In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, rare research artifacts will be highlighted, specifically two color print books, “Momotaro” (1940 reprint) and “Urashima” (1886) from the Japanese Fairy Tale series. These works will be on display at the William H. Hannon Library in the Terrance L. Mahan S.J. Gallery reading room on level 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.
Takejiro Hasegawa published the picture books in English with unique woodblock illustration and text printers, emphasizing both the visual and text as important methods to tell the narrative. A young boy born from a peach begins his adventures in the mythological tale of “Momotaro.” The second book, “Urashima” is one of several new acquisitions from the Japanese Fairy Tales series at Hannon Library. The story follows a young fisherman who rescues a turtle and travels on a miraculous journey until old age.
“Momotaro” (No. 1) and “Urashima” (No. 8) were created with remarkable collaboration between Japan and the United States, particularly among the publisher Takejiro Hasegawa, the artist Kobayashi Eitaku, and English translators David Thompson and Basil Hall (B. H.) Chamberlain. More than a dozen translators worked with Hasegawa to publish the Japanese Fairy Tale series, which allowed an audience to access the stories beyond Japan. This creative partnership created exquisite objects in motion during the 19th century. The manuscripts are artifacts of migration and document the exchanges between Japan and the United States. The books were printed in Japan and last traveled to Los Angeles, which are now held at the library.
According to Rachel Wen-Paloutzian, Instruction Librarian of Archives and Special Collections, “Momotaro” was donated to the Hannon Library in 1995 as part of the Robert and Miriam Kinsey Collection. The manuscript “inspired us to acquire additional volumes in the Japanese Fairy Tales series to further tell stories of some of the netsuke in our collection and Meiji-period woodblock-printed books,” Wen-Paloutzian said.
Opportunities for students to closely engage and examine these rare artifacts are offered through LMU’s Archives and Special Collections classroom instruction sessions. Students have tactile experiences with artifacts under the guidance of the librarian and faculty, a student-centered approach that uses objects to facilitate engaged learning. One visit is always integrated into my course “Asian Mythology,” taught every semester.
Similar to the collaborative process that produced the print books, special collection visits require a collective effort among faculty, librarians and students. Artifacts related to Asian mythology are exhibited in four rotating stations. In small groups, students observe, investigate and discuss what they encounter. During the in-class activity, students rotate to different stations in ensure that everyone has the opportunity to examine the objects. Upon visiting the last station, students share one or two observations with the entire class. The visit is only possible with collaborative exchanges among myself, Wen-Paloutzian, and students. Images of the artifacts posted on Padlet and a digital handout are available for students after the conclusion of the session.
Inspired by the theme of international and cultural exchanges, a new Interdisciplinary Connections course, APAM 4998/ARHS 4398: “Asian American Visual Culture and Art” will be offered in fall 2022. Rethinking the exchanges and connections between Asia and the U.S., the course examines Asian American artists with an emphasis on the tensions among history, migration, memory, and performance. We honor and recognize the past and present artistic and creative contributions of Asian Pacific Americans in the United States.
Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970, Stanford University Press, 2008.
Chiu, Melissa, Karin M. Higa, Susette S. Min, Margo Machida, and Helen Zia, editors. One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2006.
James, T H, Basil H. Chamberlain, and Helen Witherbee. Collection of Japanese Fairy Tales: No. 1-20. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 17 Kami Negishi, 1880.
Sharf, Frederic A. Takejiro Hasegawa: Meiji Japan’s Preeminent Publisher of Wood-Block-Illustrated Crepe-Paper Books: Takejiro Hasegawa: an Innovative Publisher of Meiji Japan. Salem, Mass, 1994.
Momotaro. David Thompson, trans. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1940.
Urashima, Chamberlain, Basil H, trans. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1886.
By Mya Chau, Asian and Pacific Studies, and Asian Pacific American Studies