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|Japanese Picture Books
|New Picture Book||"Higejiisan"
"Anno's Journey Book V" (Anno's Spain)
||Hikaru No Go (Vol. 1 - 23)
(c) Eto Mori (Kodansha)
(c) Asano Atsuko (Kyoikugageki)
"Supokon"-- Sports Novels in
There's something we call "Konjo" in Japanese.
It means tenacity, endurance and a strong will. And it can also refer to pride or vanity and having a backbone. Some feel the word embodies the basic ethnic traits of the Japanese.
Although Japanese tend to tackle many things with "konjo", nowhere has this characteristic been considered such a virtue as in the world of sports.
who succeed in overcoming
various difficulties and disadvantageous conditions, who keep trying in
of the odds, are particularly popular. "Konjo" not only moves people
watching at the stadiums but is repeatedly taken up as the theme in
manga and movies and has captured many Japanese hearts through these
These are the so-called "supokon" or gutsy sports stories.
Two popular children's book series
from recent years are
notable for their "supokon" spirit. These are the "Dive"
series (four volumes published: April, 2000 - August, 2002) written by
Mori, and Atsuko Asano’s still ongoing "
The "Dive" series (Kodansha) concluded
1 Forward 3 1/2 Somersaults
Tuck Dive" April, 2000
In the “Dive” series we take a look at the sport of diving.
books drew attention because they
were by a writer who's popular with a broad range of age groups, and
always been prominent for her vivid portrayals of modern children. Her
famous books to date include "Colorful" (Rironsha) and
Even though soccer is coming on
strong of late, baseball is still the most popular sport among the
Japanese. This story is based on a junior high school baseball team in
town. In this tale, the author meticulously portrays the fastidiousness
strong self-consciousness so typical of boys this age.
Dive -- freedom and light captured in single moment
takes less than two seconds to
jump from a 10-meter platform into a pool. In competitive diving,
are judged on their performance over that short period of time. Since
very few people who compete in this sport in
main character of this story,
Tomoki, is a 7th-grader who's presently crazy about diving. It all
years ago. He saw Yoichi, three years
his senior, diving, and was so impressed that he decided to join the
But Tomoki turns out to be a mediocre diver who can't seem to help
practice or complaining about how difficult everything is. And he's
really done very well at any competition.
is a very gifted pitcher. But
he can't seem to help getting into confrontations with those around him
of an excessively strong self-ego and a rather fastidious personality.
they start junior high and
form a battery on the school baseball team.
Everyone knows baseball is a sport where team play is important. But the battery formed by the pitcher and catcher is a particularly special relationship. Moreover, a pitcher has to play knowing that he carries not only his own weight but also the fate of the whole team on his shoulders.
But Takumi plays a more solitary game, believing only in his own ability to pitch. Because he believes in himself, he's willing to put in all that much more effort into his game. Go, although normally of a very generous spirit, becomes almost covetous when it comes to catching Takumi's pitches. He tries desperately to keep up with Takumi who keeps dashing off on his own. Of course, these two clash at times and neither is willing to give up what they feel is their own individuality. But they also refuse to stop facing each other squarely.
starts to question whether
he's right to team up with Takumi. This doesn't happen because Go is
trying to avoid confrontation, but
because he's doing his utmost to meet Takumi head-on. Go subjects
himself to some vehement
self-interrogation. "Am I really capable of sharing Takum's passion and
earnestness for baseball ? "
This is an upright YA novel, written in clear, precise, and well-formed language. Through these books we're provided with a window into the minds and hearts of the boys who devote themselves to sports. These are more than just your average "friendship" and "coming-of-age" stories.
One of the great conflicts during boyhood results because intense self-consciousness, verging on stoicism, coexists with the urge to unify one's self with another. This conflict is delineated in a baseball setting where team play is so important, and more specifically, within the relationship that exists in a battery.
But although this book delves into these shadowy aspects of adolescence, in no way is it ever a dark tale. The reason: because these boys who so single-mindedly pursue their love for baseball shine so brightly.
In subsequent volumes, Takumi and Go will probably form a battery joined by a bond which goes beyond mere friendship. This isn't just another moving story -- this series shows us the true face of this very special time in a child's life in its entirety -- and the result is a more profound and compelling tale.
two series are opposites in
many ways. "Dive" is notable for it's lightness, but the more
both series are highly significant. First, these books brought novelty
to the old tired out
"Spokon" setting. "Dive" broke with conventional literary
styles by introducing modern characters who spoke in light
Mori, a native of
Atsuko was born in Okayama in
1954. She majored in
(c) Kazuo Maie and AyukoUegaki
Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers
Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers
"Higejiisan" and "Anno's Spain"
I'd like to introduce two new releases from Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers.
From the Kodomo No Tomo series, a pioneer
in publishing picture books in paperback format, is the
October issue for 2-4 year olds, "Higejiisan" (Grandpa Beard), written
by Kazuo Maie and illustrated by Ayuko Uegaki. Another long-awaited
years !!!) release is "Anno's
First, let's start with "Higejiisan".
The Kodomo no Tomo series from Fukuinkan are paperback picture books published as monthly periodicals. There are presently eight different series available: Kodomo no Tomo 0,1,2 (0-2), Kodomo no Tomo Nensho (2-4), Kodomo no Tomo Nenchu (4-5), Kodomo no Tomo (5-6), Kagaku no Tomo for Younger Children(3-5), Kagaku no Tomo (5-6), Ookina Pocket(Grades 1-2), and Takusan no Fushigi (Grades 3 and older). They're specified for a set age group and are often sold through nursery and kindergarten schools on a subscription basis. The affordable pricing makes them readily available to most households.
This series has been in existence so long that there are families where two or more generations have grown up on them - parents who had read these books as a child, now have children who are reading them. There's always the chance that a new author will be making their debut in one of these series, and there's the pleasure of looking forward to what the next month's offering will be. One of the October issues this year was "Higejiisan"(Grandpa's Beard). This is a book for 2-4 year-olds so the story is told more in pictures than in words, and it can be read quite easily. It starts with a question, "What could this be?" on a page showing something that looks like a fluffy cloud. As you turn the pages asking, "What is it? What is it?" each layout shows the grey substance looking like something different. It could be a net, or a slide, or a nice puffy blanket. Look! Everyone's taking a ride on it. There's a fish and a cow and even a little girl. You'll see some familiar characters from folklore. "Hey, now isn't that....?" So as you can see, this book is full of the potential for making discoveries. Before you know it, the book is over, but if you're reading it with a child, you'll no doubt be begged for an encore. "Oh please, just one more time!" When I'm reading this book on my own, I just open up the picture book and wonder, "Is this the cow from that story?" "Which picture book is that he's reading?" as I go over the pictures again and again.
This substantial little story with its intriguing fluffy gray something drawn in acrylics was created by Kazuo Maie (1952 - ). He started writing children's stories as his way of ambling through a child's world, together with his children. And indeed, this story is packed with the joy of rollicking with children in a world of nonsense. The pictures were drawn by Ayuko Uegaki (1978 - ). She's still very young, but actually made her debut as an artist at twelve. Her picture book "Inemuri Odeko No Koen" (written by Takuro Ishige) received the first DIY Children's Book Award and was published by Komine Shoten. Unfortunately this book is not available in bookstores, so I went to the library to look at it. This very early work of hers is decorated throughout with bright and freely drawn pictures. Ms. Uegaki grew up reading and poring over many Kodomo no Tomo books as a child. Now she is no longer simply reads them but is actively involved as an artist in creating them. I'm looking forward to seeing this new author's next book.
And now, on to the fifth installment of
Anno's Journey Books, "Anno's
The books in this series show scenes from
Original Artwork for "Higejiisan" from Fukuinkan Shoten
October 31 (Fri) to November 5 (Wed) , 2003
12:00 - 19:00 (closes at 17:00 on final day )
A picture full of fun and humor.
Newest artwork and other picture books will also be on display.
1st Floor, 4-8-3 Ebisu Shibuya ward, Tokyo, 150-0013
(c) Shoko Nakazawa and Yuki Sasameya
(Magic Lantern Circus)
Poetry by Shoko Nakazawa, Artwork by Yuki Sasameya
BL Shuppan August 2, 2003, ISBN :4-7764-0023-5
Open the veil curtain and you'll find yourself in a circus tent. The words "Magic Lantern Circus" appear to glow in the light. Welcome to a night at this very special circus. A horn blower appears to announce the start of the show. Tightrope walkers, jumpers through flaming hoops, a unicycle rider, line dancers, trapeze artists... Next to the ringmaster decked out in glamorous garb, stands a lone fiddler. Amidst the thrilling entertainment lie the stories - of the performers, of the trained animals and of the audience. An aging clown sees his own life reflected in that of the tiger who used to be such a favorite in days gone by. A teddy bear who used to join a little girl in pretend-play circus games still sits on the little girl's chest watching over her, now a woman. And the man who loves the lady, who climbs ladders, holds on to it carefully, willingly is bearing the burden of her weight. Each time one turns a page, bright and vivid colors jump into view. It's the eyes of people on these pages which speak to the reader. The agony of passing years, the sweetness and pathos of love, the excitement that this night brings.
A glorious presentation replete with Yuki Sasameya's glass paintings and told in Shoko Nakazawa's poetry, "Magic Lantern Circus" is a fantastical and somehow nostalgic circus book. Glass paintings are created by painting with acrylic on a glass surface. To reproduce this effect in a picture book, the photographer, Katsuhito Nakazato, took pictures of Sasameya's glass art and prints were made from the positive film directly onto paper. On the copyright page are the names of the book designer, Shin Sobue, and the editor, Motoko Matsuda showing just how much love and effort was expended in bringing this book into the world. This is truly a treasure of a picture book. Try stroking the pages as you lovingly turn them and you will find yourself in for a surprise. Some pages have a sheen, while others have a warm and natural texture. The top of endpapers are deliberately foreshortened so that the colorful hard covering shows through - now doesn't that look just like a curtain? Try taking off the book jacket and playing with it, you're sure to find some more hidden secrets. Much loving care was taken in creating this book, and it should prove to be an extravagant high-quality toy for the reader.
Even the best of times must come to an end. And so your night at the circus reaches its finale. Later on you may wonder if it was all a dream. So, are you now ready to take a peek inside the Magic Lantern Circus? You'll need a ticket to enter the tent. But don't worry. Look closely and you'll find you already have several on hand...
Yuki Sasameya (1943 - )
A native of Tokyo, he is presently active as a copperplate engraver and illustrator. His has done much work illustrating both picture books and children's novels. His works include: "Marus-san to Madam Marus" (Genseirin), "Ashita Uchini Neko ga Kuruno" (by Chihiro Ishizu/Kodansha), and "The Van Gogh Cafe" (by Cynthia Rylant/translated by Taeko Nakamura/Kaiseisha). "Honto rashiku Uso rashiku" (Chikuma Shobo) is a book he's written on his own, and there is a woodblock art book "Masayuki Hosoya's copperplate engravings" (Kakusha), which is published under his real name. In 1995 he won the Shogakukan Illustration Award for his artwork in "Gudolf's Lilies" (by Kenji Miyazawa/Kaiseisha).
Shoko Nakazawa (1953 - )
She was born in Nagoya and presently works as an advertising director, copywriter, and children's book writer. Her works include "Ashita wa Hareta Sora No Shita De" (Shiobunsha), "Elephant Time" (Kaiseisha) , and "Ashita Tsukiyo no Niwa De" (Kokudosha). In 1991, she was awarded the Noma New Children's Author Award for "Jigsaw Station" (Shiobunsha). Many of her books have been illustrated by Sasameya. "Gento Circus" can almost be considered a sequel to "Tent no Tabibito" (illustrated by Sasameya/Shiobunsha) which has been translated into Russian.
(c) copyright Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata/ Shueisha
|Hikaru no Go (23 Volumes)
Story/Yumi Hotta, Artwork/Takeshi Obata, Editorial supervision/Yukari Umezawa 5-dan (Nihon Ki-in); Shueisha. 23 volumes
This manga series, on the ancient Asian game of "go", was originally published as a serialized comic over four-and-a-half years in the Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine (December, 1998 through April, 2003). There were a total of 189 kyoku(games) comprising the main story, plus six additional kyoku – the installments were called "kyoku"instead of "chapters"as a tribute to the original game. The series was subsequently republished in its entirety as 23 comic books.
The manga was awarded the 45th Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000 as well as the 7th Osamu Tezuka Cultural New book award in 2003. Both the author of the original story as well as the manga artist have received numerous awards including the Kishichiro Okura award from the Nihon Ki-in for their contribution in arousing public interest in this centuries-old game of go.
There's also an animated
TV series and the
overall effect has started a major go fad among both children and their
parents, many of whom had never laid a finger on a go stone before.
versions of "Hikaru no Go" are presently available in several Asian
Six-grader Hikaru Shindo finds an
table in his grandfather's storage house. Examining it closely, he
stains on the board which look as if they might be blood. Suddenly he
voice out of nowhere saying, "Ah, canst thou see it? And canst thou
my voice?" A beautiful noble
appears before his eyes, dressed in clothing from the Heian Era
a fan in his hands. Hikaru is apparently the only one who can see and
Fujiwara-no-Sai (Sai of the Fujiwara clan). He had been a
champion, but fell victim to a devious plot by an evil rival. His
Sai had drowned himself in despair. For
some reason however, he was unable to pass on into the afterworld, and
spirit inhabits the go table to this day. Previously, at the end of the
*1: Honinbo Shusaku(1829-1862)
The only character in "Hikaru no
go" that is a real figure from history. A famous player who lived at
end of the
*2: Kami no Itte (Move of
The ultimate move. So wise, difficult, and sublime that it cannot be made by a mere mortal.
Sai's Story (Games 1 - 148)
Somewhat reluctantly, Hikaru starts to play go for Sai's sake, making moves exactly as he's directed. However, he gradually starts to play more and more on his own initiative. As he meets many amateur and professional GO players, including the boy go genius Akira, son of the famous go master player Koyo Toya, Hikaru gradually learns the joy -- and agony -- of playing go and starts to show an unusual aptitude for the game. By the end of 8th grade, he passes the exam to become a professional go player. Together with Akira, he goes on to make an enormous impact on the world of go.
The Hokuto Cup (Games 148 - 189)
Hikaru starts his career as a pro
player, entering Oteai (*3)
as well as the primaries for title matches, and eventually
comes to be referred to as the strongest 1-dan player. Together with
has already been promoted to 3-dan status, he represents
Open games between pro players. A player is promoted if he does well in these games. This system has recently been abolished.
*4 First Board
the players in team matches. Each team is
usually made up of three members
referred to as the First, Second, and Third Boards.
This is a story about Hikaru, a bright
active young boy who doesn't do all that well in school, but who after
three short years of playing go, has managed to reach professional
also about the world of go, a highly competitive field where a player
in pursuit of someone better and there's always someone at your heels
catch up with you. Go is a game where there's continuous and fierce
competition among players.
However, in this manga, the author has managed to show us the private psychological drama behind each move in this quiet contest. By portraying the body and facial expressions of the characters, their remarks, private thoughts, and sometimes even the chain of recollections behind each move, the game is altered into a dramatic experience. The result is a manga that can be enjoyed by all, even readers who have absolutely no knowledge of go or how it's played.
Children who take up go after reading this manga usually start out learning not the basic rules, but how to lay the stones so that they make the coolest sound.
Fujiwara-no-Sai, the romantic go genius from the Heian Era, is drawn so delicately and with such beautiful lines that many readers often mistake him at first for a woman. His presence adds a subtle and profound grace to the tale, giving it a gallant ambiance. Sai's gentle and noble speech as well as his resolute attitude which is based on a very strong sense of morality. The tremendous spirit he shows during a match, and absolute and undeniable talent are all heart-throbbingly appealing.
The reader immediately senses that Sai exists on a far higher plane than we do. We experience the exuberance of being lifted up into Sai's world, the realm of the sublime. But just as he starts getting too divine, Sai shows a shtick side to his nature, letting us laugh at his cute and humorous aspect.
The main character of this story however is without a doubt, Hikaru. Sai is merely Hikaru's guide and mentor. During a match, he watches over Hikaru's shoulder without trying to lend a hand. This is because unlike Shusaku who allowed Sai to play all his games for him, Hikaru decides to play his own matches.
Of course, in all competition-style manga for boys, you need some powerful rivals around to provide the opposition necessary to help the main character grow and mature. In this story, Hikaru's foremost rival is the boy go genius, Akira. With a Meijin (high-ranking go title) for a father, Akira has watched go players working hard and suffering over their games from his earliest years. He is himself a hardworking and serious child who has repeatedly shed bitter tears as he fought and worked to become a better player. In contrast, Hikaru has grown up in an average household, doing pretty much as he pleases. At first, Akira's earnestness strikes him as bordering on the abnormal, but gradually it becomes the trigger to spark Hikaru's own passion for the game. And so Hikaru starts to follow in Akira's steps. It's a refreshing sight, to see these two boys walking down the same path while looking straight ahead, as they work to further their friendship.
And so Hikaru grows rapidly, both as a player and as a person -- an almost exhilarating process to watch. Of course, this is partly because his mentor, the unsurpassed Sai, is literally at his side (or his back) 24 hours a day. But it's also due to Hikaru's almost fearsome inherent talent.
A perfectly ordinary boy turns out to have a tremendous talent. He then puts it to use, and to the astonishment of all those around him, shows amazing progress. Almost every child, regardless of age, generation, or nationality, has probably wished something like this could happen to them, and it is this aspect of the story which captures the hearts of all readers.
However, this isn't
merely a coming-of-age
tale told in a go setting. Go is a game which has been passed down
through thousands of years. From the far off days of the Heian
era to the present, the passion with which go professionals approach
the game remains unchanged. Through the portrayal of various
aspects of those who play this game, one can sense the magnificent
romance of the ages underlying this tale. And when the reader
finishes the last kyoku, the true depth of this story can finally be
For those interested in learning more about the game of go:
Although Japan's now famous for her high-tech toys (for all ages), our mentality is still that of an agricultural people. Almost as eagerly as wine-lovers around the world await their first bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, housewives in Japan carefully count off the days till the new crop of rice will be in the stores. Yes, the Sa-god from the sakura petals will finally find his way into our bellies to nourish and sustain us for another year. Wild and flamboyant Danjiri festivals are held, huge crowds carrying their local district "danjiri" through the streets of the city with pipes and drums making enough din to ensure the gods hear their pleas for a good harvest.
Autumn is also a good time to work off that summer lethargy, (and all that new rice) so sports days are held at almost every school in the country. In this issue, the supokon article should give readers a glimpse into the world of school sports. And together with "Hikaru no Go", some insight into the way the Japanese feel about competition in general...
And of course this is one of the choicest times of the year to enjoy the beauty of Japan's nature. With cherry blossoms and Japanese maples to provide the reds, gingkos, the yellows, and the deep dark greens of the pines, a beautiful landscape emerges, a view which has poetically been referred to as a "nishiki" after the beautiful brocade used to decorate the most costly kimonos and obi. With obento (a packed lunch) in hand, you'll find us rushing to the mountains to experience this magic gift from Mother Nature firsthand.
Nishizono (Chairman of the Yamaneko Honyaku Club)
||Yamaneko Honyaku Club, Staff and Members
Ikegami, Kuriko Mori
Akatsuka, Sakana Hayashi, Mako Kawahara, Yumi Kikuchi, Reiko Lee, Yuki
Mio, Noriko Otsuka, Emi Sugimoto, Mei Takahashi, Midori Takeuchi,
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