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The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2010

SUNNY SEKI is the author and illustrator of three picture books -- The Tale of the Lucky Cat, The Last Kappa of Old Japan, and Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll. He earned the 2007 NAPPA Award for The Tale of the Lucky Cat, a retelling of a Japanese folktale explaining the origin of the famous paw-waving cat. Sunny earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography in Japan and studied illustration at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. For the past 30 years he operated a portrait studio in Southern California, but now he writes and illustrates stories full time. He also leads a Japanese poetry senryu group, and recently published Gardeners' Pioneer Story - the history of Japanese gardeners in California as reflected in the senryu poetry of gardeners themselves. Sunny lives in Los Angeles with his wife, nine children, and cat.

See Sunny, his wife and son as featured in this Disney Channel "What a Life!" segment --

Q&A with author Sunny Seki:

Q: I'm wondering if Yuko-chan being blind is based on a legend or is she your fabrication?

A: Thank you for your interest in Japanese folktales. You have asked a very good question!
All my stories are based on both historical facts and also ideas traditionally accepted in Japan.  However, I have to point out that all folktales are originally somehow created. And if we conduct extensive research about so-called original stories, we will always find something that was missing, unreliable information, and also many detailed variations.  In this spirit I usually add or subtract some elements to enforce my story and its message.  I am not a repeater ... but I am positively a creator! By no means is it my goal to create a documentary.
According to accounts of the origin of the Takasaki Daruma Doll, there was a monk named Togaku, and in 1783 he was living at the Daruma Temple. When Mt. Asama erupted and caused so much damage, this monk recommended that Daruma dolls be created and sold. While no documentation exists stating that the monk had helpers in this project, it is reasonable to assume that he did. Furthermore, if the helper happened to be female, there would have been no written record from that era.
Since old times, Japan had blind women called goze, and they were trained to play musical instruments professionally, with public help.  Therefore, I combined these two elements of helper and goze to create Yuko-chan. I don’t call this "fabrication,"  but rather a reasonable "possibility."  With a character like Yuko-chan, the story becomes more sensible to readers today.
My goal is to give birth to NEW folktales of Japan. I do not think that Japanese folktales should end with only the Inch Boy or Bamboo Princess!
Sunny Seki

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