steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Land of the Rising Son?

My great-great-aunt Annie Robina Butler (pictured) wrote numerous children's books, mostly (if not all) on religious and more specifically on missionary themes. I'd seen lists of her works relating to various places round the globe, but it was only the other day I thought to seek out her Stories About Japan (1888). To my surprise, a rather nice reprint was to be had for less than £3, so I ordered it.

Annie Robina Butler

I've been reading a fair few books written around that time about Japan, and I find that Annie Robina uses quite a few of them in writing her own (she's quite candid about that). One important source is Isabella Bird's Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, which I've mentioned here before. Did Annie Robina know that just at the moment she was writing about Isabella Bird, Bird herself was in India with her little sister, Fannie Jane, and that together they were busy founding the John Bishop Memorial Hospital? She must have, surely? It seems too much of a coincidence.

No doubt I will end up writing about the way Annie Robina presents Japan to child readers when I come to write all this up in an academic context, but in the meantime let me share with you, via her, these illustrations from The Pilgrim's Progress, at that time recently translated into Japanese (in the late 1870s):

Mr Worldy WisemanChristian at the Wicket GateChristian and Hopeful in the Flatterers net

"The Japanese understand their meaning much better, and the book much more easily, than they would if the pictures were English," Annie Robina explains, adding: "Missionaries tell us that the people of Japan are getting to be just as fond of Bunyan's wonderful book as the people of England are."

I wonder if it's still much known in Japan? I must investigate.
Tags: family history, nippon notes, uk cl in japan
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