Anno's Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa

From 22 August 2019 Japan House presents a two-month exhibition focusing on the prolific storytelling of award-winning picture book illustrator Anno Mitsumasa. This exhibition marks the first ever display of Anno’s work in the UK.

From 22 August 2019 Japan House presents a two-month exhibition focusing on the prolific storytelling of award-winning picture book illustrator Anno Mitsumasa. This exhibition marks the first ever display of Anno’s work in the UK.

Anno was born in 1926, the first year of the Shōwa era, in the small town of Tsuwano in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan. He trained and worked as a primary school teacher for a number of years in Tokyo before turning his hand to artistic pursuits, drawing scenes that would go on to be published in a multitude of countries around the world.

Anno’s first success came in 1968 with ‘Topsy Turvies: Pictures to Stretch the Imagination’, featuring small characters in an array of mind-boggling positions. The book initially won him praise in the US and France – unusual for an Asian children’s book author, whose works are rarely published globally – before earning esteem in Japan’s literary world. ‘Anno’s Journey’, which depicts a small figure journeying through the cultural and literary landscapes of countries in Europe, followed in 1977 to great success. Each of the stories in this series showcases the folklore, history and art of the country, revealing Anno’s deep sense of curiosity and his extensive knowledge of cultures from around the world.

Working with ink and watercolour as well as paper cuts, Anno’s stories cover a wide range of themes - from maths and science through to language and folklore. His picture books show a profound understanding of the way children’s minds work, presenting complex subjects in engaging, digestible ways. Young readers are often required to interact with his books beyond the simple act of reading, with tactile and mental puzzles requiring books to be turned around or studied intently to find specific objects within the deeply detailed drawings. This playful form is considered a precursor of the puzzle style popularised by titles such as ‘Where’s Wally?’ In 1984 this sophisticated style, abound with humour and visual trickery, won him the prestigious Hans Christian Anderson award for his lasting contribution to children’s literature.

The exhibits on display follow the story of Anno’s life’s work, showing his early paper cuts, through to the full set of drawings from Anno’s Britain, which depicts scenes from London, Windsor, the Cotswolds and beyond, as well as the watercolour paintings he turned to in later life. The design of the exhibition makes reference to Anno’s hometown of Tsuwano, resembling the undulating hills and valleys in this rural area of Japan; scenes Anno has so often depicted in his work. Amid the displays, young and old readers alike will find refuge from the wider world in a reading cove – a quiet space in which to sit down and travel the world with Anno’s wordless tales.

Taking place in time for the UK school summer and autumn half-term holidays, the exhibition showcases 87 of Anno’s works, revealing something of the illustrator: his keen sense of play, his curiosity and love of puzzles, as well as posing a broader reflection on Shōwa and Heisei era Japan. The exhibition will invite readers of all ages to recall, or even discover for the first time, the exquisite joys of picture books and imaginative storytelling.

Anno’s Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa will run from 22 August – 27 October 2019 at Japan House. Admission to this exhibition is free, and the content is suitable for those of all ages.

About Anno Mitsumasa
Since the 1960s, Anno has illustrated hundreds of books. His works have appeared in children’s publications for over 50 years and each new generation of readers in Japan has grown up intimately knowing his works as if they were a part of the family. The pieces he has created throughout his life reflect the socio-economic evolution of Japan through the Shōwa and Heisei eras. These include scenes from his childhood in rural Japan before WWII, the post-war economic miracle of the 1960s and its increasingly outward-looking perspective on the world and interaction with Europe, through to collections of paintings which predominantly explore depictions of Japan. He was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1984 for his lasting contribution to children's literature and has been designated a Person of Cultural Merit in his home country.

About Japan House London
Japan House London is the new cultural centre offering visitors an experience of the best and latest from Japan. Located on London’s Kensington High Street, the experience is an authentic encounter with Japan, engaging and surprising even the most knowledgeable guests. Presenting the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology, it deepens our appreciation of all that Japan has to offer. Part of a global initiative led by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are two other Japan Houses in Los Angeles and São Paulo.


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