By Akiyoshi Hatamoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKOCHI — An exhibition featuring original works from a children's magazine edited by manga artist and poet Takashi Yanase (1919-2013) is under way at the Poem and Marchen Gallery in Kami, Kochi Prefecture. The gallery is part of the Yanase Takashi Memorial Hall.
"Ichigo Ehon" (Strawberry picture book), was a sister magazine of "Shi to Meruhen" (Poem and Marchen), which Yanase also edited. The exhibition offers an opportunity to review how Yanase tried to nurture children's artistic sensitivity through the publication.
The current exhibition began last month when the gallery reopened after completing renovations. The building was closed from Jan. 10 to have its air conditioning system fixed. Yanase Usagi (Yanase rabbit) — one of the characters the popular manga artist created — greeted visitors on opening day.
"Ichigo Ehon" started as a "luxurious" publication to present children’s poems accompanied with illustrations drawn by professional artists. Yanase came up with the idea after seeing many children had sent in their original poems to "Shi to Meruhen."
Moe Nagata and Shomei Yo are some of the popular illustrators who made their debut through the magazine. "Ichigo Ehon" was published every month from 1975 to 1982. It was one of Yanase’s attempts to support artists who inspired children.
The display, which shows about 130 works by Yanase, includes original front-page illustrations — with elaborate descriptions colorfully describing the seasons — as well as drawings for his serial essay, "Kaze no Kuchibue" (The whistle of the wind). Yanase introduced foreign writers of children’s books in his essays.
The magazine also carried his best known creation, "Anpanman." The manga pages on display show how the main characters of the series were born; in the case of Anpanman’s younger brother Currypanman, the baker Jam-Ojisan made him at Anpanman’s request. You can also see Cheese, who was initially a minion of Baikinman, debut in one of the episodes.
The exhibition also presents such regular corners from the magazine as "Yanase no Shi" (Yanase’s poems), which featured poems and illustrations by the artist. In one poem, he described a childhood memory of an evening when the city lights looked as if they were twinkling because his eyes were full of tears after being scolded. Describing how he stopped crying because of the amusing scene before his eyes, he wrote that sorrow is not that reliable.
Rina Kobuchi, 10, who came from Okayama, said she was glad to read about what Yanase was like when he was much younger. "I can feel his kindheartedness [in the poem]," she said.
The magazine ceased publication after eight years because of poor sales. In the final issue, Yanase expressed his pain in closing the periodical by writing a poem with a phrase saying, "Please forgive me."
Gallery curator Yuki Nakamura said Yanase’s passion to cultivate culture for children eventually led to the launch of the Yanase Takashi Cultural Award, which honors creators of conscientious works of art for children, including manga, picture books, poems and music. "He referred to the award in his will," Nakamura said.
The exhibition runs through May 15 at the Poem and Marchen Gallery in Kami, Kochi Prefecture. The museum is closed on Tuesdays except for May 2. Visit anpanman-museum.net for more information.