Apr 22, 2014

Manga Magic

Hello friends! I’d like to start a new category in my blog called “Diamond in the Dust." In this category, I’ll take the pleasure of introducing people I know who are extremely talented and doing great work, but who refrain from showcasing their talent globally, merely because they feel they are not good enough! However, I feel it is a pity not to expose these buried jewels and show you what they are really capable of doing. 

The first person I’d like to introduce is my dear friend Mrs. Yachiyo Nakatsukasa. By profession, she is an English Language teacher who is very passionate about drawing “Manga = Japanese comics” and painting. We have been friends for almost 20 years, and I love her for her charm and wit. Come read her interview and visit her web page http://moritsukasa.web.fc2.com/  

You may not understand the Japanese language, but if you like to read comics or love comic art, you will definitely be entertained.   

Blog Interview

Q1: Short self-introduction

I am a near-elderly woman who is interested in drawing manga, painting, reading books, and learning and teaching English.

Q2: How did you become a mangaka
or manga artist? Was it a childhood dream?

I am not officially a mangaka since I do not make money by drawing manga.  I was fortunate enough to commercially publish one of my pieces, though. To become a manga artist had been my dream since I was 8. When I was 15, I found that some of my manga-loving friends had much better artistic skills than I did. I realized that as a wannabe manga artist, I was mediocre at best.

Q3: Which
manga artists have influenced you?

As is the case with almost everyone who draws manga, Osamu Tezuka influenced me a great deal. Many manga artists who grew up reading Tezuka’s manga also influenced me, such as Hideko Mizuno, Ishinomori Shotaro, Machiko Satonaka, and Moto Hagio among others. There are many young manga artists who can draw incredibly beautiful and elegant manga, and I am awed by their artistic skills. I think the levels of manga artwork have increased very much in the last 20 years. However, their storylines are not as strong or appealing as those of old manga drawn in the 60’s or 70’s. (Or, maybe I was only young and more sensitive back then.)

Q4: If you were a 
professional mangaka, what kind of work would you like to do?

As a matter of fact, I wish I could draw manga that can inspire people to better the world for future generations. Or, like Yoshinori Kobayashi, I wish I could enlighten people about untold truth and problems of our society.

Q5: What motivates you to create Manga?

Basically, I simply love drawing and painting. In order to entertain myself, painting is a much better option because it is far less demanding.  Besides, painting is highly appreciated by “educated” people. Until recently, manga was belittled by “educated” people although it requires more time, planning, and energy to create a piece. Unlike painting, however, manga is a unique art form that combines literature and artwork. That is the reason I love manga.

Q6. How long does it take to complete a piece?

It all depends on the length of a piece, the time frame I can spend on the piece, the enthusiasm I feel about the piece. Above all, I need strong motivation to finish the work in order to appeal to prospective readership.

. In your opinion, what are the differences between an amateur and a professional manga artist?

Anyone who can support themselves financially by drawing manga is a professional manga artist. However, I think true professional manga artists are those who can draw any kind of manga at any time at the request of their editors or readers. Amateur manga artists draw only what they can draw only when they want to draw. To become successful manga artists is another story. They must have some unique quality, new styles, new ideas, and some luck. That is why true professional manga artists are not necessarily successful and some amateurish manga artists are very successful.

. What are the struggles one faces to become a professional manga artist?

I think becoming a professional manga artist is a risky business. Only a few lucky and talented artists can become successful. Even if you become successful, it is difficult to keep creating pieces that attract readers. After all, manga has nothing to do with our basic needs. However, if you have financial support from your family (like pensions of your old parents or regular income of your spouse) trying to become a manga artist is not a bad idea. At least, commercial demand for manga artists exists, and new, unique manga is always welcome. Nowadays, it is easy to sell your self-published manga books at a manga fair (komike) or publish your pieces on the Internet. As a sideline business, manga may be better than ordinary side jobs.

Q8. What manga do you read?

I do not read manga as much as I used to. I do not find recent manga interesting or inspiring although I am always amazed to look at their sophisticated artwork.

Q9. How do you plan to continue your passion?

I wish I knew the way to keep my passion for drawing. My manga is outdated and my old-fashioned and clumsy artwork depresses me. Presently, I am struggling with computer software that allows me to draw manga on the computer screen. The software is supposed to make manga creation a lot easier and cheaper. You don’t have to struggle with drawing the same patterns of clothes or background any longer, but it is not easy to draw manga on the computer screen. I am not good at technology, and the software is complicated to use.

Q10. How can one be inspired to read manga?
Nobody can be inspired to read manga just like you cannot force people to draw manga. There are people who can never appreciate manga, and I think that is quite all right. I know there are people who cannot live without music. I, for one, prefer silence to great music.

Apr 14, 2014

Cherry Blossoms in Japan

After the cold winter, the Japanese eagerly await spring, which arrives with cherry blossoms or “Sakura." 

Cherry blossoms are not only the “national flower” of Japan, but  they harvest a very deep meaning in the hearts of all Japanese people. 

Symbolically, Cherry Blossoms depict a fallen samurai, whose life was short but beautiful like the cherry blossoms, while falling cherry blossoms are associated with the sacrifice of patriotic youth, during the war. 

Metaphorically, cherry blossoms symbolize the transient nature of mortality, and many famous Japanese poets were highly inspired to write beautiful poetry under the cherry blossoms. 

In Japan, these pretty pink and white flowers are first sighted in warm areas as Okinawa in the south and gradually, the rose colored cloud ascends northward towards Hokkaido, as the weather becomes warmer and warmer. 

Hanami (Hana = flower; Mi= view/ look at), or “Cherry Blossom Viewing” is a unique, Japanese custom of picnicking under the Sakura trees in early and mid-April. Every year, people flock to nearby parks, gardens or famous Hanami spots with homemade lunch boxes, alcohol or portable BBQ sets, to party under the sakura trees! Most Japanese associate Cherry blossoms with the “celebration and appreciation of life,"  so it is very rare to find a Japanese person who has not gone to “Hanami” in spring. In peak season of full bloom, competition to occupy the best spots and traffic jams around popular “Hanami” spots are a very common sight all over Japan, but everyone is eager to be a part of this cultural tradition that reminds them of their Japanese roots. 

Hanami originated thousands of years ago, from the traditional Buddhist culture of “Mono no aware” which means extreme beauty and quick death, symbolizing mortality. 

In Japan, spring is also the beginning of the fiscal year and school year, which pleasantly coincides with the cherry blossom season of new beginnings and hope. 

Almost all public institutions and parks in Japan have “Sakura” trees, and it seems nature envelopes every new beginning in its pink, sakura cloak. 


“When cherry blossoms scatter...no regrets”-                
Kobayashi Issa, Japanese Haiku Poet