| Kikansha Yaemon is one of the Iwanami Kodomo no Hon [Iwanami's Books for Young Children] series. (Together with Kodomo no Tomo [Children's Companion] series by Fukuinkan, Iwanami Kodomo no Hon is the forerunner of Japanese post-war picture book series.) This is the first original Japanese picture book with a vehicle as a protagonist. |
The story is about the fate of an old-fashioned locomotive, Yaemon. He lives in a small town and works every day though he is old and tired. He runs between the small town and a big city. At the station of the city, modern rail buss, an electric engine, and an express train all look down on old Yaemon. He gets very angry and scatters sparks of fire, which fly to a nearby stack of rice straw. People decide to scrap Yaemon as a punishment for the fire. However, a man from a transportation museum passes by and receives Yaemon as an exhibit of the museum.
Yaemon's various facial expressions are drawn by Okabe Fuyuhiko (1922 -), a cartoonist, in a light tough. Other vehicles also have faces. As Andô, a critic, pointed out, Okabe's pictures are quite different from pictures for children in pre-war period.
The story by Agawa Hiroyuki (1920 -) successfully drew a life story of an old being with the sadness of leaving off one stage of life, and the happy fate on another gaining popularity. Both authors' affection toward vehicles gives warmth to this book.
Iwanami Kodomo no Hon was, at first, a collection of translated picture books. Kikansha Yaemon was an example of Iwanami Shoten's attempt to create original Japanese picture books. To keep the price low, one-colored picture and full-colored picture come in turn, and the text was printed even on the inside covers.
Jingû Teruo, a critic, said that this is the creation of genuinely Japanese spirit, and is the first masterpiece of Japanese post-war picture books, while Andô criticized that the pictures do not have continuity.