"Magic Lantern" owned by the Theatre Museum
 Examples
Material number : 41501-735
Material number : 41501-742
Material number : 41501-674
Material number : 41501-631
The "Magic Lantern" is an image projector which had been used before the movie was made. It enlarges a painted or photographic image on a glass slide through its lens, and uses oil lumps, gas lamps, and, later, electric light to project it onto a screen. The Magic Lantern was invented and developed in the 17th century, and was introduced to Japan along with Christianity by the 18th century through trade. In the Edo era, "Utsushi-e," or a magic lantern picture, was created when the Magic Lantern was incorporated and used in various programs of "Yose." "Utshushi-e" is a visual culture peculiar to Japan where several "Utsushi-te," handling skillfully a wooden projector called "Huro," project moving images onto a screen. Utsushi-e was combined with colored slides, narration, and music, and such programs as "Sanbaso," "Daruma," "Kanjincho," and "Yotsuya Kaidan" were played.

In the Meiji era, on the one hand, the Magic Lantern came to be commonly used for educational purposes rather than for entertainment. The Magic Lantern was then called "Gento," and the (then) Ministry of Education, Science and Culture promoted its lending to and use at school as an image projector in class. During the 20's of the Meiji era when private enterprises began to sell cheaper projectors, the Magic Lantern was used at almost all schools. Besides educational purposes, on the other hand, Gento slides with painted or photographic images of ancient stories ―― sometimes played with an enlightening narration, sometimes with a comedic narration ―― became more and more popular, and also played a pioneering role in "broadcasting" the situation of the 1888 eruption of Mount Bandai, the First Sino-Japanese War, and the Russo-Japanese War with vivid images and a narration. Gento slides that were made as souvenirs or toys still show us the customs and sceneries in old times. This popularity of Gento, also known as "Gento-netsu," is recorded in the works of famous novelists who spent their childhood in the Meiji era, such as Edogawa Ranpo, Kaoru Osanai, and Ryunosuke Akutagawa, which implies that Gento-netsu prepared the way for the rapid spread of cinematograph in Japan that was introduced later.

Through nearly 2,000 materials on the history of pre-cinema owned by the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, we will witness the essence of the Japanese visual culture which existed before the movie came along. More than 1,200 Gento slides have been digitized and are now available for public access. We strongly hope that digitally archived Gento slides which are now made available for public viewing will help and assist not only the researchers in Film・Movie studies, Media studies, Art History, or Cultural History, but also all who are interested in the Japanese visual culture. The Gento materials, which show the diversity of the pre-cinema Japanese visual culture, will shed light on today's society from a different perspective in which the framework of "movie" has begun to change and different styles of visual images have come to reorganize our contemporary life.
*This time a provisional version is made available for open access. A database with more detailed information will be available at the end of fiscal 2014.

*The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum gathers information about Gento-ki and Gento slides in order to create a more detailed database and to protect and preserve Gento-related materials. If you have any information (title, published year, publisher, etc.) about the Gento slides or Gento-ki, or if you want to donate or deposit any Gento-related materials, please contact us at enpaku-archives@list.waseda.jp


Update History
 Jul 30, 2014 Test created.