Shinto shrines shown below, which unlike the other pamphlets is bound according to the traditional Japanese method. That is, the trimmed edges of the signatures are tied together with a ribbon, leaving the foredges uncut and the hidden versos of each numbered page blank. As is the case with the Tourist Library books, the cover illustration is pasted on rather than printed on the cover wrapper itself.

In hindsight, of course, these books take on an added significance, given that they were being published as Japan was expanding its empire in Asia and preparing for war with the US and Britain. The impulse behind their publication was not necessarily in conflict with those other developments, in which, naturally, the Japanese Government Railways was also very involved. Still, it's hard not to see in them a hint of what might have been had events taken a different turn.

Update (2015): "Re-envisioning Japan: Japan as Destination in 20th-Century Visual and Material Culture," an online project at the University of Rochester, has a section devoted to the Tourist Library.


Will said...

I need to catch up on my blog reading! Somehow I missed this post.

Thanks for the story behind these pamphlets. Will definitely link here from the Takei Takeo post.

Anonymous said...

I have 10 tourist guides you mention in your blog some have the onion paper attached. I also have a couple of numbered guides between 35-40. Could you direct me in the right direction as to their worth please? Thanks!


Chris said...

I wouldn't be able to tell you but you can compare representative prices at Bookfinder.