By pure chance I came across a book on display at the local public library titled Manga Kamishibai: The Art of the Japanese Paper Theater by Eric P Nash. It is a history of the paper theater art form from the 1930s to modern times. The visual management system for auditing standard work within the Toyota Production System gets its name from the same kamishibai. For those who are not familiar with this lean management tool I can recommend reading What is a Kamishibai? as well as One Point Lesson: Kamishibai.
The artwork, styles and subject matter of kamishibai are quite varied and even included news announcements such as the World War II US Occupation announcement of the new constitution of Japan, pictured below.
The kamishibai is still an active tool for early childhood education. Although it was rare, I have a few rare childhood memories of the kamishibai performer visiting our neighborhood in Japan on his bicycle to tell his stories.
There are fewer and fewer people who make their living creating or performing kamishibai in Japan. In the book Manga Kamishibai the author quotes one kamishibai peformer he met in the 1980s, Mr. Morishita:
“Kamishibai are a two-way street, as opposed to television, which is a one-way form of communication. Moreover, kamishibai are a source of moral teaching…television today has no moral emphasis…and it is something the children need.”
In the lean management system kamishibai also facilitates two way communication between the people who do the work and the leader who checks that standards are being maintained. As a way of reinforcing the elimination of waste and respect for people, perhaps we can say that it also serves as a form of moral teaching.Leader standard work, daily management, structured gemba walks with 5 why dialogues for teaching and problem solving are all elements that make the kamishibai system successful and lean transformations more sustainable. In the end thought it’s still about people and doing the right thing: morals and ethics. After more than 80 years the humble kamishibai man still has something to teach us.