Japanoscope Translations Podcast #1 An Abridged English Translation of Chichan no Kageokuri (Chii and the shadow game) ちいちゃんのかげおくり英語訳

An abridged version of the classic story chichan no kageokuri for Japanese Reading Practice

About The Author

Kimiko Anma

Kimiko Anma lived in China as a child during WWII. She returned to her country at the age of 19, after Japan’s defeat.

Several of her works are featured in elementary school textbooks in Japan and are thus read by millions of Japanese children every year. Her stories combine Japanese cultural sensibilities with a nod to classic children’s storytelling from around the world. Her stories are influenced by authors such as Kenji Miyazawa.

Chichan’s Shadow Game is the tragic and deeply moving tale of child’s view of the hardships of war. It is told in a matter-of-fact, quasi-objective way that somehow makes the tragedy all the more moving.

When I came across this in my child’s reading book when he was in grade 3 at Japanese school, I was truely shocked by the somewhat brutal, though deeply touching, nature of the story I was being asked to read my child. I have noticed that there no shortage of such dark, lest-we-forget, type tales in the literature being taught Japanese children. The Japanese are less squeemish about this than much of the English speaking world.

Japanese Reading Difficulty

3/12 Approximately Elementary Grade 3 level in Japan


War, children, short stories

9784251030115: Chii-chan no kageokuri











































































Chii’s Shadow Game

By Kimiko Anma

Translated and abridged by Peter Head

Chii first learnt about the game called  “Kageokuri” from her dad.

The day before her father’s deployment to war, Chii’s Dad took Chii with her brother, and her mother, to visit the ancestral graves. On the way, he looked up at the blue sky and muttered. “This is the perfect sky for doing Kageokuri”

“Kageokuri”, repeated Chii’s brother.

“What’s Kagekuri?”, asked Chi.

“Well, you stare at shadow for a while, you count to ten and then look in the sky. You’ll find that the shape of the shadow you have been looking at is projected in the sky before your very eyes.” explained the dad.

“Your mum and I used to play when we were kids.”

The mother interjected, “Hey. Why don’t we all try it now!”

With that, the four joined hands, with Chii and his brother on the inside, and everyone stared down at their shadows.

“Don’t blink!”, said the mother.

“We won’t”, replied the children.


“One, two, three”, said the father.

“Four, five, six”, joined in the mother.

“Seven, eight, nine”, chimed in Chii and her brother.



The family turned their eyes to the sky and saw four white shapes projected there.


Said Chii’s brother.

“Wow!” said Chii.

“Well, that will be today’s commemoration photo” said the father.

The next day, sent off by the waving of the rising sun flags and with a white cord strung diagonally across his body the father boarded a train.

Chii’s ears were close enough to hear her mother say, “I can’t believe even my weak husband now has to go and fight”

Chii and her brother came to play kageokuri regularly. They played kageokuri as they sent their father off, swinging their arms in the sky to “Banzai!”. 


One night in early summer, Chii’s household was awoken by an air-raid siren.
“It’s time to move”
Chii heard her mother’s voice.

Outside, many red flames were already rising in the night sky.
Chii’s mum took Chii and her brother’s hands and ran.

But Chii was overtaken by other’s running, bumping into her, and overtaking her once again. She was separated from her mother.

“Mum, mum.”, she yelled.
Chii was alone.
That night, she slept amongst a crowd of strangers.
Morning came. The appearance of the town had changed completely. Smoke lingered here and there. Where is home?

The house was fallen and gone.
That night, Chii ate a little bit of dried rice from a duffel bag. She slept in a dark air-raid shelter.
“I’m sure my mum and brother will come back”
The cloudy morning came, the day went by, and the dark night came. Chii took a few bites of her dried rice and once again slept in the broken air raid shelter.

She awoke to a bright light on her face.
“It’s so bright”
Chii felt a strange combination of hot and cold. Her throat was badly parched. Somehow, the sun had risen high in the sky.
At that moment, she heard her father’s voice from somewhere above her, as if he was calling to her from the sky.
“This is the perfect sky for doing Kageokuri”


“Why don’t we do it all together?”, joined in her mother’s voice from the sky too.
Chii stood up with shaky legs, and started counting, staring at a single shadow.

“One, two, three, four.” 
Before she knew it, she could hear her father’s low voice joining in. 

“four, five, six”

Next, the higher voice of her mother joined in.

“7, 8, 9”

The soft voice of her brother joined too.
Chii looked to the sky. She saw there are four distinct white shadows outlined above her. 
“Dad!”, she cried.
“Mum, brother”.

In that second, she found that her body was becoming see through, as if it was being absorbed in the sky. 
Everything was the colour of sky. She stood in a flower garden the colour of sky. Around and around, all she could see was flowers.

The story in song

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).