Author and illustrator of Japanese folktale books to lecture, March 22

Sunny Seki Last Kappa of Old Japan

A book cover illustration of The Last Kappa of Old Japan by Sunny Seki

Cultural News, 2011 March Issue

Author and illustrator Sunny Seki of San Gabriel Valley will lecture about “Japanese Folktales through illustrations” on Tuesday, March 22 at 7:30 pm at the Nibei Foundation in West Los Angeles.

Japan Study Club at the Nibei Foundation

Tuesday, March 22, 6:30 pm, Dinner and reception

7:30 pm, Lecture and presentation by Sunny Seki

Admission including dinner: $10 per person

For reservation, call (310) 479-6101 ext 134 or email japanstudies@nibei.org

The Nibei Foundation is located at Terasaki Foundation Laboratory Building, 11570 Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

By Sunny Seki

Since early times, Japanese folktales have always been a source of nutrition for Japanese children.  As they hear these stories, they learn how they should act, think, and function in the world.  Indeed it is the folktales that make Japanese people the way they are!

As you turn the many pages of Japanese folktales, you will find the roots of the way Japanese think.  You’ll see their morals and their dreams as well.  You will notice that most of the stories teach children how to live with tender care for animals, birds, and other living creatures. And you will often find a humorous solution at the end!

Some stories emphasize that respect for nature and the beyond is very important. An example is kaidan – scary stories, where children learn that some super, unnatural being or power exists. Some stories include goblins and monsters as well. Along with the influences of Shintoism and Buddhism, these stories passed on from generation to generation.

To become strong Samurai, Japanese did not necessarily have to be huge muscle men like Paul Bunyan. Instead, they were usually very small but sharp and brave.  Thus you can see that most typical Japanese heroes were not too big.

With playful imaginations Japanese were able to create mystical stories like Kaguya Hime – the Bamboo Princess. This is the tale of a princess who was actually an alien! Japanese also gave birth to Urashima Taro, the story of a fisherman who travels to a castle under the sea. These stories and many more were created and published over eleven centuries ago.

From bonsai to transistor technology, from the maneki-neko (the Lucky Cat statue) to Hello Kitty – all of these are connected to the way in which Japanese think, act and value simplicity.  Truly the best place to find the secrets of Japanese culture is in their folktales.

In this seminar, I will review some of the famous stories, and through PowerPoint he explains their messages. I will also introduce my picture books and how they came to be. You will hear about the struggles I had with publishers as I worked to convince or negotiate with them to find the best way to appeal to people who are interested in Japan but have never been there.

I will portray Japanese folklore not only through my children’s books, but also through detailed shadow puppetry as well. As part of this seminar, you will witness one of these hand-crafted shows that appeal to children of all ages!

I believe that the best way to bring back a classic folktale is to present it exactly as it was delivered many years ago. Apparently The Disney Channel felt the same way, since they featured Sunny in a special segment, which has aired many times.

Through this seminar, you will rediscover Japanese folktales as they bring back a time and heritage that has almost vanished.

Sunny Seki is the author and illustrator of two popular children’s picture books: The Tale of Lucky Cat and The Last Kappa in Old Japan, and his third in being published soon. His website is www.sunnyseki.com.

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