March 17, 2011

Japanese Children's Author Noriko Kudoh's Message of Hope After Japan's Earthquakes and Tsunami, March 2011

Noriko Kudoh, a Japanese children's book author and illustrator, has published over twenty humorous children's stories and manga books. She and her artist husband, Toshiyuki Kudoh, created a blogsite for children called Buch. The site is in Japanese and includes animations and illustrations as well as information on Noriko Kudoh's books.

Both she and her husband have roots in Tohoku, the region which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th. They felt strongly about sending out a message to the children affected by the disaster. The message can be found on their blogsite in Japanese here .

The English translation was done by Sako Ikegami of the SCBWI Tokyo Translation listserv, which focuses on translation of Japanese children's literature. She, too, loves the Tohoku region and culture and is an aspiring writer and translator hoping to bring more international attention to the wonderful world of Japanese books for children. Her translations include picture books by Ryusuke Saito.

March 17th, 2011

That was a horrible earthquake, wasn't it? I'm sure so many of you are very scared right now.

But please, don't worry. Grown ups are working together as hard as they can to make things better. It may take a while, but eventually, everything is going to be safe and comfortable again, I promise.

If you feel even the tiniest bit afraid or lonely, try to think about your favorite story.

When my heart starts to thump, I try to remember The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. It's a story about a hobbit named Bilbo who goes on a whole bunch of adventures. He has some very narrow escapes, but by staying strong and cheerful, he manages to come through safely in the end. When I remember that part of the story, it helps me be brave.

This is a difficult time, but it won't last forever. It will end someday. Whenever my chest tightens up and starts thumping, I don't think about tomorrow, but further into the future. If you think about tomorrow or the day after, it seems like everything will be the same, but things are changing. It's just that those changes are so small, you may not notice them at first.

The plants and trees may look dried up, but they are sprouting new buds. They seemed to be sleeping through the winter, but they were slowly pushing their way up into the sunlight.

Things won't stay the same. It's terribly cold right now, but spring is just around the corner. After that, it will be summer and then autumn and gradually we'll be back in winter. No day is the same as another. Every day, there are tiny changes, and that is how we have four seasons. Although yesterday and today may seem exactly alike, we change a little each day too. Because we change, bright days are in our future. I believe this from the bottom of my heart.

For the promise of a happy future to come true, you must do something--be happy and cheerful now. Right now. Think of a funny story and laugh. Laughing will make you feel better, and you'll grow stronger.

Of course sometimes, you feel too blue to be cheerful. But even then, try to tell yourself, "I may feel down today, but I will feel better soon." That's what I always do. Because that is what happens.

Try not to think about the scary stuff. The worst is not going to happen. If you start to worry again, take a deep breath. Breathe in slowly and deeply. You will feel better.

As you calm down, think about the things you like. At first, it will be difficult. But make it a habit, and it will get easier. (I had to practice for a while before I could get it right)

If you spend the day thinking about happy things, then oddly enough, it actually becomes a good day. How do I know? Well, I've tried it and it always does.

When your thoughts are happy, your body relaxes and you feel better. Just like taking long deep breaths, laughing is good for you.

Scary thoughts make your body tense up and it becomes hard to breathe. That's very uncomfortable. We don't want that!

So when you feel afraid, take a long, deep breath. After a couple of breaths you'll begin to feel like yourself again. That's what I do.

If you like my books, then you may have read the story of Margarita in Margarita and the Pirate Ship (Margarita to Kaizokusen). Do you remember what Margarita and Marcello do when they're forced to work on a pirate ship? They stay cheerful, and guess what? It leads to a happy ending!

When times are rough, stay as happy as you can and before you know it, you'll be having fun. Practice every day and the bad times will pass. Don't you think we could try this together?

Every day, the aftershocks rock my home, but we're all right and our families in Sendai are okay too.

My brother and some others from his company went out with lots of emergency supplies to help everyone in the shelters.

Your neighbors, the Self-Defense Forces, the people from the electric company and lots of other grown ups are working night and day to make sure all of you are safe and sound. So there's nothing to worry about.

Kids just need to take deep breaths and be happy. That's all.

I know some of you are missing your books, but try to remember your favorite stories. Or that great anime movie you love. There are plenty of happy things to think about. I'm going to do my part by writing lots of fun books for you to read. I hope you'll like them.

It's strange, but as I sit at my desk and write my books, I can sense of all of you, my readers, in my heart. I imagine you enjoying the stories I've written. That's because our hearts are connected through books. Not just me, but all of the writers and illustrators whose books you love. We're all connected. So I know things are very hard right now, but let's work together to keep our spirits up.

I always feel you close and treasure your fine spirits.

With lots of love,

Noriko Kudoh

March 12, 2011

Damage Control

At our house, the March 11th earthquake was about a 6 on the Japanese scale. We were very lucky that we didn't have any damage and no one was hurt. There are a few things sitting around that could have fallen, but they didn't. We have a few things around the house that prevent earthquake damage.

Like this. It looks like a plain kitchen cabinet handle.

But you have to pull it to open the cabinet. That makes our kitchen cabinets earthquake proof. Many dishes break when cabinets open during earthquakes. Broken glass is dangerous.

Falling furniture is another danger. We put these tabs under the video cabinets and book cases and televisions.

We also put these braces on tall pieces of furniture. That's Little Brother's desk that has built-in book shelves. A sliding glass door kept the books from falling out of the shelves.

March 10, 2011

In the Treetops

It's that time of year. The trees in our neighborhood are full of either birds or

men. The birds are preening. The men are pruning.

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March 06, 2011

Bath Stools & Pails

This post got lost in the shuffle. It was dated in 2007 and wasn't published. It is a display of bath stools and pails at a department store.

March 04, 2011

Storing the Dolls After Hina Matsuri

This product is relatively new. It is a cloth that helps protect the hina dolls in storage. Jiji, grandfather, always wanted us to put the dolls away the day after Girls' Day. Any delay would cause a delay in marriage, he said. We try to put the dolls back in storage the day after.

Jiji passed away seven years ago and is not here to remind us or to help store them. He always insisted on wearing white gloves when taking out the dolls and when putting them away. We do that. We have to be careful about oil from our hands and about moisture in the air.

The box shows you how to use the cloth.

Here is another product that protects the dolls. It keeps bugs away.

This is what it looks like. Two come in one packet. There are four packets.

There is a diagram on the back of this box, too, to show you what to do.

Dust the dolls with a feather duster (doll sets come with one), cover them, and slip this product in with them before storing them in the closet.

March 03, 2011

Happy Girls' Day!

Snacks sometimes have seasonal decorations on their packaging. See the yellow stars in front of the screen surrounded by plum blossoms? They are wearing head ware like the dolls of the emperor and empress in the Japanese doll festival, hina matsuri. This snack is a lightly salted rice cracker. The white splotches are semi-sweet. It is a nice combination of salty and sweet.

Check Kids Web Japan for an explanation of Girls' Day. There is also a story on the site called The Missing Doll. And look here to see how they celebrate in Chiba, Japan.

Click on the labels below for more related HTJ posts. And to see photos of Big Sister's dolls.

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