The book is called A Picture Book of Jigoku, and it is a best seller—a best seller that makes some children very scared. Adults, too.
Originally published in 1980, the book took off recently, after manga artist Akiko Higashimura brought the book to a larger audience with her manga Mama wa Tenparist (Mom Is Panicky), which details her struggles raising her young son.
The cover of Jigoku features a drawing of Higashimura saying, "Thanks to this book, my kid stopped being bad."
Traditionally, many parents in Japan tell their kids that they'll go to hell if they do something wrong. This book makes those warnings far more vivid.
That's why some families in Japan are using the book as a parenting device. If kids are bad, parents read from the book, telling them—and showing them—that they'll go to hell if they do wrong, such as lie, don't keep their promises, or make fun of others. Not only will they go to hell, but they'll be stabbed, burned, cut into pieces, and more.
This year, Jigoku hit number one on the children's book charts—but not without some controversy. Some parents said it helped kids behave, while others said the images in the book were far too morbid and grotesque for young children. According to some reports, some children, however, even seem to enjoy the scary book. Those kids, of course, will grow up to be criminals. (KIDDING!)
While at the bookstore over the weekend, I was flipping through Jigoku. I didn't buy it, because man, the book scared the shit out of me.
Above is look at some photos of Jigoku, collected from various sites online. Click the lower right corner of each image to expand to full size.
えんま王、しつけの「劇薬」？ 地獄絵本に子ども釘付け [Asahi Shimbun]