Society of
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AFCC 2016 Part 1– Country of Focus: Japan

May 25-29, 2016

Posted by Naomi Kojima

May is the month for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC). Held every year in Singapore and organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, the AFCC aims to promote the development and appreciation of children’s books and stories with Asian content. The AFCC has expanded since it started in 2010. In 2015, AFCC had 225 speakers and moderators, 718 conference delegates and 10,000 participants from around the world. 2016-05-24 11.28.47

Each year a country is featured at the AFCC. This year Japan had the honor to be invited as the Country of Focus, on the special year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Singapore-Japan bilateral relations (SJ50). The AFCC and the Japan Preparatory Team organized and coordinated the Japan program, working together for two years, beginning after AFCC 2014. With Yuko Takesako and Michiko Matsukata of the Chihiro Art Museum, I worked as the Japan Preparatory Team, and this is a brief report and overview of the AFCC 2016 Country of Focus: Japan.

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The International Library of Children’s Literature accepted the role of Country Partner for AFCC 2016, and represented Japan for Country of Focus: Japan. Twenty speakers from Japan gave sessions as Country of Focus: Speakers: Akiko Beppu (Editorial Director), Avery Fischer Udagawa (translator), Cathy Hirano (translator), Chihoko Tanaka (International Library of Children’s Literature), Holly Thompson (author), Izumi Sato (NPO Bookstart Japan), Kazuo Iwamura (author, illustrator), Kiyomi Akita (Professor, University of Tokyo), Kyoko Sakai (Doshinsha Publishing Co.; The International Kamishibai Association of Japan), Mariko Nagai (poet, author), Michiko Matsukata (Curator, Chihiro Art Museum), Miki Yamamoto (Associate Professor, Tsukuba University; Manga Artist), Naomi Kojima (author, illustrator), Satoko Yamano (singer), Tadahiko Motoyoshi (Director General, International Library of Children’s Literature), Tetsu Shirai (Director, NPO Bookstart Japan), Toshihiko Shinzawa (singer, songwriter), Trevor Kew (author), Yuko Takesako (Vice Director, Chihiro Art Museum), Yumiko Sakuma (editor, translator, writer). 

The speakers covered a wide range of subjects on Japanese children’s content and culture, and they presented from May 25 to May 27 at the National Library of Singapore. Simultaneous interpretation was provided in English and Japanese.

Thirty-six people,including the twenty speakers attended the AFCC from Japan.


In addition to the Country of Focus sessions, the Exhibition “The History of Japanese Books—from E-ingakyo to the Family of Fourteen” opened at the National Library of Singapore on the first day of AFCC.


The exhibition was jointly organized by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, and the Chiihiro Art Museum. The exhibition ran from 24 May to 10 July, and many people enjoyed learning about 1,300 years of Japanese picture books, from the oldest illustrated manuscript in the eighth century to the artwork of six contemporary picture book artists. 

Japan Booth

Another feature highlighting Country of Focus: Japan was the Japan Booth located at the Plaza of the National Library. At the Japan Booth there were displays introducing various Japanese organizations and activities related to children’s culture and content. Visitors were welcome to browse through 200 picture books representative of Japan, which were donated by Japanese publishers, and to attend mini manga workshops. The booth served as a meeting place, for participants to sit and chat with the speakers. 

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Japan Booth

Two Bilingual Picture Books

In conjunction with SJ50, two bilingual picture books by authors, illustrators, and translators from Singapore and Japan were published by AFCC. These two picture books are Monster Day on Tabletop Hill, written by Akiko Sueyoshi, illustrated by David Liew, and translated by Cathy Hirano, and Benji,Yumi, Origami, written by Emily Lim-Leh, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds, and translated by Yumiko Fukumoto. The books were launched at Japan Night on May 26. Two days after the book launch, we received the sad news that author Akiko Sueyoshi had passed away. Akiko Sueyoshi attended AFCC 2013 as a speaker, and since then had become a strong supporter of AFCC. One of the happiest moments for the Japan Preparatory Team was when Akiko Sueyoshi told us that she would write a story for the bilingual picture book. The two bilingual picture books shall delight the children of Singapore and Japan. IMG_6027

Country of Focus: Japan was made possible by the enthusiasm and support of the speakers, the supporting organizations and volunteers. The donations from sponsors made it possible to have the exhibition and the Japan booth, which gave another dimension to the understanding of Japanese children’s books and culture. SCBWI Japan gave strong support to Country of Focus: Japan, as speakers, moderators, volunteers and conference delegates. SCBWI Translation Coordinator Avery Fisher Udagawa worked with many of the Country of Focus speakers on speeches and power point presentations, translating them from Japanese to English, and this gave the simultaneous interpreters enough time to prepare and understand the content of the presentations for accurate translation.