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Anne of Green Gables and Japan

M. Elizabeth DeBlois

M. Elizabeth DeBlois is with the L. M. Montgomery Institute at University of Prince Edward Island, Canada.


Anne of Green Gables was first published in English in 1908. The first translation of the book into Japanese was done by a woman by the name of Hanako Muraoka. She had been good friends with a missionary from New Brunswick named Miss Shaw. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Miss Shaw was ordered to return to Canada. Her parting gift to her good friend, Hanako, was her treasured copy of Anne of Green Gables. Hanako translated the book in secret during the war years. After the devastation of WWII, the Japanese were looking for optimistic, positive stories that would inspire people to persevere despite the terrible situations that many faced. There, just at that time, was Hanako Muraoka's manuscript. It was published in 1952. The book was very popular and readers took to Anne almost instantly. The book was added to the school curriculum sometime in the 1970's (I believe) and it remained there until recently.

Despite the distance, many Japanese have made the long trip to Prince Edward Island to see the places depicted in Montgomery's books. Some even choose to marry here in a special ceremony at the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush (the home of Montgomery's Campbell cousins), in the same room that Montgomery's marriage to Rev. Ewan Macdonald took place in 1911. The experience often concludes with wedding pictures taken by the North Shore cliffs and even down on Lovers' Lane in Cavendish.

The Japanese celebrated 50 years of Anne in 2002. As part of the anniversary, NHK, a large television network in Japan, sent a crew to Prince Edward Island to film and even to do a live broadcast from Green Gables House. This was a conference year for the L.M. Montgomery Institute and the crew wasted no time in coming to the opening keynote address, and even on our guided walk out at the Macneill Homestead where Montgomery grew up. CBC found out about the visiting camera crew, and so at one point we had CBC filming NHK filming the LMMI conference! Dr. Elizabeth Epperly, the founding chair of the L.M. Montgomery Institute and a renowned Montgomery scholar, was interviewed during the live broadcast to Japan which was shot at Green Gables House. It was quite an experience for all!

In 2004, the L.M. Montgomery Institute welcomed a visit from Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan and installed her as our International Patron. An extremely well-educated, well-spoken, creative and gracious woman, Her Imperial Highness is a wonderful symbol of the international spirit of imagination and friendship that is cultivated between readers of Montgomery from around the world. Like Montgomery, Her Imperial Highness is also a lover of nature and photography and has also written for children. Her book, Lulie the Iceberg, teaches about the importance of the arctic environment. It was adapted into a play and presented in Toronto a couple of years ago.

Last year, the L.M. Montgomery Institute was invited to participate in a special "Anne of Green Gables Day" at the Canadian Pavilion at Japan Expo in Aichi, Japan. The LMMI sent two representatives to take part in the celebration: Kate Macdonald Butler (L.M. Montgomery's grand-daughter) and Duncan McIntosh (member of the L.M. Montgomery Institute's International Advisory Board). They brought news to the Japanese media and public of the 2008 celebration of the 100th anniversary of Anne and invited everyone to join us on PEI in 2008 to celebrate. The also announced the addition of a Japanese translation of a beautiful online exhibition: "Picturing a Canadian Life: L.M. Montgomery's Personal Scrapbooks and Book Covers" (found at http://lmm.confederationcentre.com). Actress Jennifer Toulmin, who performed the role of Anne Shirley in the Charlottetown Festival's, Anne of Green Gables - the Musical, traveled to Japan to take part in the day. The lineup to get her autograph after her stage performance was over two hours long! A special luncheon was held in honour of "Anne Day" and Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado took part. It was wonderful to have her participation.

Volume 10, Issue 2 The Looking Glass 2 April, 2006

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"Anne of Green Gables and Japan"
© M. Elizabeth DeBlois, 2006.
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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

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