Posts Tagged ‘Kyoko Sakai’

AFCC 2016 (Part 2): A Harvest of Knowledge About Japanese Children’s Content

At Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016 in Singapore, Japan featured as Country of Focus. Offerings included a Japan Booth and Japan-related sessions over three days of the conference.

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

IMAG2588_1Helping out at the Japan Booth and attending some sessions on the final day of the Country of Focus: Japan program at AFCC 2016 was enough for me to gain a harvest of knowledge on Japanese children’s content. I can only imagine how much more I could have learned from a full three days. Here are some quick impressions from the sidelines.

Right: AFCC Country of Focus poster with illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki. Photo by Andrew Wong.

The Japan Booth treated passersby to a selection of some 200 books. Drawn by the cover illustrations and exhibition panels, the curious stepped in to pick up the books. Some pored over them quietly, taking in the colors and stories in the pictures; others opened up to chat about writers, artists, and their own stories of Japan. Between sessions, Kazuo Iwamura’s and Chihiro Iwasaki’s works would sometimes create overcrowding in part of the booth. Many visitors were ready to take the books home with them after they had taken a look, even though they did not read much Japanese. (Singapore library users will be happy to hear that the books in the booth will soon inaugurate a brand new Japanese-language collection.)

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Books and panel on display at the Japan Booth. Photo by Naomi Kojima.

Naomi Kojima offered a popular hour-long session on Japanese picture books. She almost ran a half-marathon, racing through more than a dozen picture books in a room packed to the wall with eager listeners. Giggles and laughter accompanied her commentaries on Noboru Baba’s Ju-ippiki no neko (Eleven Cats) and Aju Kato’s Jicchorin no aruku michi (The Jicchorins Take a Walk) as everyone joined her in admiring the titles.

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Table covered with books toured by Naomi Kojima in just one hour. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Besides books, multi-talented musicians Toshihiko Shinzawa and Satoko Yamano charmed listeners with songs written for children and adults alike, and they demonstrated how adding music to picture books and vice versa can create new ways to enjoy both media. The International Library of Children’s Literature‘s Chihoko Tanaka captivated children and parents with lively performances of Japanese rhymes and folk tales, while award-winning manga artist Miki Yamamoto helped visitors create their very own folded peek-a-boo cards.

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Miki Yamamoto (upper right) helps visitors create peek-a-boo cards. Photo by Naomi Kojima.

This year’s focus on Japan coincided with the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Japan diplomatic ties, and a new chapter in literary collaboration began with an underwater launch of bilingual books (more on this here) as stingrays looked on in the Sentosa aquarium.

Festival participants got to hear Akiko Beppu, editorial director at Kaisei-sha, liken the work of an editor to that of content producer, linking author and reader and envisioning each book in the store from the start. Doshinsha’s chairperson Kyoko Sakai was on hand to share the techniques and psychology behind kamishibai, a form of storytelling theatre that uses large picture cards in a wooden stage. She made a brief but serious mention of kamishibai’s appeal and its sad history of use in wartime propaganda, and said she wanted the tradition to be used for peace and harmony.

Kamishibai stage (Doshinsha.co.jp)

Kamishibai stage. Image by Doshinsha.

Ms. Sakai’s message drew parallels with Yumiko Sakuma‘s remarks in her closing session: some authors in Japan now are working to bring up topics of war and peace in children’s books, because the country’s pacifist constitution is under threat. Ms. Sakuma also highlighted two other trends in Japanese children’s literature: a focus on unconventional relationships and less-common afterschool activities, and stories about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. She ended by stressing the need for even greater diversity in content for children in Japan.

Covering the recent changes and challenges in Japanese children’s books, Ms. Sakuma’s words proved a thoughtful closer. Like the other sessions, her speech offered hints of the hopes and dreams that we want children to cherish and chase―to help them on their way to shaping the future.

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Japanese Children’s Literature “Dream Team” to Speak in Singapore

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Pinch me! I cannot believe that next month, I’ll be at the National Library in Singapore for Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016, rubbing shoulders with . . . AFCC 2016 Speaker Highlights

 

These are just a few speakers set to appear in the Japan: Country of Focus track at this year’s AFCC. A full list of Japan presenters is here. This dream team includes:

Akiko Beppu, editor. Ms. Beppu nurtured the Moribito fantasy novels by Nahoko Uehashi, which became bestsellers and the basis of manga, anime, radio and TV versions (the TV dramatization is airing in Japan over three years). In a show of confidence and initiative, Ms. Beppu commissioned a full English translation of the first Moribito novel. This move helped overseas publishers read the novel in its entirety and appreciate its true quality. Result? Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness were published in English and other languages, won a Mildred L. Batchelder Award and Batchelder Honor, and paved the way for Uehashi to win the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing—a biennial award also dubbed the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

Cathy Hirano, translator. Originally from Canada, Hirano has spent her adult life in Japan and become a leading translator of children’s and YA books from Japanese to English. She translated the middle grade realistic novel The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, which won a Batchelder Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction. She translated Moribito and Moribito II, leading to Uehashi’s Andersen Award, a Batchelder, and a Batchelder Honor—becoming one of few translators to produce multiple Batchelder winners in different genres. Her first translation of the fantasy novel Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara won so many fans that when it fell out of print in the U.S., it became a collector’s item and got republished, with a sequel. She is translator of Hanna’s Night by beloved printmaker-illustrator Komako Sakai.

fuji-2_320_320Kazuo Iwamuraauthor-illustrator, created the long-selling Family of Fourteen picture book series. This series—partially translated into English for the Japan market by the amazing Arthur Binard, and order-able from anywhere—portrays a clan of fourteen mice who bathe, sleep, cook, sing and play in ways quintessentially Japanese. It’s impossible to watch them savor their homemade bento lunches, doze off in their snug communal sleeping area, or view the full moon (from a special platform in a tree) without admiring Japan’s best traditions around family, nature and childhood. Mr. Iwamura’s books will make you want to move to Japan.

Kyoko Sakai, editor, shepherded the Family of Fourteen books and many works of kamishibai, for which her company Doshinsha is known worldwide. Yumiko Sakuma, translator, has brought famous children’s titles into Japanese, including the Rowan of Rin series from Australia and the book Of Thee I Sing by U.S. President Barack Obama. Dr. Miki Yamamoto, manga artist, has created stunning works such as How Are You? and Sunny Sunny Ann, and the wordless picture book Ribbon Around a Bomb. Satoko Yamano, singer,  is well-known for performing children’s songs in Japan, as is Toshihiko Shinzawa, singer. 

Naomi Kojima, illustrator, created the classic picture book Singing Shijimi Clams. Chihiro Iwasaki (1918-1974), artist, illustrated the novel Totto-chan: Little Girl at the Window, which is one of the world’s most-translated children’s titles. Iwasaki will be discussed by staff of the acclaimed Chihiro Art Museum, located in Tokyo and in Azumino, Nagano Prefecture.

Holly Thompson, Mariko Nagai, and Trevor Kew, authors who write from and about Japan in English, will speak about their vocation of writing between cultures.

Staff of the extensive International Library of Children’s Literature, part of Japan’s National Diet Library, will speak—as will representatives of Bookstart Japan, which provides picture books for newborn babies in more than half of the cities and towns in Japan.

I get to speak too, and I am quaking in my boots.

These folks have created a treasury of Japan children’s content, and helped to build the publishing world and literate society that support it. If you can be in Singapore on May 25-29, 2016, come hear this incredible dream team. Such a line-up of speakers is rare to see even in Japan!

Illustration © Naomi Kojima

Upper right: Logo for AFCC 2016 Japan: Country of Focus. Above: Illustration from Singing Shijimi Clams © Naomi Kojima