Saseo Ono Book in Alnwick

Barter Books, Alnwick

Barter Books is a wonderful bookshop in the Northumberland town of Alnwick. It occupies part of the town’s former railway station and is full of cosy corners with open fires and comfy seating where customers can sit down with a cuppa and browse books at leisure.

It even has a model train doing circuits above the heads of shoppers.

Displayed in glass cabinets is a huge collection of valuable antiquarian books including this rare first (and only) edition which caught my eye.

It is a Japanese World War Two propaganda album printed in 1942 in Jakarta featuring cartoons and drawings by Saseo Ono (1905-1954) on sale for a whopping £860. Saseo Ono was a celebrated caricaturist and manga artist whose style was influenced by jazz, American movies and fashion. When war broke out his talents were employed in producing propaganda material for the Japanese war effort and he was sent to Indonesia from 1942-1946.

The colour drawings shown above have captions in Japanese and Indonesian. The one on the left concerns the battle for Kalidjati Airfield in West Java which was captured by Japanese forces on 1 March 1942 despite stiff resistance by a combined British and Dutch force. The caption of the drawing on the right can be translated as ‘when Japanese troops entered the city of Bandung’.

Other illustrations from the book.

Saseo Ono’s other works while in Indonesia included the drawing of erotic images for the entertainment of Japanese soldiers.

One of Saseo’s wartime propaganda posters showing a demon-like Roosevelt sitting atop the Statue of Liberty.

After the war the Japanese people resumed their love of all things American and Saseo Ono was able to get back to illustrating what he liked best such as humorous scenes, fashion and glamourous women.

Typical Saseo Ono Illustration.

When Marilyn Monroe visited Japan in 1954 with her new husband Joe DiMaggio, the famous baseball player, they were mobbed by adoring fans everywhere they went.

Saseo at work wearing a tropical batik shirt.

Saseo Ono was planning to meet Marilyn Monroe, perhaps with the hope of painting her, but sadly for him he died on the very day she arrived in Tokyo. Perhaps the excitement was just too much for him!

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