Once, many years ago, I was this close to hopping on a plane to Japan. My ex-boyfriend had moved there to teach English and I really wanted to go visit him. It was only the news that his Japanese girlfriend was jealous and didn’t want me there that kept me from going. Really, it was probably for the best. I didn’t really have the money and I needed to get over him. But ever since then Japan just seems to keep finding its way onto my radar and I keep finding more and more things that draw me to a country that previously I’d never thought twice about.
First, there were the martyrs of Nagasaki. Then there was Takashi Nagai. (Must watch this video interview with Paul Glynn, who wrote A Song For Nagasaki, the biography of Takashi Nagai.)
But that’s in the past. More recently on our family field trip to the MFA we saw an amazing samurai exhibit—Dom had a childhood fascination with samurai so we just had to go. Bella—really all the kids—loved it. At the gift shop we picked up several books. The exhibition catalogue, Japanese Warrior Costumes Paper Dolls , Life in Old Japan Coloring Book , and Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories.
Then on our trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum this book caught my eye. First it was the title that jumped at me from the spine: The Old Man Crazy About Drawing: A Tale of Hokusai. Oh that sounds perfect for my Bella crazy about drawing, the girl who when a thunderstorm rolled in the other night declared that she must get her sketchbook. Then the pictures were so beautiful. I didn’t get it then because the kids found some prints they wanted to buy, but I snapped a picture of the cover and ordered a copy from interlibrary loan. Bella and I read the 100 page book in one afternoon. Neither of us wanted to put it down. The story of a little boy who sells rice cakes who befriends the elderly artist Hokusai and becomes his apprentice.
I found a wikipaintings Hokusai page and we spent a long time looking at pictures (warning: you might want to preview for kids. There are a few drawings of courtesans in erotic embraces and some pretty scary monsters and ghosts.) Then I ordered a few more Hokusai books from the library. I’ve decided that he’s going to be our next artist to study. I’d love to buy a copy of The Old Man Crazy about Drawing.
So the library books came in and we really loved Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain. A perfect compliment to The Old Man Crazy about Drawing, it tells the story of Hokusai’s life from when he first drew sketches of Mount Fuji in the dirt at age five until his death. I want to add this to our library as well.
And then there’s the big coffee table book with the gorgeous full page color plates, Hokusai: Prints and Drawings. I really want to get a copy of this one too.
It’s been nice to see Bella pick up the book and flip through it. Sophie loves looking at it with me. Then tonight after dinner I found Ben looking at it too. And Anthony was flipping pages and looking as well. All my little art lovers are finding favorite pictures. And you know, I’ve really been enjoying this too. I think I need to read this big book for myself.