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  • Monju-kun: Children’s Culture as Protest

    Noriko Manabe

    Chapter from the book: Frühstück S. & Walthall A. 2017. Child’s Play: Multi-Sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan.


    This chapter, by Noriko Manabe, discusses Monju-kun, a character that represents the Monju Fast Breeder Reactor as a helpless and sickly boy. The type of weakness personified by Monju-kun is one component of the cuteness aesthetic that dominates popular culture. Both propaganda and oppositional movements draw on tropes taken from children’s culture to engage audiences, for example, characters in manga and anime such as Astro Boy and Nobita of Doraemon. Monju-kun also arises from Japan’s push to naturalize nuclear power, but he emphasizes its dangers. Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident on March 11, 2011, Monju-kun’s creator decided that mothers and children needed better information than what they were getting from officials. With Monju-kun, he could explain radiation, the collusion between industry and government, and alternative energy solutions using childlike language. In this way, he takes advantage of the fact that many Japanese prefer to learn about complex issues through manga and from fictional childlike characters, or at least he did until the government decided to consider closing the reactor.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Manabe, N. 2017. Monju-kun: Children’s Culture as Protest. In: Frühstück S. & Walthall A (eds.), Child’s Play. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.40.n

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Oct. 10, 2017