Yukako Oishi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Adults often feel a sense of nostalgia, and maybe even a secret thrill, when they flip through a picture book they read often during their childhood. Rereading them as an adult can lead to the discovery of new thoughts and the surfacing of old memories.
the wall on one side of Yukiko Hiromatsu’s workplace is cluttered with a vast array of cherished picture books. one cover has a black cat that looks like it was drawn using oil paint, while others have titles that are scrawled in crayon.
Hiromatsu, a picture book expert, slowly opened one after taking it off a shelf.
“Picture books aren’t just designed for children. even though an adult may have read a book in the past, readers feel and view the content differently depending on their age, experiences and how they have changed over time,” Hiromatsu said. “The profound aspect of picture books is that readers can discover a new element of a story each time they read the book.”
Many Japanese may feel nostalgic when reading such titles as Guri to Gura (Guri and Gura, published by Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers, inc.) by Rieko Nakagawa and Yuriko Yamawaki–a series of stories about two small mice wearing overalls–and Arnold Lobel’s Futari wa Tomodachi (Frog and Toad Are Friends, published by Bunka Publishing Bureau).
Yoko Sano’s Hyakuman-kai Ikita Neko (The Cat with a Million Lives, Kodansha ltd.) is a story about a cat who dies and is repeatedly reborn to become a pet of different owners. one day he is revived as a stray and falls in love with a white cat, which changes his life. Adults who have experienced love will have a different reaction to this aspect of the story than they did when reading the book as a child.
Folk tales are another good source to “learn something new from a story that you knew in the past,” Hiromatsu said.
She is involved in compiling Ima Mukashi Ehon (published by Iwasaki Shoten), a series of folk tale collections.
each story features pictures drawn by an artist whose style matches the tale’s feel. the project aims to promote folk stories in today’s age with new graphics.
In Ima Mukashi Ehon, the protagonist of the story Urashima Taro is drawn in an alluring manner by Kazuyoshi Iino, while Saru Kani features colorful modern images by Kenji Oikawa, Hiromatsu’s favorite artist.
“Folk tales that have been passed down for many years have powerful storylines. Many of them contain life lessons and philosophies that even adults should learn,” Hiromatsu said.
Picture books created by contemporary artists are also interesting.
Shaun Tan’s Arrival (published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha) does not contain text and instead expresses the feelings of immigrants through its images.
Kinyobi no Sato-chan (Friday’s Sugar, published by Kaisei-Sha ltd.) by Komako Sakai includes three fantastic stories that will help adult readers evoke some of the emotion that they felt in their childhood.
Ryoji Arai created Asa ni Natta node Mado o Akemasuyo (It’s Morning so I’ll Open the Window, published by Kaisei-Sha) after the great East Japan Earthquake. the picture book depicts several locations in the morning–such as mountains and cities–to remind readers about the joy and hope that can be found in everyday life.
Hiromatsu also suggests reading your favorite picture books out loud. the lines usually have a pleasant rhythm. if you have someone close to you such as a family member or partner reading the story, hearing their voice may be pleasing and relaxing.
“As they are reading, enjoy the story by just looking at the pictures,” she said.
Since picture books are not practical, readers may rather feel that reading them is a luxurious way to spend time.
“It’ll be wonderful if you find a picture book that lasts a lifetime with you,” Hiromatsu said.
Born in Los Angeles in 1963, Hiromatsu was an editor and a curator at the Chihiro Art Museum in Tokyo. In 2000, she went it alone and is studying and writing picture books, as well as planning exhibitions. She wrote Okaeri Tamago (Welcome home egg, published by Arisu Kan).
A collection of artwork created by picture book artists is displayed in the corner of Hiromatsu’s workplace. It includes an intriguing image by a Slovakian artist that Hiromatsu found at a gallery in the European country.
“Displaying works by my favorite picture book artists make me feel like I can be close to their world,” Hiromatsu said.
Japanese picture book artists sometimes sell their work at exhibitions or galleries. Scenes from some picture books have been printed on postcards and are available at specialty stores.
Books on display
An exhibition Biennial of Illustration Bratislava will be held from July 14 at the Urawa Art Museum in Saitama. the exhibition, which is coordinated by Hiromatsu, includes prize-winning works of the world’s largest picture book drawing competition. Hiromatsu said the exhibit will help visitors understand the picture book culture of many countries.
the exhibition will also be held in Chiba and Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, from autumn.
(Jun. 29, 2012)