Starving Elephants for Propaganda
The slaughter of animals in wartime Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo
Frederick S. LITTEN
(Munich/Germany; September 2009)
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://litten.de/engl.htm
“Speaking of wartime Ueno Zoo, what comes to your mind? ‘The elephants were killed!’ Yes, that’s right.” So begins Sayônara Kaba-kun (Farewell, Hippo; Saotome, 1989), a picture book for grade school children.
There are numerous Japanese depictions and stories of the wartime slaughter of animals at Ueno Zoo: from the enormously popular and influential picture book Kawaisôna Zô (The Pitiful lephants) (Tsuchiya & Takebe, 2009)–originally published by TSUCHIYA Yukio as a short story for children in 1951, then as a picture book in 1970 with 163 editions to date–to the recent TV drama Zô no Hanako (The Elephants Hanako; Kôno & Terada, 2007). The story has also travelled outside Japan, with two English and one French translations of
Kawaisôna Zô1. Most of these depictions portray the slaughter of the animals as motivated by the wish to protect humans from more or less immediate danger and accept the starvation of the elephants as unavoidable. Scholarly studies have been published so far only in Japanese and tend to be critical only in some points (e.g., Hasegawa, 2000; originally published in 1981), if at all.