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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Anne of Japan

If I ask you if you know who Anne is, you might ask me to narrow it down a bit.

But… if you were to ask a Japanese girl if she knew who Anne was she would scream with joy.

A personal example:

When I first arrived in Japan back in 1990, the very first English class at Ohtawara Junior High School (Ohtawara Chu Gakko) I visited, I was asked:

"Do you know Ahn?"

That sounds like "Anne".

Now… I'm from Toronto and they knew that, so there was a pretty good chance I, at the very least, KNEW someone named Anne… but Canada is a big country… much larger than the six-inch wide pink blob on the map - so how could anyone expect me to know 'their Anne".

I smiled and said that Canada is very large and while I know many women (a lie), I probably don't know the one she is asking about.

But... just in case... I asked:

"What's her family name?"

The young female student stood up, bowed and said: "Ahn Af Gureenu Gay-ba-ruz".

So… she's German? They do know I'm from Canada, eh?

My team-teaching Japanese partner saw my confusion and said: "Anne of Green Gables."

"Oh yeah! Sure I know Anne!"

Cheers erupted in the classroom amongst the female population.

In case you aren't a Japanese schoolgirl, Anne of Green Gables is a bestselling 1908 novel written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Now... I know all of this even though I've not actually read the book. Being Canadian means you automatically gain basic knowledge of important Canadian things, like: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone; Reginald Fessenden invented radio (not that Marconi guy); Paul Henderson scored THE goal against the Soviets in 1972; and Anne of Green Gables was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Anyhow... a gentleman named Terry Dawes recently contacted me to let me know that he had stumbled across my blog—as most people tend to do… anyhow…

Terry is making a documentary called "Anne of Japan", which he says is all about the Japanese fascination with "Anne of Green Gables".

Obviously there's a fascination. There's even a popular Japanese anime (animated movie) "Akage no An" (translates to Red-haired Anne). In Canada, we produced an excellent television series on Anne that ran for a number of years.

Terry, who is from Prince Edward Island (the setting for the book), is running a Kickstarter campaign to get some much needed funds.

It seems like a great project! How the hell did a Canadian book about a little girl achieve such epic and iconic status in Japan, of all places? Terry wants to find out and I want to know, too!

Okay... I'll tell you a little bit about the WHY - hopefully I don't step on Terry's toes here, but I am a curious boy!

A Methodist missionary named Loretta Shaw originally from New Brunswick, Canada, was living in Japan in the 1930s. When forced to leave Japan during WWII, she gave a parting gift to her friend Muraoka Hanako, who was a Japanese translator.

The gift was a copy of the book Anne of Green Gables.

Muraoka translated the book to Japanese in her free time, calling it Akage no An (Red-haired Anne).

After the war, with education officials in Japan looking for wholesome Western literature to introduce to the school curriculum, Muraoka suggested her translated book. It was approved in 1952, and the rest, as the say is herstory.

Terry hopes her story will be his story, too.

To find out a bit more of Terry's documentary, click HERE to see his website on the subject, and when you are done, click to his KICKSTARTER site get some more background and do your part to help out Anne, I mean Terry. 

Help out if you can!

Andrew Joseph

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