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Japanese Version
Spring 2004
Editorial Contact: einfo@yamaneko.org
March 25, 2004

Notable New Release
"Shika yo, Ore no Kyodai yo"
A Picture Book for Spring
"Usagi no Kureta Ballet Shoes"
Setsubun Picture Book
"Fuku wa Uchi, Oni mo Uchi"
Folktale Retelling
Hina Doll Origami Book "Orihina"



Notable New Release

"O Deer, O Brother Mine" Jacket
(c) Toshiko Kanzawa, G.D. Pavlishin

"Shika yo, Ore no Kyodai yo"
[O Deer, O Brother Mine]

written by Toshiko Kanzawa
illustrated by
Gennadiy Dmitriyevich Pavlishin
ISBN: 4-8340-0632-8
Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers, January, 2004.

In the northernmost reaches of the Asian continent, lies Siberia of the Russian Federation. On the far eastern border of this land is the Sikhote-Alin mountain range overlooking a forest, the taiga, which bears the Bikin River within its bosom. The people here live by hunting and gathering.

They are the Udege, an ethnic minority of Tungus and Manchurian origin. With love and reverence, a Japanese writer and a Russian painter have depicted the way in which these people go about their lives while residing deep within nature. The eloquent text contains an abundance of onomatopoeia and takes the form of poetry. Spun to a comfortable rhythm, the language resonates with suggestion as it quietly seeps into the very depths of  the reader.

Each and every stitch of the hunter's clothing, each hair of the deer's fur, and every leaf on the trees is drawn in meticulous detail with complete realism. At the same time, the scene is infused with the serene lucent air of the forests and has an almost transcendent quality.

The cover bears the bold figure of a stag with a full set of proud antlers, while on the title page is a young hunter, clothed in a brightly-hued ethnic costume. And when one turns to the first page of the text, here, both figures are drawn facing each other on the left and right pages of the spread.

The hunter hunts deer. His clothing and shoes are made of deerhide and he eats the flesh of deer which then becomes his own flesh and blood. "And so, I am a deer", says he. His grandfather who loved him so dearly, and his father who nurtured and protected him, both hunted deer. They supported their family and lived by partaking in the blessings of deer. While still a child, the hunter had fallen asleep in the woods. A mother doe came and lapped at his ear, "pite pite pichu" just as she would do for her own little fawn.

For many generations, the deer has given up its life for the sake of the hunter's family and people. While the deer is that which must be hunted and brought down, it is at the same time viewed with profound respect and love. The deer is not a victim, but rather a gift from the "Lord of the Forest", who has come to provide man with both meat and to infuse him with the spirit of all who live in the forest.

Watching the figure of the young hunter who unstintingly faces off against the deer, pitting his own life against that of the other, the concept of "environmental protection" seems to be no more than an expression of modern man's arrogance and ignorance. Primordially, man was connected with nature and all other life.  He lived in coexistence within nature, as a part of nature. Although one might risk one's life in confrontation with another, it was not as an enemy and never did one try to dominate the other or even, "protect" the other. These simple ideas permeate the soul of the reader, not voiced as a loud opinion, but as mere unadorned truth.

The illustration, language, and indeed the appearance of the book itself is valiant and beautiful. A book which illustrates the very dogma of human life, I sincerely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this book will reach many people in many lands.

Toshiko Kanzawa (1924 - )
The author was born in Fukuoka, but spent her early childhood years in Hokkaido and Karafuto (Sakhalin). After graduating with a degree in literature from Bunkagakuin Vocational School, she became engaged in writing child-oriented poetry, novels, and picture books and has since been active as one of the leading figures involved in children's literature. To mention just a few of the titles among her many books, she's written "KUMANOKO OUF" [Ouf, the little bear] (Poplar), "FURAIPAN JIISAN" [Grampa Frying Pan] (Akane Shobo), and "CHIBBIKO KAMU NO BOUKEN" [The Adventures of Little Kamu] (Riron-Sha), "IIKOTOTTE DON NA KOTO" [Tell me about the good things], "OBAASAN NO SPOON" [Grandma's Spoon] (both from Fukuinkan Shoten) and most of these have been in print for a very long time. Moreover, she has won many of the various awards for children's literature in Japan. In many ways this picture book is a compilation of her lifelong work. The author's intense yearning for the land of Karafuto(Sakhalin) where she spent her early childhood, no doubt underlies the creation of this book.

Gennadiy Dmitriyevich Pavlishin
Born in 1938 in Khabarovsk of the former Soviet Union, he graduated from the The Far East Fine-arts vocational school and Vladivostok Comprehensive University History Department. In addition to his incontestable artistic talent, his academic background led to his being well-versed in the history and culture of ethnic minority groups resulting in his illustrating many folktales of the Far Eastern peoples of Russia. In 1976, he won "The Golden Apple Awards" at the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava. Part of the award-winning collection of folktales was published in Japanese translation as a picture book: "GACHO NI NATTA MUSUME" [The girl who became a goose] (retold by D. Nagishkin, translated by Yasue Miyakawa/Iwasaki Shoten). These are a few of his books which have been translated into Japanese. "OUGON NO TORA REEGMA" [ Reegma the Golden Tiger] by V.P. Sysoev, "YUKAN NA AZMOON: AMUR CHIHO NO MUKASHI BANASHI" [The tale of brave Azmun: Folktales from the Amur Basin" by D. Nagishkin; English translation also available: "Folk tales of the Amur : Russian stories from the Far East" by Dmitri Nagishkin ; ill. by Gennady(*1) Pavlishin ; translated by Emily Lehrman. New York : Harry N. Abrams, 1980. ISBN 0810909138].

(Kuriko Mori)

*1: The illustrator's first name is spelled in several ways.  The publishers of this book have chosen to spell it as "Gennadiy" while U.S. publishers have spelled it "Gennady".



  ybfly   A Picture Book for Spring bbfly 

 "Usagi ga Kureta Ballet Shoes" Jacket
(c) Naoko Awa, Naoko Minamizuka

shoes   "Usagi no Kureta Ballet Shoes"  shoes
[The Rabbit's Ballet Shoes]
Written by Naoka Awa, Pictures by Naoko Minamizuka,
Komine-Shoten, 1989, ISBN: 4-338-06911-2

Although the little girl has been taking ballet lessons for all of five years, her dancing hasn''t improved at all.  She's always wishing, "Please. Oh please let me become a better dancer!" One day, she receives a strange package. Inside, is a pair of pale pink ballet shoes with a card which says, "For the young lady who wishes so much to become a good dancer. From : The Shoemaker in the Hills".

Putting on her new ballet shoes, the little girl wanders outside, almost as if she's being drawn towards something. And when she realizes it, she's arrived in front of a large cherry blossom tree bursting with blooms. Inside the trunk of this tree is a rabbit shoemaker, busily making shoes. The shoemaker asks for the little girl's help and she obliges. They are to make thirty pairs of ballet shoes for a rabbit ballet troupe. Using fabric which has been dyed by soaking it the juice from cherry blossoms, she cuts and sews and wholeheartedly devotes herself to the making of ballet shoes. When the shoes have been completed, she goes to dance with the rabbits wearing her own pair.

When I saw this picture book for the first time, I was enthralled by the beautiful pink book cover. There's a little girl dancing in the air, looking almost as if she's floating  while all the rabbits watch her kindly. Using copper engraving methods to create the delicate lines and with a focus on pink, the artist very effectively uses white to give an impression that the entire book is enwrapped in a soft light, seeming to express the very feelings of the little girl. The text and picture work almost synergistically together and on the page where the climax of the story approaches, the season of "Spring" and world of dream become one. There are times when dream worlds such as these infuse our "real" world with inifinite strength. After receiving the rabbit's ballet shoes, the little girl received the strength necessary to take a major step forward.The story takes place in the world of dreams but there is more to this picture book than mere fantasy.

"Spring, yet to come" and "Haru ichiban" (First spring gale). There are many expressions in Japanese which show that although we know that spring is still some time away, we're pinning our hopes on that coming springtime. The temperature and calendar tell us it's still too cold, but somehow we sense that preparations for spring are already underway, deep inside the earth.   We sense a change in the wind and treasure that difference, filled with dreams for the coming spring all the more. After the long wait, spring finally does arrive. And cherry blossoms always seem to accompany that image, becoming  a symbol of the hope that this season brings. There's one of the special occasions of this season, "the viewing of the cherry blossoms", those jolly sumptuous picnics with everyone singing and dancing. As a child grows older, in addition to looking forward to those picnics, the anticipation of spring gradually evolves to a waiting for the very blossoming of the cherry trees. A special feeling indeed.

Every year, with new memories created in each new spring, our visions of cherry blossoms accumulate within us.  This picture book is also certain to remain within the reader's heart together with the cherry blossoms as a memory of spring.

Naoko Awa (1943 - 1993)
Naoko Awa was born in Tokyo and began to study under Shizuka Yamamuro while still a student majoring in Japanese literature at Japan Women's University, writing various children's tales including fantasy stories. She has been awarded many awards including the Japan Children's Literature New Author Award for "Sanshokko" [Spirit of the Japanese Pepper Tree], the Shogakukan Literature Award for "Kaze to Ki no Uta" [Song of Wind and Tree], the Noma Children's Award for "To-i Nobara no Mura" [The Far-away Briar Rose Village], and the Nankichi Niimi Award for "Yama no Douwa, Kaze no Roller Skates" [The Roller Skates of the Wind].

Naoko Minamizuka
A native of Wakayama, she was born in 1949.  After graduating from Tsuda College, she studied oil painting and copper engraving at Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest. She received the Akai Tori Illustration Award for her work in "Usagiya no Himitsu" [Secret of the Rabbit Hutch] (Naoko Awa /Iwasaki Publishing) and the Japan Picture Book Award for "Kirin san" [The Giraffe] (Michio Mado/ Komine-Shoten).  Her original picture books include "Nen Nen Nen" [Lullaby] (Kimiko Aman/Komine-Shoten), "Watashi no Akai Boshi" [My Red Hat] (Iwasaki Publishing) and an illustrated essay collection, "Budapest no Yume Densha" [Dream train of Budapest] (Komine-Shoten).

(Rie Iguchi)


ballet line
mameSetsubun Picture Book oni color

"Fuku wa Uchi, Oni mo Uchi" Book Jacket
(c) Rintaro Uchida, Takashi Yamamoto

onimame image"Fuku wa Uchi, Oni mo Uchi"
[In with Fortune and in with the Oni]

by Rintaro Uchida
Illustrated by
  Takashi Yamamoto
Iwasaki Publishing, January, 2004.
ISBN: 4-265-03490-X, 1200 yen

February 4th is called "Risshun", or the first day of spring, signifying the end of winter. The day before Risshun, called "Setsubun", people all over Japan throw beans (usually soybeans) to rid the household of bad influences in a prayer for good fortune and happiness. The Oni (an ogre-like supernatural being from Japanese folklore) is designated a role as an embodiment of all things evil. Shouting "Out with the Oni, In with Fuku (good fortune)", people try to chase out any Oni lurking around by throwing beans (which Oni are generally said to hate) at them. On the other hand, people attempt to invite "Good Fortune" to enter their homes. Although people are usually very frightened of Oni who tend to take advantage of this fear and wreck havoc, on Setsubun, Oni are chased out of all their usual dwellings and wind up with nowhere to go. Now human nature being what it is, once the Oni reach this level of desperation, there are naturally going to be some people who start to take pity on these despised beings...

Here we are in a remote mountain village still deeply embedded in snow. A man is at home alone when he hears someone sobbing outside. "It's so cold. Oh, it's so lonely out here". Wondering whom it might be, he opens the door. With horns sticking out of their heads and fangs glinting wickedly in their mouths, stand three terrifying red and green Oni. From all around can be heard the familiar calls of, "Out with the Oni! In with Fuku!". Rather foolishly, the soft-hearted
fellow invites the hesitating Oni inside, and even serves them some hot sake wine. Just then, the wife and children return home. Of course they're dumbfounded and shocked at the sight of the unexpected company. But encouraged by the mellowing effects of the wine, the husband and his guests continue their huge rumpus, drinking and singing, sparing the man's family hardly a glance. Even though the wife cries and begs, "Oh No! Get out! We don't want any Oni in here!", the drunkards ignore her and even start to dance around wildly. Just then, a God of Fortune happens to be passing by outside. "Now this sounds like a nice jolly household!" he says and comes in for a look. Catching sight of the Oni, the god hurries to leave, but the wife and children have grabbed a hold of him and are determined not to let Fortune get away. Both sides in the struggle have desperate looks on their faces.

On the night of the Setsubun, February 3rd, a huge rumpus takes place under the small roof of a poor squalid little hut. The Oni offered sake wine by the master of the household and feeling very obliged and humble. The God of Fortune grabbed and held captive by the wife, sweating huge beads of cold sweat. One can't help laughing out loud at the
vibrantly expressed looks on their faces. The bold composition and rich coloring may be rather loud but the carefree gaiety of this book is heartwarming all the same. On the other hand, the faces and gestures are drawn so vividly and expressively that it seems the characters are ready to jump off the pages. Text and pictures combine to provide a lively slapstick comedy. The exorbitantly-expressed silliness and funniness results in an abundance of happy feelings.

When the day breaks, it's the morning of Risshun. One can almost sense the spring light in the completely white snow-covered hills. As in the old Japanese saying, Fortune comes in at the merry gate. May happiness come into your homes together with the coming of spring.

Rintaro Uchida
Rintaro Uchida was born in Ohmuta city of Fukuoka Prefecture in 1941. Influenced by his father who wrote poetry while working as a sign painter, Uchida also became a painter of signs and started to write poetry after moving to Tokyo.  Later, he decided to become a writer of children's stories and has published many picture books and stories.  He now calls himself as an "e-kotoba" (story told in pictures) author. He won the Japan Picture Book Award in his book "SAKASAMA LION" [The Upside-down Lion](illustrated by Shinta Cho, Doshin-sha), the Shogakukan Children's Publishing Award with "USOTSUKI NO TSUKI" [The lying moon] (illustrated by Ryoji Arai/Bunkeido) and the Nippon Ehon Award with "GATAGOTO GATAGOTO" [Rumbling Train] (illustrated by Shigeo Nishimura/Doshin-sha). Among his books for older readers are the "KOKORO-YOKAI"[Monsters in your Heart] series (Kosei Shuppan) and a book of poetry "UMI GA WARRATERU" [The Sea is Laughing] (Gin-no-Suzu)
His official website (Japanese only) is here:

Takashi Yamamoto
Takashi Yamamoto was born in Ehime prefecture in 1972 and graduated from the Osaka Designer's College after majoring in picture book art.  He thereafter studied picture books at the Atosaki Juku.  His works include, "JUNISHI NO OHANASHI" [Story of the twelve zodiac animals], "Tanuki no Otsukimi" [The Tanuki go Moon gazing] (both with Rintaro Uchida/Iwasahi Publishing).  He lives in Tokyo.

   (Emi Sugimoto)


mame line

Katago - a Japanese folktale retelling - oniboy

Once upon a time, there was a hard-working young farmer named Suekichi. Despite all his efforts, the times were hard, landlords were harder and so he was very poor. But there was one thing in his life that gave him joy, Fuku, his lovely wife. Her beauty was famous in several villages and many youths had vied for her hand. Suekichi could hardly believe his good fortune when she fell in love with him, a poor farmer with few prospects.

Perhaps it was on account of his crooked nose. For Suekichi had a most unusual nose. No, he hadn't broken it falling out of a tree or in a fight, for our Suekichi was a pacifist. His father and his father's father had had crooked noses so apparently it was in his DNA. In any case, there it was, a most crooked nose. But Fuku had found it to her liking.

Even now, Fuku shone like a bright pearl dancing in the sun as she stooped again and again in a steady rhythm, planting young green shoots in the rice paddies.

But someone else's eye had been caught by the glowingly fair sight. A strangled gasp and she was gone. Kidnapped by a terrifying Oni from the far reaches of the globe. Suekichi ran after them with all his strength but had no hope of catching them, for the Oni was riding a magic cart that could fly a thousand miles with every bound. And certainly not even the fastest Olympic sprinter could match that pace.
Gasping with fury and hypoxia, Suekichi finally collapsed on the packed dirt road and sobbed his eyes out.
A few hours later Suekichi was on his way. He was going to bring to Fuku back, no matter how long it took.

Ten years later, he was still searching.
And finally, it seemed he really had arrived at the far reaches of the globe.
He'd first made a visit to the deep mountains of Mie where it was said a famous sennin (holy person) lived. No one knew whether the sennin was a human or a Tengu (the playful spirits with impossibly long noses), but Suekichi had made offerings of sake and rice cakes and begged for advice on how to reach the land of the Oni. He'd gotten his answer several days later, a single pure white crow's feather, pointing north, north-west.

Suekichi could now make out an island in the distance, wrapped in a thick dark fog. He'd spent several days building a raft and stepped aboard for the final leg of his journey. Tossed by wild waves, Suekichi was in danger of falling overboard many times but finally, finally, he reached the land of the Oni.

As he slowly crept ashore, the first thing to catch his attention was some chanting in children's voices. Wondering what children were doing in a place like this, he peeked out from some shrubs and saw a group of Oni children in a circle, poking sticks at something in the middle. A turtle? Oops, wrong story. No, it was another child. But one with pearly skin, just like... Suekichi didn't want to believe his eyes. But the child was just the right age, maybe eight or younger. And obviously not all Oni.

Suekichi's knee-jerk reaction was to do an about-face and head straight back to his neglected rice paddies. There was obviously nothing for him here anymore. But just then, the halfling child looked up. In his tear-filled eyes, Suekichi saw the woman he had longed for so long. And besides, Suekichi was hardly one who could ignore the pain he could see reflected there.

Although lacking pointy ears and hairy feet, Suekichi was quite a hand when it came to throwing stones, and had often managed to supplement his vegetarian diet with a sharp eye and good arm. He hunted around for likely stones and then found a strategically-placed tree with rich foliage to hide in. Then one by one, he picked off the pickers-on. They ran off in all directions, crying. Finally, only the little boy in the middle was left.

Suekichi scampered down the tree and made his way over to where the child huddled in fear and sorrow.
"Um... Hi, there." Suekichi said awkwardly. The boy seemed ready to scream but somehow managed not to.
"Can you take me to you mother? I mean, if she's alone... I don't think I want to meet your dad."
The boy nodded and started walking.

The boy carefully took the back streets, leading Suekichi to a huge house in the middle of the village. They sneaked through the back entrance, through some long dark hallways to reach a room which glowed from the sheer luminescence of the person within. It was Fuku.

Although she was now dressed in rich Oni garb, there was no mistaking her. She was thinner and there was a tremendously sad look in her eyes which brightened slightly at the sight of her son, but it was definitely Fuku. Suekichi quietly slipped out of the shadows where he had been hiding and Fuku's eyes widened. For a moment, the sadness disappeared but then returned, deeper and darker than before.

"Suekichi" she whispered. Ragged, long-haired and bearded as he now was, there was no mistaking that nose.
"We're going home Fuku. And we're taking our son"

The sadness broke and was transformed into a flood of tears which Fuku just barely managed to keep at bay as she whispered,
"Wait. Give me a moment to get ready", and rushed off to the treasure room. Suekichi followed and found her loading treasures into one of the magical carts. "Hurry. You load the other one. We'll have to take them both or he'll catch up to us in no time. This one travels two thousand miles in a bound while the other travels one thousand per bound. If we take them both, he won't be able to find us for some time."

Within ten minutes, they were ready to leave. But it was one minute too late, for the boy's father was now stamping his way down the corridor yelling, "Fuku! Where are you?"
Fuku scrambled into one of the carts and quickly explained how to drive them. Amidst the noise, Suekichi couldn't quite catch what she told him. The Oni stamped into the treasure room and spotting Suekichi, had already grabbed his deadly iron-studded club. Just as the Oni swung his club down, the little boy jumped in front of Suekichi and took the blow. The boy mumbled the words to start the cart and they were off. Fuku followed immediately after, the Oni's moans of anger and grief still ringing in her ears.

In a few minutes, Suekichi and the boy had arrived home. And several minutes later, for she had taken the slower cart, Fuku arrived. Suekichi had laid the boy out on a futon and was trying to make him as comfortable as he could. It did not seem likely the boy would survive. Fuku rushed to his side and grasped his hand. With the last of his strength he whispered,
"Mother, it's better this way. I wouldn't have been happy here either. Do something for me, please. When I'm dead, cut off my head, put it on a stick and set it up outside your house. You know my father is coming after us. If he sees my head, it should scare him off.  And if that doesn't, remember, his eyes are his weakest point..."
A single tear flowed down his cheek as he drew his last breath.

Fuku sat there, head bowed and still holding his hand. But in less than five minutes she stood up with a determined look on her face.
"We can't let his sacrifice go to waste. And we haven't much time."
Suekichi, still shaken himself, put his hand on Fuku's shoulder.
"No. We can't. We shouldn't. But I have an idea."

Suekichi rushed to a neighbor's house and made a very strange request. Shaking his head, the neighbor complied, while the neighbor's cat gave Suekichi a dirty look.

In the meantime, Fuku had hidden away the two carts and was trying to fortify the area around their house. Suekichi brought two long sticks and stuck his neighbor's gift on them. They were sardine heads, quite whiff from having been allowed to ripen for some time. Suekichi quickly threaded some holly leaves through the sticks to add to the warding effect. And then he stuck the sticks up in front of the house.

Fuku wrinkled her nose. "Actually, I think those smell even worse than my son did. The smell alone should scare his father away."
"Fuku! I'm surprised at you."
"Stinky odor is a compliment among the Oni. Why do you think I wear these?"
Fuku held one nostril closed as she snorted heavily and then did the same for the other nostril.
Out popped two soybeans as Suekichi watched horrified.
They fell into the ground, sprouted, then began to grow at an unbelievable rate. Before their very eyes, the soybean plants had spread out and were soon heavy with bean pods.
"Oh, I forgot. Those were magic Oni soybeans. They're as hard as pellets and don't taste good at all" sighed Fuku.

Suekichi looked at them with a strange glint in his eyes.
"Ammunition!" he suddenly announced, "Fuku, help me pick these. Right away!"
Fuku only looked confused for a moment. Then, she was stooping to quickly gather beans left and right.

The Oni didn't come that night.
Or the next.
But just as the sun was starting to set on February 3rd, the ground began to tremble.
"Oh, oh. That's him. He does that when he's upset", Fuku remarked as they rushed into the house.

Quickly the two grabbed the beans which were now harder than ever now that they'd had time to dry out a bit.

The Oni had arrived on their doorstep. Admittedly, the fish heads had given him pause. He'd reeled away staggering and waving his hand in front of his face. Now that several days had passed, they were riper than ever and even the local cats were giving them a wide berth.

But the Oni was determined to take his revenge. He went back several paces to where the air wasn't quite so toxic, took a deep breath and held it. Then waving his deadly club he rushed in to attack.

"Aim for the eyes. It's his weakest spot", Fuku reminded.

Yelling, "Out with the Oni, in with Fuku! Out with the Oni, in with Fuku", the couple threw handfuls of soybeans at the Oni. Obviously, quite a few must have found their mark. And of course, the Oni probably got a nice good gulp of sardine-tinged fumes when he yelled out in surprise. Before long, he was on his way home, screaming with pain and fear.

*   *   *

In almost every culture, there are festivals to celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring. This is one of the Japanese versions. On February 3rd, a day we refer to as "Sekku" or changing of the seasons, most Japanese families engage in throwing soybeans at the Oni (usually the father of the household wearing an Oni mask) yelling, "Out with the Oni, In with Fuku". "Fuku" means "Good Fortune" so this is a wish for good fortune to come into the home and for all evil, represented by the Oni, to leave. Like birthday candles, family members must each eat the same number of soybeans as years they've lived, with one extra for good luck. This is believed to lead to good fortune and health for the coming year. 
This particular retelling is one that I've compiled from several katago stories I've read in the past and adapted for a western audience.  By no means is it meant to be the definitive pourquoi tale to explain why we throw soybeans so be sure to watch for other versions as well.
There are also other traditions associated with this holiday. One involves the eating of uncut sushi rolls facing a specified direction of good fortune for that particular year. The sushi rolls are left uncut because we hope to retain our "ties" to friends and good fortune uncut. Another tradition is to eat sardines on this day. Not only is it a good source for the fish heads, but often, the fish is cooked on a barbecue placed right outside the front door and the fishy smell is supposed to scare the Oni away.
                                        (Sako Ikegami)

momo line momo linemomo line

Hina Doll Princess Hina Doll Origami Book Hina Doll Prince


"Orihina" Jacket

"Orihina" [Origami Hina Dolls]
Sata Tanaka, Hifumi Fusae Sanada
Sannin-kai, 1982. 2000 yen.

On March 3rd(*1), the Japanese celebrate the peach blossom Sekku festival. T
his holiday has been observed since the Heian era (13th century), in order to purify one's self of all evil influences and to pray for good health at the time of the Sekku [changing of the seasons].

The hina doll festival is said to stem from the merging of two ancient traditions. Dolls had been used in prayer to remove evil spirits and influences. There was also the ancient custom of playing with hiina dolls as portrayed in the famous "Tale of Genji". The doll festival thus developed and evolved over the centuries, until eventually it led to the custom of displaying "Tachibina (standing dolls)", and later the "Suwaribina (Sitting dolls)".

It appears that this tradition of displaying and celebrating hina dolls became one of the royal functions of the Imperial Court during the Muromachi period
(1333 - 1573). Later, this practice gradually spread to the common people. Today, the peach blossom Sekku festival has become an established Japanese holiday to celebrate the health and well-being of the girls in the household as well as to wish that they grew up healthy and strong.

When I was a child, at my house we would put the emperor and empress hina dolls on display to celebrate this holiday. Because these beautiful dolls would only be brought out once a year, I remember how thrilled I was watching them being taken out of the huge boxes where they had been stored. On the day of the hina festival, I would always look forward to the rice balls which my mother would make us, shaped to resemble the hina dolls.

Once I left home, I no longer celebrated this day. But eventually I was blessed with a daughter of my own. My mother sent me my hina dolls saying, "This time, they're for your daughter". Since that time, I came to look forward to celebrating the hina festival as a parent. One of my pleasures is to ponder over what sort of dishes to make for that year. Perhaps someday my two-year old daughter will come to look forward to this day.

Now on to the hina dolls. I'd forgotten which doll to put on the right and which on the left, so after searching around for some reference source, I pulled out this book that I had bought some time ago and soon found myself totally absorbed. I learned from this book that in ancient times, the left side was held in higher esteem, so the Emperor doll was always placed on the left. However, since the Taisho era (1912-1926), people began to follow the seating of the Emperor and Empress in the Shishinden(*2), where the male sits on the right. The "right" and "left" mentioned here, refers to right and left from the perspective of the dolls themselves and not how they should be placed when facing them.
One can sense just how much Sata Tanaka treasures the hina dolls merely by reading the introduction to this volume. I therefore have made a habit of always rereading this introduction each year when it's time to display the hina dolls.

In the introduction, Sata Tanaka writes with regard to the art of Origami:
The Japanese Art of Origami. The original creator of the majority of these patterns remains unknown and the style of folding has been passed down through the generations to reach us today. For various ceremonies and as gift wrappings for utensils, origami has been used to add beauty and grace to paper used for practical purposes. Even aside from this use, origami was a pleasant form of play in which all sorts of things could be made, simply by folding washi paper. When the Edo culture was at the height of its prosperity, washi folding was not only a form of amusement among women and children, but many hobbyists and enthusiasts would get very involved in creating intricate works of art depicting humans, birds, beasts, insects, and fish.

The folding instructions for the hina dolls are provided in detail with plenty of diagrams. First, one reads the sections titled, "Before you begin" and "Materials". In the "Before you begin" section, an explanation of the diagrams and instructions are provided for the novice. It says, "If you follow the diagrams in order, then you should be able to have an enjoyable experience folding your doll", words of encouragement for the novice. Next, under "Materials" is listed "Origami paper" -- it says that thin washi paper in perfect squares are best for this use. The sizes of washi paper required to fold the emperor hina doll, empress hina doll, three maids-in-waiting, and five musicians are described in detail, allowing the reader to grasp the balance of the entire diorama. You'll also need "Scissors", "Tweezers", and "Thin knitting needles". It also states quite firmly, "Because pencil will dirty the paper, we will not use it". Under the section headed, "How to read the diagrams" check to see what the various lines represent, and now you're ready to start folding. First we'll start with the hina emperor doll.

This book was first published in 1969 by Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers and was originally written by Sata Tanaka on her own. She had been urged to write this book by Momoko Ishii, one of the leading figures in modern Japanese children's literature. Unfortunately, the title went out of print and it is now once again available as a private printing by "San-nin Kai" (Three persons group). The San-nin Kai is made up of Sata Tanaka and her two daughters-in-law.

Hina doll festival practices have been passed down through the generations in every part of the country following their respective traditions on how the dolls are displayed and what they mean. In Aizu, where I live, because May is one of the busiest times of the year for farmers, there are some families who display the dolls dedicated to the "Tenjin god of Aizu" or Lord Sugawara Michizane who is revered as the god of learning and calligraphy, at the time of the Peach blossom festival.
How is this holiday celebrated where you live?

In closing, I would like to again share some of Sata Tanaka's words with you.
Folding hina dolls may be a modest accomplishment, but as you carefully make each fold, you can feel the warmth of your heart passing down through your fingers.
And this in turn, evokes one's love for the hina dolls and for mankind.

(Sakana Hayashi)

*1: Originally, most of these Sekku holidays were expressed according to the lunar calendar, which means March 3rd would actually be April 3rd.  In many parts of the country, people still follow the former calendar for holidays.  Therefore, the dolls may be kept on display from mid-February into mid-April.
*2: Shishinden is the Ceremonial Hall where the Emperor and Empress appeared for various important ceremonies.




Editorial Afterword

A full year has passed since our first issue and it appears the environment is becoming more favorable.  For example, there was a recent article in the New York Times about the rising interest in the translation of Japanese literature. Perhaps this means more Japanese books will be reaching readers abroad.  The first book reviewed in this issue, "Shika yo Ore no Kyodai yo" is truly a book that deserves to be read by people around the world. Hopefully those of you who will be in Bologna for the coming children's book fair will take an opportunity to see it.
     In this issue we've introduced some of festivals we have to welcome this season.  We wish you all a very happy Spring!


crocus line

Published by:
Yamaneko Honyaku Club
 Midori Takeuchi (Yamaneko Honyaku Club, Chairperson)
Yamaneko Honyaku Club, Staff and Members
Editing and Translation:
Sako Ikegami, Kuriko Mori
Editorial Assistance:
Sakana Hayashi, Rie Iguchi, Mako Kawahara, Yumi Kikuchi,
Reiko Lee, Emi Sugimoto, Akemi Suzuki, Mei Takahashi,
Midori Takeuchi, Kazue Yokoyama
Ono Sendai, Literary Translation Network Webmaster

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