Still a life in words and pictures…

Junichi Nakahara – the godfather of manga?

Saturday May 3
Junichi Nakahara – the godfather of manga?
kawaguchiko is the lovely tourist town that borders fujiyoshida. it is a small, sprawling village, spread out around kawaguchi lake – one of the fujigoko (fuji five lakes district). it’s full of fishermen, hotels, onsen, restaurants and, most excitingly, it’s home to some of the coolest art museums in Japan. itchiku kubota’s incredible kimono museum (set in stunning gaudi-style architecture), a music box museum, and the junichi musee. i visited the kimono museum in the first week i was here, and it blew my mind! this week, i heard that itchiku had just died. i teach one of his grandsons, itchitsugu. when mika, my japanese co-teacher asked him about it, he stayed quiet and was very visibly upset. i was pretty damn sad too. his work is incredible, as is his life story, and it really inspired me at the time.
today, i visited the junichi musee, very cool indeed. 600 yen well spent. I have to go back there loaded up with cash so i can buy some of the beautiful prints and books. I did buy some very cool postcards to help ease the pain till i go back…. Junichi Nakahara, 1913-1988, born in Kagawa prefecture. he worked as an illustrator, among others for the magazine ‘Shoujyo no Tomo’ and as a serious printmaker. in the 1920s and 1930s his illustrations of women and girls with big eyes were famous – today the typical style of Japanese anime and managa drawings. he is widely considered as a forerunner of manga art. (borrowed this so better footnote it…. Merritt, Helen and Yamada, Nanako, “Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints 1900-1975″, University of Hawaii Press, 1995, ISBN 0-8248-1732-X)
I picked up a speil at the musee and this is how it goes: In the midst of the tempest of WW11, Nakahara persisted in bringing a gentle message to young women with his free and graceful illustrations: to be individuals, to be gentle and considerate, to care for the weak…[blah blah blah] and be sensitive to beauty. the military authorities eventually banned his work, but immediately after the war, in a period of dire poverty [here his story parallels Kubota's] he started up his own magazine, which he called soleil. he did the development , editing and design himself, creating a vision of his personal dream incorporated into real life. the next year he started the magazine himawari, and after a study trip to paris, junior soleil. he continued to found magazines up to his last, onna no heya, all dedicated to realizing his unique world and vision, all dedicated to women. his illustrations, published in the magazines, have a beauty that reaches across time, and their rich emotion and intelligence captivate all. this exhibition presents the work and aesthetic legacy of nakahara from before and after the war, and one comes away from it with the feeling that his work possesses a latent modernism that makes it just as vital today as when it was created. And an understanding of how he became the point from which a wide variety of creative artists were launched.

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