As you may know, I write children’s books to show children the beautiful diversity of people around the world and to teach them about the different cultures and religions. Whenever we had planned to go to Japan I wanted to write a children’s book about Japan too. In this article I will tell you about the people that were the main inspiration for two of my children’s books!
Origami and backpack
So in my first book, written for children from 3 to 6 years old, titled ‘Hé, wie ben jij?’ (Dutch) translated as ‘Hey, who are you?’ a girl named Yumi is the Japanese main character. Within this book 20 children from all around the world and with various religions and cultures take you with them into their lives. They show where they live and with whom, what they like to eat, what kind of transportation they use and what they like to do.
I knew when I saw three children walking home from school with their backpacks, that I wanted to include this in my book. And since origami is everywhere in Japan (our children were offered origami figures by everyone), the girl Yumi in my book likes to go to her grandmother to do origami, carrying the things she needs in her backpack.
And when a Japanese lady in Kyoto invited us to attend a children’s karate class, we were so happy! To me karate sums up much of Japanese culture. The discipline, concentration, silence, focus and meditation were assets I wanted to bring into another children’s book. This book, about a boy and a girl traveling to Japan to visit their friends and meanwhile learn about their culture, is written for children from 6-10 years.
In this book Yumi has grown a bit older and she wants to be like her mother, who is a karate champion. This example was set by one of the assistent karate trainers of the class we attended. The teacher challenged the mother of one of the children and set up a fight with her as an example for the children. Even though she didn’t win, the children did look up to her and she was complimented by the teacher.
So logically she became the role model of Yumi in my book.