Twenty-four Eyes

Twenty-four Eyes tracks the growth of twelve innocent children from childhood to adulthood through their relationship with a young school teacher. The naiveté of youth and the harsh reality of war-torn Japan clash in this honest coming-of-age story. (from
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
256 (paperback)
Tuttle Publishing
ISSN Number
ISBN-10: 4805307722
Average: 3.6 (14 votes)


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Field of Interest/Specialty:
Posted On: 06/27/2010

The book entitled Twenty-four Eyes by Akira Miura is a delightful story of one Miss Oishi, who throughout the book is shown through the eyes of a Pre-war setting. Miss Oishi is a young female who becomes a teacher of a small group of students in a village isolated away by geography. She makes her entrance in the book as a "modern" female who is to take over a primary school with 12 students in the Inland Sea. The students have modest background, and the relationship between the students and Miss Oishi starts to grow throughout the course of the book.
Through the setting of the book, in both time and place, illustrates a specific point of view for the reader. This holds great value in the idea of education for geographically isolated villages in Japan, and the possible difficulties this might present to the teachers who teach there as well as the lives of the students who live in these small fishing communities. Through my own background of being a Korean American, I can very easily relate to the setting of a isolated fishing community, as my father comes from such an area in the southern tip of South Korea, very one can only get to by boat. I also found it very telling the human quality of the teacher and the overcoming of both situational and even physical obstacles.
The development of the book allows the reader to get through the book at fairly productive pace, though there is a larger developments between Chapter 7 and 8 than any other parts of the book. This is where Akira Muira takes the book from just a story about a teacher in a village to the story of Japanese society during WWII. The development of characters are done very well, where the initial 12 students can be seen developing through both interactions with Mrs. Oishi and her grown university age students getting ready to go to war. I believe that the latter Chapters offer great insight to the domestic setting of Japan during WWII. The impact is seen through the eyes of the students as well as the mother and teacher that is Mrs. Oishi. My favorite quote of the book is when Mrs. Oishi tells several of her former students to "Don't die honorable deaths. Come home alive." It is also very revealing the family she has to care for at the end, as well as the family who becomes fatherless due to the war, which is the case for many Japanese families in throughout WWII.
I would read this book with my students, although I might do so from Chapters 8 on if I can not devote enough time to the entire book. I believe the students will need some translation and explanation of terms and ideas, but overall I believe the book offers good context and ideas for students to relate and empathize with as students. The drawback of this book at times is that the writer tries to jump from one characters mind setting to another and it gets confusing sometimes, but the pace and vocabulary should be fine form all high school students and perhaps even some advanced 8th graders.

Twenty-four Eyes

Field of Interest/Specialty: Fine Arts
Posted On: 06/27/2010

Darla Rodriguez
9-12 Grade Fine Arts
Pine Grove Area HS
Twenty-four Eyes written by Sakae Tsuboi is a wonderful novel. The story of a first year teacher traveling to a cape village 5 miles from her home every day to teach 12 small first graders. The story follows 20 years of Mrs. Oshi's life and discusses her relationship with her students before, during and after WWII. It was an easy read except for the flashbacks. I had to read through the flashbacks and could not figure them out until I was finished reading them. However, the overall story line was easy to follow. The story was interjected with historical information about the War, but the characters lives is what is most important here.
I would reccomend this novel for any team taught Asian History/Asian Literature section. The Student level that I would reccomend would be gifted students grades 6 on up as well as High school level literature. This would easily fit into Japanese specific curriculum and as pleasure reading/free time reading for any reader.
I will be passing on my copy to my 10th grade niece and my 8th grade nephew to read as well as suggesting it to my high school students.

Twenty-Four Eyes

Field of Interest/Specialty: English
Posted On: 06/26/2010

Andrea Marterella
10th Grade, World Literature
9th through 12th, Journalism
Pine Grove Area High School
Twenty-four Eyes written by Sakae Tsuboi is a wonderful piece to include in your upper middle and high school Literature classrooms. I found the work to be interesting in plot line and easily accessible to American school students; however some clarification will be necessary with Tsuboi’s use of flashback and metaphor. The piece itself, I feel, seems to express specific literary techniques all-the-while being true to Japanese literary techniques as well which demonstrates to our students- issues of war know no cultural bounds.
I enjoyed the progression of Mrs. Oishi’s class from beginning to end and found myself crying at the end. I’m not sure if it was the teacher me or the reader me coming out while reading the novel. Tsuboi’s writing truly makes one engrossed in the book (or shall I say Akira Miua’s translation?)
The novel is appropriate for reading levels Gifted 7th through basic 12th Grade. The reasoning for Honors 7th is predominantly the vocabulary and possible issues with historical context.
I would like to know how much historical information my students actually know about 20th Century Japan before I begin teaching the piece. I feel that the novel can be used in my classroom and have coordinating historical context and literary analysis reports to go along with basic comprehension, vocabulary, and literary term application and questions. Additionally, I believe many of my students could relate to the military plot line, since most of the students in the district are from military families.

Review of Twenty-four Eyes

Field of Interest/Specialty: AP World History & World Religions
Posted On: 06/26/2010

Amy Swartz- Warrior Run High School
World Cultures I – 9th Grade
AP U.S. History – 11th Grade
Electives – Global Issues, World Religions
Twenty-Four Eyes by Sakae Tsuboi is novel appropriate for middle school or high school students in relation to history, language arts, and global studies courses. This story traces the experiences of teacher Mrs. Oishi and twelve students she had in her first class on a remote island village. The children in the story represent the various personalities, talents, and socio-economic situations that one might expect in a small village community. Despite the fact that she is initially not accepted by the children’s parents, she is able to forge a bond with her students and their parents that continued on into their secondary schooling, and young adult lives. The children become young adults during the World War II, which results in the loss of many of the boys and Mrs. Oishi’s husband. The author’s presentation of their loss through the eyes of Mrs. Oishi advocate pacifism by presenting the negative aspects of war and its impact on humanity in contrast to an idealistic, heroic attitude toward war that the Japanese government tried to promote.
The novel provides a glimpse into the everyday lives, occupations, cultural practices, diet, and roles of ordinary citizens in a remote island village. These people also faced many challenges. Some young girls could not continue their education due obligations to care for younger siblings at home. Monetary problems almost resulted in some students not being able to go on a class trip. Parents labored from sun up to sun down. It also highlights the bond that can form between students and teachers which continues from the classroom into adulthood.
This novel would be an appropriate supplement to a teaching unit on Japan during the 1920’s- the World War II era. The Japanese government’s attitude toward the war and the roles that the Japanese citizens should play is contrasted with the sacrifice of the families, especially women and children. In the last chapter, “One Sunny Day,” the class experiences a bittersweet reunion, with empty seats from those who had passed and with Isokichi, a student who lost his eyesight in the war.

Twenty-Four Eyes by Sakae Tsuboi

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art History, Art and History
Posted On: 06/25/2010

Susan Brown
The Park School
Upper School Art History, grades 10-12
Lower School Studio Art, grades 4 and 5
I loved Sakae Tsuboi’s "Twenty-Four Eyes." But there’s a caveat—and the caveat is that I loved the book upon reflection, not during the initial reading. The language is difficult; it’s stilted and for lack of a better work, archaic (perhaps that’s due to the translation, perhaps not). However, I couldn’t help but love Miss Oishi and her students—and I found myself wondering what teacher wouldn’t. The anti-war sentiments are compelling: somehow war is always with us, children we nurture grow up to become soldiers; they go off to war, some return and some don’t. We mourn their loss—we mourn our loss, and we wonder, like Miss Oishi, if the sacrifice is worth it.
"Twenty-Four Eyes" is a poignant, moving story. It is hard not to be charmed by mischievous children—and I was completely charmed by the sweet yet impish and at times ill-behaved nature of Miss Oishi’s young students. To the inhabitants of this rural Inland Sea community, Miss Oishi is all things modern and suspicious; she’s young, rides a bike and dresses in Western clothing. How can she be an effective teacher when she dismisses tradition? Slowly, however, this young teacher wins over this rustic village—first her students, then their families and the community at large. Her teaching style is at times progressive, taking her students out of the classroom to explore their environment and learn through songs. As times moves forward she quietly asks them to consider the possibility that the government doesn’t always know best—that perhaps the cost of nationalism and war is simply too great. Incorporated within these larger themes is Tsuboi’s lovely tale of a teacher’s complex relationship with and lasting influence on her students.
Could I use "Twenty-Four Eyes" for any of my classes? Probably not: I don’t see it fitting in with either my 4th and 5th grade studio art classes or my Upper School Art History courses. I would, however, recommend it to my Middle and Upper School History colleagues to see if the book would fit into their curriculum. But because my knowledge of Japanese history is very general, Tsuboi’s novel set me searching for things I knew nothing about: the Universal Suffrage Law of 1925 and the debates and conflicts that arose around the law, the different types of schooling for teachers in the first third of the 20th century, and how pacifism, nationalism and communism came into play in early 20th century Japan.

Twenty-Four Eyes

Field of Interest/Specialty: Asian Studies
Posted On: 06/24/2010

Ron Sivillo
Grade 11 and 12 - Asian Studies
Grade 9 - MYP (IB) / Honors American Civics (Semester 1) and World Geography (Semester 2)
Upper St. Clair High School, (suburban) Pittsburgh PA
Twenty-four Eyes is a novel that likely can appeal to many student readers. I have always liked the idea of using novels to help students grasp the intricacies of a country’s history and culture, and perhaps more importantly its nuances and sensibilities. Further, novels which teach respect, humility, and graciousness in the face of adversity can resonate well with students.
As for where this novel could work for me (and others), excerpts could really buttress the study of Japanese militarism leading up to World War II in a World History/Cultures course. In a course that is solely devoted to the study of East Asia, the entire book (which is a relatively quick read) would be feasible and advisable.
As for the basics of the book and its message, the following is a broad overview. Ms. Oishi, a young teacher, gets her first teaching assignment, in 1928, at a primary school (teaching 1st graders) along the Sea of Japan. The location in which she teaches is primarily a fishing and farming village, naturally full of rather traditional, conservative Japanese families. Being young and eager, Miss Oishi is somewhat shocking to the locals with her rather liberal/modern habits and sensibilities. (For instance, she rides a bike to work and does not wear a Kimono). Much like I can remember from grade school (where the young “hip” teacher is pretty popular and well-liked), a teacher who bucks the trend tends to run into some resistance from the local establishment. Instead of fighting the unfair criticisms levied at her, Miss Oishi instead uses the situation as a life-lesson for her students – her apologetic and humble demeanor shows the students how one graciously handles adversities that are thrown their way.
Moreover, Miss Oishi builds her relationship with the students through fun, hands-on exercises, doing things in a fashion that run counter to typical Asian schooling and lessons. It is through these experiences that Miss Oishi cultivates respect and, really, love from her students. For example, at one point Miss Oishi is injured and has to give up her bicycle and her teaching job. The students respond poorly to their new teacher and actually seek out Miss Oishi. In doing so, they eventually (and ironically) have to be “rescued” (fed and cared for) by Miss Oishi – it because of this incident that the community/parents eventually accept and begin to respect Oishi. (Miss Oishi, on crutches, goes to the village to personally thank each family, again showing her politeness and humility with gentle humor). In the end, Miss Oishi’s acceptance in the village is achieved through the love the children show her.
Throughout the story, historical events unfold with (Japanese invasion of China, the Great Depression, and eventually World War II.) It is at this time, when Miss Oishi refuses to persuade her students to become soldiers, that Miss Oishi encounters more turmoil (her husband is killed, her mother and her daughter dies). At the end of World War II, she seems to be the only person in Japan rejoicing in that no more will die in an unwinnable war.
The book ends with, rather naturally, a touching reunion between the students and Miss Oishi; that is, those who actually remain after the ravages of war. Overall, the book is a lesson in suffering, adversity, and humility. It could probably be called “pacifist “in nature, since in the end, what is highlighted is Japan’s losses incurred by its militaristic ambitions. Overall, the message that the reader gets is that Miss Oishi is a teacher which every child would adore and cherish because she adores and cherishes her students – and by extension, humanity. It is a lesson in humility and for this reason alone, the novel can resonate with and impact students.

Twenty-four Eyes by Sakae Tsuboi

Field of Interest/Specialty:
Posted On: 06/23/2010

Katrina Krady
9th- 12th Learning Support Special Education Ancient History, World History, and Civics/Econ/Global Perspectives
Manheim Township High School, Lancaster, PA
The novel, Twenty-for Eyes by Sakae Tsuboi, tells the reader about the life of twelve first graders and their teacher, Miss Oishi, before, during, and after wartime in Japan. There is a sweet relationship built between the students and their teacher over a generation. A full circle happens when later in life the teacher, out of necessity returns to teaching in the same village and at the same grade level where she began teaching. She ends up teaching the relatives of her first students. Throughout the story you become aware and see the effects of war on the beliefs, life styles, and personalities of the teacher and students.
You only became aware of without the details and background of the history behind the time period of the beliefs, life styles, and personalities of the teacher and students. This novel can be used as a branching off point for the research of details and background on Japan’s history and the discussion and research on topics such as the causes of war, prevention of war, wartime treatment of humans, pacifism, patriotism and treason, and the comparison of views and beliefs about war.
While using this book as a class read, independent read or oral read of sections, the identification of the voice of the author, the audience of the book, the purpose of the author and the effects of translation has on a novel needs to be addressed and discussed. This would be a better use of the book then for historical details and background.

Destinee Logan 7-12, Gifted Support Book Review

Field of Interest/Specialty: Gifted/History
Posted On: 06/22/2010

I would use this book with grade levels 7-12. It was not overly difficult to read and I think my students would be able to understand the concepts in the novel.
Before using this novel in the classroom teachers should know in what aspects this novel would be effective. This novel does show some of rural Japan and the corresponding culture. However, this novel's most prominent theme is pacifism. Throughout the novel the author includes many characters that are not only effected by the war, but also express anti-war views prior to the war.
This novel could be used with an East Asia unit, with a WWII unit or even with respect to Pacifism. I think an additional interesting facet is that this is written by a foreign author.
Overall, this was a good book. It was an interesting read regardless of the educational tie in. The fact that you can use this as an educational tool makes the novel better. The time span within the book makes it more interesting.

Art Teacher's Perspective on Twenty-Four Eyes

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art
Posted On: 06/21/2010

Lisa Jean Allswede
Winchester Thurston School
MS/US Studio Art (grades 6-12)
Twenty-four Eyes has all the elements to engage a reader: a teacher’s generational relationship with her first 12 island students, a female teacher questioning the ways of her country, the effects of World War II, the sacrifices families made to survive, and death of loved ones. But somehow all of these trials and tribulations leave the reader a bit empty and wondering if the intimate relationship this teacher had with her students got lost in translation.
The story starts out in 1928 (pre WWII), as a young teacher, Miss Oishi, sets off for her first teaching assignment at a primary school in a small village on the Inland Sea of Japan. The village rest at the tip of a long cape and was filled with about 100 or so fishing and farming families. This young, “modern” teacher eagerly rides her bike from the principal village along a three-mile winding trail to the primary school where she will meet her 12 first-graders. Being a conservative village, the “modern” ways of this young teacher inspires much curiosity among the community. The children, of course, love the teacher and it was their devotion to their teacher that finally convinces the villagers to accept her. An unfortunate accident relocates the teacher back to the principal village’s branch school, but the children and the teacher meet again at this branch school in 5th grade and the relationship continues through out the WWII and the adulthood of the students who survive the times. The reader is given hints of the economic and political challenges of Japanese during the war and how class and traditions determine the fate of the students and even Ms. Oishi. The story ends after the WWII (1946), when Ms. Oishi returns to the village to teach once again. This is s sign of the financial crisis the country experiences after WWII. It is at this time the original students, now adults, arrange a reunion at the village with Ms. Oishi and together share the struggles they experienced throughout their generation together.
Although I was immediately intrigued with idea of a story about a young Japanese teacher spreading her wings in an intimate village and forming a generational relationship with her very first students, I was disappointed by the lack of development of the story. Was this because of the translation of the story? I wanted to know more about the students and how they came to their decisions. What was it that made them make the decisions they made? How did the war influence the times? Ms. Oishi husband was a mystery to me. Why is that? From my vantage point, I think I lack a clear understanding of the true role of traditions and relationships play in the Japanese culture. But on the other side that of that coin this is what I am trying to gain a better perspective about – how tradition, culture, class, etc. determined destinations for one and what makes them so devoted to that determined path. I wonder if the film brings a different light to the story?
Because my discipline is studio arts, I would not use this book in my class. There are no ties to art history that would support the disciplines I teach, such as printmaking, ceramics or painting. A social studies or language arts teacher would more likely find a more substantial way to use this book in their curriculum when teaching about WWII. The book could stimulate conversations about class, gender, and political viewpoints that the Japanese experienced during this time period.

Sharen Pula (The Park School of Baltimore) 5th Grade Subjects taught: Literature, Writing, History, Mathematics, Science, Poetry, Architecture, (The Medieval World)

Field of Interest/Specialty: Medieval World
Posted On: 06/18/2010

Sharen Pula (The Park School of Baltimore) 5th Grade Subjects taught: Literature, Writing, History, Mathematics, Science, Poetry, Architecture, (The Medieval World)
Twenty-Four Eyes
Hisaka Oishi is a young teacher, about to begin a stint at a remote village school, a stint that is to last only a year until she can be properly assigned to the main school. At first sighting, she is viewed with suspicion as she peddles her way to school on her bicycle dressed in Western looking clothing. On the first morning, she enters the classroom and unleashes her desire to connect with her new pupils (first graders). At the end of the first day, she has committed each child’s nickname to memory, connected each child to the work that his or her parents do, and has been a good sport about their mischievous deeds. One day while at the beach singing silly songs with her pupils, Ms. Oishi is lured into a trap in the sand that some of her students created. Falling, she breaks her Achilles’ tendon and must stop teaching since her only way to get from home to school is to ride her bicycle. The students have never had such a teacher that cared in the same way as Ms. Oishi. Distraught, they decide to venture far from their homes and visit her. They finally arrive, tired and hungry and a bit out of sorts. When they see Ms. Oishi, she greets them warmly (She doesn’t blame them for her misfortune.) and takes them into her house. She feeds them and asks a neighbor to snap a souvenir photo of the group. She places them on a boat for a short, safe return trip home. As the years pass by, she continues to involve herself in their lives. Over time, the students grow to admire, respect and love her.
The years pass. Ms. Oishi, aware of rising conservatism, and limiting of free expression, retires from teaching. World War II arrives. Many of the young men, once her pupils, are encouraged (coerced) into joining the War. Many will become kamikaze pilots and will most likely lose their lives. Even Ms. Oishi’s husband, though of ill health, has had to join “the cause”. He dies, as do some of her former pupils. Political and economic forces affect the life of those still living—poverty and sickness are on the rise. In addition, Ms. Oishi’s son, Daikichi, is eager to joint the Juvenile Air Corps and is ashamed of his mother’s pacifist’s views. Amid this tension, Ms. Oishi returns to teaching and has a reunion with the remainder of her first year pupils. She even ends up teaching the children of some of her first pupils.
The language is archaic—translations tend to have difficulty capturing the richness of the original language. This one suffers from this. Although the arc of the narrative for the first half of the book is a bit slow, on a second reading, it didn’t drag as much. It certainly does give the reader some insight into the lifestyle of a small Japanese community in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
I would not use this book with 5th grade students. Although many of them could read it, I don’t think it is dramatic in a way that children respond to. If I were teaching older students, I would focus on the following themes and questions: Fear/courage, propaganda/war (governmental manipulation of young people then and now—“The ultimate goal and infinite honor for a youth was to fall in battle”. –similar to extreme Islamic indoctrination—give yourself to the cause and paradise awaits.), pacifism/war. Some questions for consideration-- What happens when a teacher’s values are different from family values? How, as a teacher, do you get your students to trust and respect you? (Think about the power a teacher can possess. If that power is used to connect with the hearts and minds of the students (as with Ms. Oishi), it can so validate their existence.) What are the effects of positive expectations? From a student’s perspective, what do they look for in the adults they deal with?
I might have the students research the themes above. Have them create their own working definitions. Have them debate both sides of the argument—perhaps thinking about their own lives in school and how these issues play out.
I might have them make 3-D projects addressing their perspective of each pair of ideas. They could think about symbolism and how it might be used to convey their point of view.