Date of Thesis

Spring 2012


In this thesis, I examine the influences of westernization, the tension between Japanese modernity and tradition, and the stories of Hans Christian Andersen on Ogawa Mimei’s children’s stories. I begin the body of my thesis with a brief historical background of Japan, beginning with the start of the Meiji period in 1868. Within the historical section, I focus on societal and cultural elements and changes that pertain to my thesis. I also include the introduction of Hans Christian Andersen in Japan. I wrap up the historical section by a description of Ogawa’s involvement in the Japanese proletarian literature movement and the rise of the Japanese proletarian children’s literature movement. Then, I launch into an analysis of Ogawa’s works categorized by thematic elements. These elements include westernization, class conflict, nature and civilization, religion and morals, and children and childhood. When relevant, I also compare and contrast Ogawa’s stories with Andersen’s. In the westernization section, I show how some of Ogawa’s stories demonstrate contact between Japan and the West. In the Class Conflict section, I discuss how Ogawa views class through a socialist lens, whereas Andersen does not dispute class distinctions, but encourages his readers to attempt an upward social climb. In the nature and civilization section, I show how Ogawa and Andersen share common opinions on the impact of civilization on nature. In the religion and morals section, I show how Ogawa incorporates religion, including Christianity, into vii his works. Andersen utilizes religion in a more overt manner in order to convey morals to his audience. Both authors address religious topics like the concept of the afterlife. Finally, in children and childhood, I demonstrate how both Ogawa and Andersen treat their child protagonists and use them and their situations to instruct their readers. Through this case study, I show how westernization and the tensions between Japanese modernization and tradition led to the rise of the proletarian children’s literature movement, which is exemplified by Ogawa’s stories. The emergence of the proletarian children’s literature movement is an indication of the establishment of a new concept of childhood in Japan. Writers like Ogawa Mimei attempted to write children’s stories that represented the new Japanese culture that was a result of adapting Western ideals to fit Japanese society. Some of Ogawa’s stories are a direct commentary on his opinion of Japanese interaction with the West. By comparing Ogawa’s and Andersen’s stories, I demonstrate how Ogawa borrows certain Western elements and possibly responds directly to Andersen. Ogawa also addresses some of the same topics as Andersen, yet their reactions are not always the same. What I find in my analysis supports my thesis that Ogawa is able to maintain Japanese tradition while infusing his children’s stories with Western and modern elements. In doing so, he reflects a largely popular social and cultural practice of his time.


Ogawa Mimei, Childhood, Children's Stories, Westernization, Japanese Modernization

Access Type

Honors Thesis


Comparative Humanities

First Advisor

James Mark Shields

Second Advisor

Katherine Faull