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

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