150-Year-Old Japanese Book Shows U.S. History as an Epic Mythology

A Japanese book from the 1800s features an alternate depiction of United States history in which historical American figures are capable of superhuman feats.

Written by Kanagaki Robun and illustrated by Utagawa Yoshitora near the end of The Edo Period in 1861, Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi (“Children’s Illustrated Tales from 10,000 Countries”) provides an interesting look at how Japan viewed the Western world at the time, reports SoraNews24.

The book, which was based on second-hand sources from Kaikoku Zushi (“Drawings of Foreign Countries”) and Amerika Ittōshi (“American Unified History”), was published some eight years after Commodore Perry forced Japan to end its 220-year-old policy of isolation in 1853.

Historian Nick Kapur recently posted some of the unintentionally hilarious illustrations from the book on his Twitter account.

George Washington, who is referred to in the book as “Father of the Country, Washington,” had his name spelled with the kanji for “story,” “holy,” and “east.” 

The second U.S. President John Adams is shown below killing a gigantic serpent:

Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin is shown here being able to lift a cannon with his bare hands during an epic battle:

A narrative from the book featured John Adam’s mother getting eaten by a snake:

When netizens asked why the Americans had such notable Asian facial features, Kapur explained that Japan was so isolated at the time that the illustrator simply had no idea what Westerners looked like.

Kapur’s thread, which has generated thousands of likes and retweets, offers just a glimpse of the fascinating book. Those who want to check out the entire book can visit the Waseda University digital archives here.

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