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Yoshiko Uchida papers

Identifier: Ax 549

Scope and Contents note

The Yoshiko Uchida Papers are a useful resource for researchers interested in the publications of this prolific writer of children's books. Researchers interested in Uchida's personal life will not find many resources in this collection, while those who seek details about her professional life and a glimpse at multiple drafts of her books will be rewarded.

The Yoshiko Uchida Papers contains correspondence with publishers, reviews and publicity, fan correspondence, manuscripts, galley and page proofs, and some illustrations. Collection is organized into eighteen series. To preserve the original order of the collection, the papers have been arranged according to book title in chronological order. However, the galley and page proofs have been grouped into separate series because of their size and special storage requirements. The collection also contains miscellaneous publicity and correspondence that does not fall under a specific book title and is, therefore, grouped into a separate series. Finally, the collection also contains a bulletin and history of the Sycamore Congregational Church, to which Uchida's parents, Dwight and Iku Uchida, belonged and may be of special interest to those researchers who are interested in her family and community life.

The series named for her books (I-XIV) are organized with correspondence first, followed by reviews and publicity, and illustrations, where applicable, and ends with the manuscripts. All manuscripts over 60 pages have been divided into two folders to avoid damage to the documents. Outgoing correspondence and incoming correspondence is divided into two categories; the first grouping is by managing editor in chronological order, and the second is labeled "miscellaneous" and combines the remainder of the correspondence, arranged alphabetically by last name. This form of organization represents a departure from the original arrangement; however, it reflects both Uchida's large correspondence with her first editor, Margaret McElderry, and the change in editors and publishers over time. Fan correspondence has been arranged chronologically rather than alphabetically because of the large number of fan letters from school children, which would not fit easily into an alphabetical scheme.


  • 1948-1977


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Yoshiko Uchida was born on 24 November 1921 to Dwight and Iku Uchida in Alameda, California. Dwight Uchida immigrated to the United States in 1903 where he became a prominent member of the community and an active member in the Sycamore Congregational Church in El Cerrito, California. Dwight and Iku Uchida had graduated from Doshisha University, a Christian university, in Japan before immigrating to the United States.

Dwight and Iku Uchida's love of learning influenced both of their daughters, Yoshiko and Keiko ("Kay"), to pursue careers in education and writing. Yoshiko Uchida began writing stories at age ten. The Japanese rituals and customs of her Issei (first-generation) parents heavily influenced her formative years as she cultivated a love for Japanese folk tales. She has stressed that her childhood contained a balance of uniquely Japanese customs and a sense of curiosity and playfulness common to all children. Her books emphasize common bonds that transcend ethnic and cultural differences while remaining deeply rooted in a Japanese folk tradition.

The decision of the United States government to intern citizen and non-citizen Japanese-Americans in "relocation" camps, Executive Order 9066, profoundly altered Uchida's life. When she was in her senior year at the University of California at Berkeley, her family had to move, first to Tanforan Racetrack Relocation Center in California, then to Topaz in Utah. At Topaz, Uchida taught second grade children and recalls, "snakes and scorpions sometimes came to share the room with us."

Uchida graduated cum laude with a Bachelors of Arts in English, Philosophy, and History from the University of California at Berkeley in 1942, and received her diploma through the mail at Topaz because of her internment. Upon her admission to the Masters of Education program at Smith College, Uchida moved to Northhampton, Massachusetts. Following her graduation from Smith College, she taught first and second grades at a Quaker school in Philadelphia. Because of her dedication to teaching, Uchida had little time left for writing. Thus, she decided to move to New York City, take a secretarial position, and write in the evenings. The result of this move was her first book, The Dancing Kettle (1949). Shortly after its publication, Uchida received a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1952 to study for two years in Japan where she explored Japanese culture, customs and folktales with the founders of the Japanese Folk Art Movement, philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, and master potters Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai.

The experience of imposed exile and cultural isolation became dominant themes in Uchida's later works. Uchida has described her father's disappointment and surprise when close Caucasian friends asked him if he had known in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Uchida family's experience of forced internment probably explains Yoshiko Uchida's deep commitment to exploring Japanese culture and arts throughout her career. Following her studies in Japan, she wrote a series of articles about the Folk Art Movement for the Nippon Times and, upon her return to the United States, she served as the west coast correspondent for Craft Horizons magazine.

Uchida's books include: The Dancing Kettle and Other Japanese Folk Tales (1949), New Friends for Susan (1951), The Magic Listening Cap (1955), The Full Circle (1957), Takao and Grandfather's Sword (1958), The Promised Year (1959), Mik and the Prowler (1960), Rokubei and the Thousand Rice Bowls (1962), The Forever Christmas Tree (1963), Sumi's Prize (1964), The Sea of Gold and Other Tales from Japan (1965), In-Between Maya (1967), Hisako's Mysteries (1969), Sumi and the Goat and the Tokyo Express (1969), Makoto, The Smallest Boy (1970), Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese American Evacuation (1971), Samurai of Gold Hill (1972), The Birthday Visitor" (1975), The Rooster who Understood Japanese (1976), The Bracelet (1976), originally published as a short story, Journey Home (1978), Jar of Dreams (1981), Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese-American Family (1982), Best Bad Thing (1983), Picture Bride (1987), Invisible Thread: An Autobiography (1991), and Magic Purse (1993).

Uchida won the New York Herald Tribune's Spring Book Festival Award in 1955 for her book Magic Listening Cap. Other honors for Uchdia's books included citations from the National Council of Teachers of English, the American Library Association, the California Association of Teachers of English, a chapter of the Japanese American Citizen League, the International Reading Association, the National Council for Social Sciences, and the Children's Book Council. She also received the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, two Commonwealth Club of California Juvenile Book Award Medals, the University of Oregon Distinguished Service Award, the California Japanese Alumni Association Award, the California Reading Association Award, the Japanese American of the Biennium Award, the Japanese American Citizen's League Award, the Nikkei in Education Award, and the Morris S. Rosenblatt Award from the Utah State Historical Society.

Uchida cared for her parents until their deaths in 1966 (Iku Uchida) and 1971 (Dwight Uchida). Yoshiko Uchida died on June 21, 1992 after several years of poor health. She left behind a prodigious collection of folktales and stories.


4 linear feet (8 containers)

Language of Materials



Yoshiko Uchida was a writer of children's books. The Uchida Papers contain manuscripts, correspondence and material relating to her literary career. The collection contains materials on fourteen of her books. The majority of Uchida's papers concern Japan, specifically Japanese folktales and children's stories. The correspondence in this collection primarily concerns Uchida's editor and fan mail from school children. The manuscripts are arranged chronologically starting with The Dancing Kettle written in 1949 and ending with the Samurai of Gold Hill written in 1972.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. Dancing Kettle (1949); Series II. New Friends for Susan (1951); Series III. The Magic Listening Cap (1955); Series IV. The Full Circle (1957); Series V. Takao and Grandfather's Sword (1958); Series VI. The Promised Year (1959); Series VII. Mik and the Prowler (1960); Series VIII. Rokubei and the Thousand Rice Bowls (1962); Series IX. The Sea of Gold and Other Tales from Japan (1965); Series X. In-Between Maya (1967); Series XI: Hisako's Mysteries (1969); Series XII. Makoto, the Smallest Boy: A Story of Japan (1970); Series XIII. Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation (1971); Series XIV. Samurai of Gold Hill (1972); Series XV. Sycamore Congregational Church; Series XVI. Miscellaneous Publicity; Series XVII. Galley Proofs; Series XVIII. Page Proofs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The Collection was a gift of Yoshiko Uchida in 1969.

Related Archival Materials note

Yoshiko Uchida papers, BANC MSS 86/97 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Yoshiko Uchida Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Jennifer S. Duncan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA