Children as Little Angels in Japanese Stories for Teachers

The Pedagogical Meaning of a Literary Trope

  • Pieter Van Lommel University of Tsukuba
Keywords: Japanese literature, Meiji period, elementary school teachers, pedagogy, educational periodical, Kyōikukai


During the 1890s and 1900s, Japanese primary education expanded at an unprecedented scale with the number of teachers growing from a mere 60,000 (1892) to 160,000 (1912). This mass of teachers formed a new readership and numerous educational periodicals were published specifically for them, not only providing educational philosophy and pedagogical instruction, but also literature. The short stories printed in many of these periodicals often depicted school children as little angels, pure and innocent, loving the teacher and in need of his guidance. These one-sided portrayals of children have been characterized as typical of the simple, moralistic nature of the short stories, which aimed at beautifying and idealizing the teaching profession. However, careful observation reveals significant variation between different stories and periodicals regarding the little angels’ function and meaning in the texts. This paper focuses on the portrayal of children in literary texts published in the periodical Kyōikukai in the first half of 1900s. By examining the pedagogical meaning underlying the depictions of children, it lays bare the more complex character of some of the stories, attesting to the multifaceted nature of both the teachers and their reading patterns.

Author Biography

Pieter Van Lommel, University of Tsukuba

Pieter Van Lommel is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan. He holds a Master’s degree in Dutch and English Language and Literature and a Master’s degree in Japanese Literature. His principal areas of research are Japanese literature and education in the late 19th and early 20th century. His doctoral studies were made possible by a research fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The article in this journal was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 16J01716.

How to Cite
Van Lommel, P. (2018). Children as Little Angels in Japanese Stories for Teachers. Japan Studies Association Journal, 15(1), 107-126. Retrieved from
New Voices in Japanese Studies