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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2015)

Message to the second century

Utilizing the strengths of university to approach healthcare for the elderly through a diverse partnership.

Spreading imagination across the globe

Eiko Kadono
Author of Children’s Literature

Eiko Kadono has been writing inspirational children’s literature for over 40 years. ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ one of her most well-known works has had 5 sequels published in the past 24 years and in 1989 was adapted into a blockbuster anime feature film by Hayao Miyazaki. Ms. Kadono gives birth to her works from a never-ending series of ideas. In this article, this creative author shares the inspirations for her work and her memories as a student.

Waseda University’s relaxed atmosphere and sense of freedom made me into who I am today

――Can you please tell us about your life as a student?

My student days were a number of years after the war. At that time, a vast amount of foreign music, movies, and literature was flooding into Japan. I wanted to study English and learn more about foreign countries and therefore enrolled in the Department of English Literature in the Waseda University’s Faculty of Education where I attended Professor Naotaro Tatsunokuchi’s seminar. Professor Tatsunokuchi was well known for his translation of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ I would often talk with Professor Tatsunokuchi about various topics while drinking coffee in the research lab, and sometimes he would welcome me into his home where we would continue our discussions. I often talked about movies and literature with my friends at cafes without attending classes but when it came to tests, I would barely get by. I probably wasn’t that great of a student. (Laughs)

I wasn’t the type of person that wanted to push my way to the top. However, Waseda University’s open environment accepted my somewhat laid-back attitude and I spent very fulfilling time at the university. At that time, students were free to express their ideas and interact openly with everyone, and all individuals were treated as equals.

The words that inspired me to become an author

――I understand that you traveled to Brazil when you were 25 and debuted as a writer after returning to Japan. Can you please tell us about this experience?

“I became obsessed with North European mystery writers such as Maj Sjowall.” Photo above is the Kadokawa edition of “The Laughing Policeman” (Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo).

I did not want to become a writer when I was a student. After graduation, I worked for a publishing company for one year and then got married. I really wanted to travel overseas so I lived in Brazil for 2 years as an emigrant. With the money I saved in Brazil I traveled to Europe, America, and Canada and returned to Japan in 1961. At that time, Tokyo was preparing for the Olympics and a sense of internationalization could be felt throughout the country. Years after I graduated, Professor Tatsunokuchi contacted me and asked, “Now that you’ve arrived back in Japan, why don’t you write a book about your experience in Brazil?” It was these words that inspired me to become an author of children’s literature. My debut novel was titled ‘Brazil and My Friend Luizinho,’ and starred a Brazilian boy as the lead character. This novel is a non-fiction story.

Actually, when I was in my 3rd year of university, I told Professor Tatsunokuchi that I would like to try translating children’s literature. Professor Tatsunokuchi told me that I should write my own material rather than translating. At first I was disheartened by his comments. I misunderstood that he thought I wasn’t capable of translating because I couldn’t understand English. However, now that I think about it, Professor Tatsunokuchi seemed to be pointing something out about myself that I wasn’t even aware of.

――What is the best thing about being an author of children’s literature?

I found a job that I will never get tired of. When writing my first two stories, I found myself revising and re-writing my works over and over again. However, I never became restless or frustrated and it was during this time that I realized I love writing. The vague anxiety I had about my future disappeared and I felt completely certain that I would live independently if I continued writing. My love for writing continues in the future and I intend to create many more stories.

Students should be brave and venture out into the world

――How do you define a global-oriented individual? Also, what do you expect students to do in the future?

I believe people that interact globally have vast imaginations. Although I did not understand Portuguese when I migrated to Brazil, I would think about how to use the handful of words I knew to express myself and talked with people by utilizing my imagination. I was able to communicate by combining certain words and adjusting my tone of voice. I believe the ability to imagine is one of the greatest traits of human beings. Not only does it help one to communicate, but it opens the doors for creation and global interaction.

I think there are many introverted individuals among today’s students and I would like them to take risks and be adventurous. Among my generation, there were many people that wanted to accomplish things that had never been done before. It was a very stimulating time. Although it may be difficult to be as adventurous today, I would like people to engage themselves in things that are new and exciting.

Eiko Kadono
Author of Children’s Literature

Eiko Kadono was born in Tokyo in 1935 and in 1957 graduated from the Department of English Literature in the Waseda University’s Faculty of Education. After graduation, she started working at a publishing company and in 1960 she immigrated to Brazil where she lived for 2 years. She debuted as an author in 1970 and in 1989 her book, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ (total of 5 sequels; Fuuinkan Shoten Publishers) was adapted into an anime, a musical, and a live action film. She has also won many awards for the series, including the Noma Children's Literature Prize. Her other major works include ‘Nessie’s New Husband’ (KIN-NO-HOSHI SHA), ‘Three Little Ghosts, There Here and Where’ (POPLAR Publishing), and ‘The Robber Bla-Bla’ (Kodansha Publishing). In 2002, she won the Medal with Purple Ribbon – awarded for contributions to academic and artistic developments, improvements and accomplishments – and in 2014 was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette – awarded for international achievements.