Cover image for In search of the spirit : the living national treasures of Japan
In search of the spirit : the living national treasures of Japan
Hamanaka, Sheila.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow Junior Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
48 pages : illustrations (some color), color map ; 25 x 29 cm
Describes the creations of some of Japan's Living National Treasures, artists who are involved in various Japanese arts, including Yuzen dyeing, bamboo basket weaving, Bunraku puppetmaking, swordmaking, Noh theater, and neriage ceramics.
Reading Level:
930 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.4 1.0 34740.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 6.1 4 Quiz: 28031 Guided reading level: U.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NX584.A1 H34 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
NX584.A1 H34 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



After World War II the Japanese government designated as Living National Treasures men and women who had devoted their lives to traditional Japanese crafts and performing arts.For this superlative book the authors visited six of these extraordinary artists, then blended a brief, illuminating text with color photographs, calligraphy, and illustrated sections to convey the essence of each art form. Readers will visit backstage at a Bunraku puppet theater, learn how the famous Japanese swords are made, and much more!

2000 Notable Children's Books (ALA), Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000, and National Council for SS & Child. Book Council, Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000, National Council for SS & Child. Book Council

Author Notes

Sheila Hamanaka is well-known as the author and illustrator of a range of special books that includes The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism, and Renewal, which was a Jane Addams Peace Award honor book; All the Colors of the Earth, which School Library Journal termed, in a starred review, "a poetic picture book and an exemplary work of art"; and Peace Crane, called by Booklist a "poignantly told ... emotional journey ... that culminates in the discovery that people everywhere are working toward peace." Ms. Hamanaka lives in Tappan, New York.
Ayano Ohmi studied journalism and art history at Sophia University in Tokyo. In 1987 she was sent by her corporate employer to the United States to intern at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where she eventually settled. Ms. Ohmi received a master of fine arts degree for sculpture from the City College of New York. She now works as a sculptor and teaches art at the Metropolitan Montessori School in New York City.
Sheila Hamanaka and Ayano Ohmi traveled to Japan to interview the Living National Treasures who appear in this book.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-6. In the 1950s, in an effort to recognize and preserve indigenous crafts, the government of Japan designated artisans as "living national treasures." Six of these individuals (unfortunately all males) are profiled in this volume. A painter of kimonos, a basket weaver, a Bunraku puppeteer, a sword maker, a Noh actor, and a potter describe their art in both tangible and spiritual terms that elevate their work beyond a profession to almost a calling. What will astonish most readers is their level of dedication: many worked as interns and for many years were only allowed to observe before setting their own hands to work. Following each profile is a double-page spread outlining the steps each artist follows when practicing his art. The numbered steps aren't detailed enough to allow readers to weave a basket or throw a pot, but they offer a more concrete understanding of each creative process. Elegantly designed with color photos, drawings, and calligraphy in a picture-book format, this celebrates both tradition and technique. --Randy Meyer

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the aftermath of WWII and the loss of many of its ancient monuments and works of art, Japan gave grants to the elders committed to the traditional arts to continue their crafts and to mentor others. Hamanaka and Ohmi offer a rare glimpse of these master craftsmen of Japan, or "Living National Treasures." The authors interviewed half a dozen diverse artisans: a yuzen dyer (who designs and dyes kimono fabrics), a bamboo weaver, a Bunraku puppet master, a sword maker, a Noh actor and a potter. Each brief biography tells how the artist chose the discipline (or how the discipline chose the artist), and the clear, compelling accounts brim with bits of wisdom from the masters as well as information about the culture and history of Japan. Photographs of the artists and their studios, materials, handiwork and performances precede a step-by-step "more about" section demonstrating each practice. Whether explaining how the steel for a Japanese sword is folded and pounded into a million layers or what different fan gestures mean in traditional Noh drama, this is top-notch nonfiction. Ages 7-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4 Up-In the 1950s, the Japanese government, concerned that ancient traditions were dying out in the mechanized postwar era, created a program to honor elders practicing age-old crafts and performing arts. To date, some 100 men and women have been designated Living National Treasures, receiving grants to continue their life's work and to train apprentices. This elegant, beautifully designed book introduces six of these people, all men: a yuzen dyer who decorates silk kimonos, a bamboo weaver, a Bunraku puppet master, a sword maker, a Noh actor, and a potter. They did not learn from textbooks, but have succeeded through hard work, lifelong training, and, most importantly, "the seeds of feeling" in their hearts. Bold, red calligraphy and a large, full-color photo of the craft or performer at work open several pages of lyrical, informative text about each artist. Abundant, well-chosen photos are presented in layouts that stunningly utilize white space. A spread that describes clearly in words and illustrations the basic steps of the art form follows each sketch. This is a book to savor.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Who Are the Living National Treasures?p. 4
Morigucho Kako Yuzen Dyerp. 6
Iizuka Shokansai Bamboo Weaverp. 14
Yoshida Minosuke Bunraku Puppet Masterp. 20
Sumitani Masamine Sword Makerp. 28
Kanze Tetsunojo Noh Actorp. 34
Matsui Kosei Potterp. 42
Indexp. 48