| Tanuki Gakkô is a collection of short stories about the school life of humanized raccoon dog children. Japanese children in the 1950s are lively and humorously described in the raccoon dogs in this book. It was read for more than 30 years.|
The story tells what raccoon dog children -- Ponta, Ponkichi, Tanuko, Tanuhachi, Ponko, Ponsaburô -- and their teacher Mr. Pon did at school. It consists of four chapters; "Shukudai no Maki" [Homework], "Sôji no Maki" [Cleaning], "Kinobori no Maki" [Climbing a Tree], and "Shiken no Maki" [Examination]. Each chapter has three to five sections. In "Shukudai no Maki," Ponta and his friends boycott homework because they are tired of writing Chinese characters which they already know well repeatedly. Mr. Pon makes Ponta and others stay at school longer than other pupils as punishment. After knowing the reason of their boycott, however, Mr. Pon learns the defect of his homework and thinks of something more useful: creative writing. In "Sôji no Maki," children learn to cooperate. In "Kinobori no Maki," they are taught how to climb a tree by Mr. Squirrel and go to see Ponta's human friend Takeo at night. In "Shiken no Maki," they have an exam to see their ability in thinking. They all pass, and graduate.
Imai Takajirô (1906 - 1977) used to teach at elementary schools for a long time. Tanuki Gakkô shows well his view on children and an ideal of education in the post-war period. He emphasized the importance of creative writing for children, which is well seen in this book. The raccoon dog children in this book are active and mischievous, and do many things without hesitation. Teachers accept children and try to cultivate their potential capacities. Raccoon dog children always have their own viewpoint. Their activities are described in short and amusing easy-to-read sentences. Even conflicts between the children's way of thinking and that of adults are conveyed with humor. These are the elements that made this story popular to many child readers for more than 30 years.
Except for "Yamaimo Hori" [Digging up yams], the final section, Tanuki Gakkô first appeared in the magazine Nihon no Kodomo [Japanese Children]. When it was published in book form, a few changes or deletions were done, and the illustrations were completely renewed. (They were drawn by Yasu Tai both in the magazine and book versions.)
When Tanuki Gakkô was published, teachers and critics rated this book rather low, claiming that the teachers and children in this work were portrayed offensively, or that this work has little literary value. However, child readers' support changed the evaluation of adults. It was made into a puppet play by Hitomi-za, and into a kamishibai by Dôshinsha with pictures by Wada Yoshizô.