Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Totto-Chan The Little Girl in the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyangai

Totto-Chan The Little Girl in the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyangai (1981, 78 pages, translated by Dorothy Britton, 1984)

Memoir of a Tokyo WWII Childhood
by a Mass Media Super Star

Totto-Chan The Little Girl in the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyangai (1933-Tokyo) is the memoir of the elementary school years of Japan's first talk show host.    Tetso Kuroyangai is a media superstar in Japan.    The obvious comparison would be to refer to her as the Oprah Winfrey of Japan.    She has interviewed over 2000 people for her talk show which is the most popular and longest running such show on Japanese Television.    She  has achieved great success as an actress and an author.    What ever she says commands respect in the Japanese media.   This book is about her experiences as a student at a very special for its day elementary school in Tokyo with WWII as our background.

Totto-Chan The Little Girl in the Window  Totto-Chan The Little Girl in the Window was first published as a series of magazine articles.    When it was first published as a book it broke all records for book sales in Japan,  selling nearly Five Million copies.   It is written in a very simple fashion and might be best seen as young adult or almost a child's book.    Most Japanese schools in WWII were places of great discipline and memorization.    No "bad" behavior such as speaking out was tolerated at all.    Kuroyangai had just gotten expelled from her elementary school for talking to much in class.    Luckily for her she was not blamed by her parents.    They placed her in a school that went way out of its way to develop the personality of its students.    The book could be called "super heart warming",  and that maybe why it was such a best seller.    The chapters are all short and each one covers a different episode at the school.    The headmaster does seems like a wonderful educator and I would be happy to send a child to  his school.

I really found the few mentions of  how WWII intruded on the lives of the school and its students and faculty very interesting.    The students were taught that Americans were devils and told to prepare for American bombs.     It was very moving to see the young boys 12 and under in the school acting out the role of soldiers.    You could feel the heart break when the school was destroyed in a bombing raid.     The author attributes her success in life to her years at this school.

I was given a copy of this book by a very generous reader of my blog in New Delhi.   I would tell others to seek out a library copy if it sounds interesting to you.    I do not see it as a book I would suggest someone pay full prize for on Amazon.   It is fun but basically an insubstantial read probably achieving its status as a best seller from the high prestige of its author.    To most  readers, I would say if you cannot find away to read this nice book for free, then read something else.    I am glad I read it as I was curious to see why it would sell so many books.

Mel u


@parridhlantern said...

Thanks for highlighting this, it sounds something for the J-lit completist so I will take your advice & unless I see it free will leave it alone, again thanks.

Armchair_Archives said...

When I was going through a phase of researching progressive pedagogy and educational methods, I read this book and remember feeling very touched by reading a firsthand account of how traditional school can alienate a lot of children. I also felt very moved by the relationship between the schoolmaster and the children at Toto-chan's new school. I've since re-read it and really enjoyed it a second time.

Mel u said...

Parish-thanks as always-this book is only bordering on being literature but still and ok read

Marisa-thanks for your very interesting comments-I would be happy to send my daughters to the school in the memoir

Logan Murphy said...

Very cool. I have recently been very fascinated with Japan during the WWII period, and it was interesting to hear about a woman's success in a traditionally male dominated society.