Takekurabe (たけくらべ, lit. "Comparing heights"), English titles including Growing Up and Child's Play, is a novella by Japanese writer Ichiyō Higuchi, first published in 1895–96.[1] It depicts a group of youths growing up in Shitaya Ryūsenji-chō, Yoshiwara, Meiji era Tokyo's red light district, over a span of four months.[1][2]

AuthorIchiyō Higuchi
TranslatorW.M. Bickerton (1930)
Edward Seidensticker (1956)
Seizo Nobunaga
Robert Lyons Danly (1981)
Published inBungakkai
Publication typeMagazine
Media typePrint
Publication date1895–96
Published in English1930, 1956, 1981


In Tokyo's Shitaya Ryūsenji-chō quarter, a group of youths find themselves assuming their family professions and losing the freedom they enjoyed as children. The main characters include 15-year-old Nobu (also referred to as Shinnyo), son of a buddhist priest whose profiteering he resents, and 14-year-old Midori, daughter of a family who lives in the Daikokuya brothel, where her older sister Ōmaki works as a popular courtesan. Other protagonists are the bullying Chōkichi, leader of the "back-steet gang", and Shōta, the well-educated son of the local pawnbroker, leader of the competing "main-street gang" and best friend of Midori. Midori takes an interest in Nobu, who hides his shyness behind a dismissive behaviour towards her, which repels her. Also, after a confrontation between the gangs, during which Midori is humiliated by Chōkichi and a modest neighbourhood boy beaten up, she holds Nobu responsible because Chōkichi looks up to him. At the end of the Ōtori fair days,[a] Midori is prepared to become a courtesan like her sister, and Nobu becomes a novice, following into his father's footsteps.


Higuchi's novella was first published in the literature magazine Bungakkai in seven installments between January 1895 and January 1896.[1]


Takekurabe was translated into English as They Compare Heights by W.M. Bickerton in 1930, as Growing Up by Edward Seidensticker in 1956, and as Child's Play by Robert Lyons Danly in 1981.[1] A translation under the title Teenagers Vying for Tops was provided by Seizo Nobunaga in 1953 or 1960, depending on the source.[1][3]




Takekurabe was also repeatedly adapted for Japanese television, including a puppet play version[6] and an animated version (released as Growing Up in North America by Central Park Media).[7]


  1. ^ A local annual festivity taking place in November.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Danly, Robert Lyons (1992). In the Shade of Spring Leaves: The Life and Writings of Higuchi Ichiyō, A Woman of Letters in Meiji Japan. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0-393-30913-3.
  2. ^ "Growing Up - novel by Higuchi Ichiyo". Britannica.com. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Takekurabe (Teenagers vying for tops); Nigorie (In the gutter)". Universiteitsbibliotheek Gent. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  4. ^ "たけくらべ (Takekurabe, 1924)". Japanese Movie Database (in Japanese). Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  5. ^ "たけくらべ (Takekurabe, 1924)". Kinenote (in Japanese). Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  6. ^ "たけくらべ (Takekurabe)". TV Drama Database (in Japanese). Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  7. ^ "New Video Releases". Central Park Media. Archived from the original on 8 February 2003. Retrieved 20 February 2021.


  • Van Compernolle, Timothy J. (1996). The Uses of Memory: The Critique of Modernity in the Fiction of Higuchi Ichiyō. Cambridge (MA) and London: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02272-0.