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  • February 18, 2021

Kamishibai Project

Kamishibai Project

Kamishibai Project 1024 683 LA County Library

Kamishibai Project

Creative Strategist Artist-in-Residence

In 2018, LA County Library partnered with the LA County Department of Arts and Culture as a part of the Creative Strategist-Artist in Residence (Creative Strategist) program. The Creative Strategist program embeds artists in County departments to work alongside staff, project partners, and community stakeholders in a collaborative process to develop, strategize, promote, and implement artist-driven solutions to complex civic issues.

Artist Alan Nakagawa was selected from several applicants to be the Creative Strategist for the Library and conduct Kamishibai community workshops as well as training for Library staff in community-based engagement workshops. In 2020, Alan and LA-based poet Rocio Carlos developed training materials to provide Library staff with the information and training necessary to host and conduct their own Kamishibai workshops in the future, virtually or in libraries.

Learn more about the Creative Strategist program and all of the resulting projects at

What is Kamishibai?

Kamishibai is a vintage Japanese form of street theater and storytelling. Popular during the 1930s, Kamishibai storytellers would use illustrated boards placed inside a Kamishibai theater to tell a story. They would travel, sometimes on bikes, from place to place bringing their stories to people who would gather around to listen.

Kamishibai Library Stories

In 2018 and 2019, Alan worked with LA County Library to engage the community through the arts in five library locations. Using the vintage Japanese art of Kamishibai, Alan and LA-based poet Rocio Carlos led workshops with members of the community to develop collaborative original stories and illustrations. Alan designed and fabricated a Kamishibai theater for each workshop, which remain on display in each coinciding library, as well as a traveling Kamishibai theater bike for the Library. All of the original stories were duplicated and a copy of the entire collection was delivered to each of the five participating libraries.

Watch performances of the final stories created by Library community members:

Claremont Helen Renwick Library
Claremont Bees
Created by participants from the Friends of the Claremont Library, volunteers from the Sam and Alfreda Maloof foundation, and art students from Claremont High School. This Kamishibai theater was specially created by artist Lauren Verdugo at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation.

Clifton M. Brakensiek Library
150-Year-Old Tree
Created by members of the Kingdom Causes community center.

Quartz Hill Library
Princess Knight, Wolf, and the Alien
Created by students from the Antelope Valley Union High School District.

Topanga Library
Their Way Home
Created by students at Topanga Elementary Charter School.

Willowbrook Library
Willow Loves Willowbrook
Created by staff and community members at Willowbrook Library.

Mothra the Monarch
Sample story created by artists Alan Nakagawa, Rocio Carlos, and Ana Chaidez.

Artist Bios

Alan Nakagawa is an interdisciplinary artist primarily working with sound, occasionally incorporating video, sculpture, drawing, paint, performance, food, and perfumes. Nakagawa is currently the Creative Strategist Artist-in-Residence for LA County Library (2018-19) and Artist in Resident for California State University Dominguez Hills’ Praxis Art/ Ninomiya Photographic Archive (2018-19).

Rocío Carlos (she/they) is a poet from Los Ángeles. Her books include (the other house), Attendance, and A Universal History of Infamy: Those of This America. Her poems have appeared in Chaparral, Angel City Review, The Spiral Orb, and Cultural Weekly. She was selected as a 2003 Pen Center Emerging Voices fellow.

Additional Information


Kamishibai Man by Allen Say
After many years of retirement, an old Kamishibai man–a Japanese street performer who tells stories and sells candies–decides to make his rounds once more even though such entertainment declined after the advent of television.

Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater by Eric Peter Nash
Before giant robots, space ships, and masked super heroes filled the pages of Japanese comic books–known as manga–such characters were regularly seen on the streets of Japan in kamishibai stories. Explore the history of this fascinating and nearly vanished Japanese art form that paved the way for modern-day comic books, and is the missing link in the development of modern manga.

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