Congress Report: 18th Biennial Congress in Kyoto, Japan

Power and Children's Literature: Past, Present and Future

The ancient and beautiful city of Kyoto made a perfect setting for the 18th IRSCL Congress. In addition to a busy programme of keynote lectures, concurrent sessions, film evenings, excursions and social events, participants enjoyed experiences which taught them much about Japanese cultural traditions.

Kyoto International Conference Hall

The Congress was held at the Kyoto International Conference Hall with its tranquil gardens and excellent organisation. About 400 participants attended from more than 25 countries. We heard the following keynote lectures: Tadashi Matsui, on "Picture Books: Past, Present and Future"; Nishi Masahiko, on "Children's Literature and Starvation," Susan Napier, on "Dreams and Nightmares: A Children's View of the World through Anime"; and Roberta Seelinger Trites, on "Power and its Manifestations in Literature for Youth." These keynotes were supplemented by a plenary discussion by the author-illustrator Ryoji Arai, winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and a plenary symposium by Megumi Okuyama, Tsuyoshi Meguro and Tomoko Narumi, on "Children's Literature in Postwar Japan: From a Japanese/Asian Perspective."

At the reception on the first night of the Congress, participants enjoyed watching a Kamishibai play, a style of storytelling using picture cards which has been popular in Japan since the 1920s. During the reception the winner of the IRSCL Award and the Research Grant were announced. The IRSCL Award was won by Torben Weinreich of Denmark, for his history of Danish children's literature, Historien om børnelitteratur: dansk børnelitteratur gennem 400 år [The History of Children's Literature: Danish Children's Literature Through 400 Years]. The Honour Book was Astrid Surmatz's study of Astrid Lindgren's "Pippi Longstocking" books and their reception in Germany, Pippi Långstrump als Paradigma: Die deutsche Rezeption Astrid Lindgrens und ihr internationaler Kontext [Pippi Longstocking in Translation: The German Reception and the International Contexts]. Another important announcement at the reception was that Anto Thomas Chakramakkil, from India, was awarded the IRSCL Research Grant for his project "Alice in India: Translations and Reception of Alice in Wonderland into Indian Languages, and the Development of Children's Literature in India."

Anto Thomas Chakramakkil

One of the most successful features of the Congress was the poster session, when twelve scholars presented work in progress and discussed their projects with the interested participants who gathered around each poster presentation. Concurrent sessions covered many facets of the conference theme, including theories of power and children's texts, cultural and historical inflexions, genre studies and the intersections of power, gender and sexuality. In addition to the conventional genres of picture book and novel, many papers focused on Japanese anime and Manga, and on narratives mediated through computer games.

2007 IRSCL Congress Poster Session

When participants collected their Congress packages, they received a card which entitled them to receive a Japanese picture book included in the Modern Japanese Picture Books Exhibition arranged by the IRSCL Japan Committee, which included more than 300 picture books. At the end of the Congress they claimed their book as a souvenir of the Congress. Here are some comments by participants, about the Picture Books Exhibition:

  • Beautiful picture books! They can say so much. (Cherie Imlah, Australia)
  • Thank you - arigato - for this beautiful exhibition. It is wonderful to experience the richness of children's culture in Japan in this way. It is a feast. (Amanda Piesse, Ireland)
  • Thank you for your exhibition and help with Origami! Lovely and enjoyable. (Rachel Johnson, UK)
  • Thank you for adding the original art to the extensive picture book collection. Arai Ryoji's work, after hearing his speech, comes alive. (Karen Hoyle, USA)
  • This is a terrific exhibition. I like it very much. Thank you so much!! (Liu Yu-Chi, Taiwan & Australia)
  • Thank you for your wonderful exhibition. Good chance for learning Japanese children's books. (Jo Hea-Soog, Korea)
  • Thank you for the picture book exhibition. Excellent! You have an excellent tradition of publishing picture books. (Anto Thomas Chakramakkil, India)
  • Thank you very much for the interesting picture books exhibition! And for the books I will get and for the nice paper bag I have already gotten! I have realized that Japan has really many interesting picture books also for the youngest children. I am very much impressed! (Pia Cronholm, Sweden)
  • Thank you for this wonderful exhibition. Again I see the sophistication of Japanese artistic styles. (Hui-Ling Huang, Taiwan)
  • Thank you for this good exhibition and the surprise gift-book for us. (Mei-Man Huang, Taiwan)
  • This was a fabulous experience - thank you so much. (Roxanne Harde, Canada)
  • This is a very successful exhibition, which gives me a lot of knowledge about Japanese picture books!! Thanks for everything! (Chen-Wei Yu, Taiwan)
  • A wonderful exhibition to accompany an unforgettable conference! I will remember you in Belgium! Thank you. (Vanessa Joosen, Belgium)
  • Thank you for the exciting exhibition. I have always admired the quality and craftsmanship of Japanese books (illustrations, printings and bindings)! (Anne de Vries, Netherlands)
  • Thank you for the exciting exhibition and a wonderful picture book to take home to my children. (Satu Grünthal, Finland)

Participants chose between two tours: to the International Institute for Children's Literature in Osaka, where those attending heard short presentations on picture books from throughout the world; and to Mount Hiei, where they visited temples and enjoyed Lenten fare. Applicants also enjoyed a guided tour at the nearby Kyoto International Manga Museum. And an animation film evening provided a wonderful opportunity to see films which are not often available outside Japan.

IRSCL Delegates Enjoying Lenten Fare

The banquet, held on the last night of the Congress, was a memorable and happy evening. Traditional Japanese music was provided by the Traditional Japanese Music Club of Doshisha University.

Traditional Japanese Music Club of Doshisha University

During the banquet Kim Reynolds, the outgoing President, announced that the Board had decided to honour Anne Scott MacLeod and Ann Lawson-Lucas as IRSCL Fellows.

Kimberley Reynolds

The success of the Kyoto Congress was due in large part to the dedicated group who formed the Japan Organizing Committee. From 2003 to 2005 Junko Yoshida was the Chairperson of this Committee; from 2005 Tomoko Masaki filled this role, with Assistant Chairpersons Ariko Kawabata and Junko Nishimura.

Tomolo Masaki with Kimberley Reynolds

Members of the Organizing Committee came from many parts of Japan, and took responsibility for the many components which make a successful Congress. Thanks go to the generous sponsors and supporters of the Congress, especially the Commemorative Organization for the Japan World Exposition '70, the Association for Studies of Picture Books, the International Institute for Children's Literature, Osaka, the Japan Society for Children's Literature, the Japan Society for Children's Literature in English, the Lewis Carroll Society of Japan, the Mother Goose Society of Japan, and Seiwa College.