Winter Sketch and Word Crawl in Yokohama
Contributed by Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor
It’s such a rare moment in our busy lives when someone gives us uninterrupted time to find inspiration. It’s not rare, but a gift, I think. These are the thoughts that went through my head as I got on the train and headed out to Yokohama, a port city only twenty minutes from Tokyo by express train. February weather in Yokohama can be erratic—cloudy, windy, or, even worse, rainy—but the day of SCBWI Japan’s Winter Sketch and Word Crawl was beautiful and sunny. We met first at the Japan Newspaper Museum, a historic building that somehow survived the air raids during World War II, and we took off individually with a promise to meet up in two hours. One writer stayed right next to the 19th-century printing press; “Exactly what I needed because I’m writing about a printing press right now,” he said. He breathed in the ink smells and sketched with words a description of the machine as he nursed a twisted knee. An illustrator healing a broken toe sat in a room in the museum and worked on a dummy for her work-in-progress picture book.
Two illustrators ventured outside and sketched, sketched, sketched with renewed inspiration. I went off to the Japan Silk Museum and listened to silkworms munching on mulberry leaves and spinning silk threads. Just like the writer who stayed by the printing press, this was fortunate serendipity because I was working on a piece of writing on, of all things, silkworms and mulberry leaves!
After two hours, we all gathered full of ideas and sketches, and shared our bounties over cups of tea and coffee in a cozy, Viennese-style café. Two hours of gift and bounty and serendipity. We then walked over to Chinatown and ate to our hearts’ content while we laughed and shared stories. What more could writers and illustrators ask for than a day of inspiration, good fellowship, and amazing food?