There is sad news coming out of Japan. It’s been announced that award-winning illustrator Yuriko Yamawaki, some of whose works have been adapted into shorts by Studio Ghibli, passed away late last month. She was 80 years old and the cause of death was listed as Sjogren’s syndrome.
The Mayo Clinic gave this description of Sjogren’s syndrome:
“Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) syndrome is a disorder of your immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth.
The condition often accompanies other immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In Sjogren’s syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth are usually affected first — resulting in decreased tears and saliva.”
During high school, Yamawaki worked with her sister Rieko Nakagawa on a self-published book called Iya Iya En (translated as No-No Nursery School). While a college student at Sophia University, she became a professional illustrator, publishing under her birth name Yuriko Omura.
The two sisters continued to publish books together, with Yamawaki as the illustrator. This includes the children’s book series Guri to Gura (translated as Guri and Gura), which is available in English. The series debuted in 1963, and has about 21.5 million copies out in circulation. The series stars two field mice who are twins.
Yamawaki’s sister was the lyricist for My Neighbor Totoro. Yamawaki and Nakagawa’s book Sora Iro no Tane (translated as The Sky-Blue Seed) was adapted into anime shorts in 1992, thanks to Studio Ghibli and Nippon Television Network. In addition to that, the sisters’ picture books were adapted into the Ghibli Museum anime shorts “The Whale Hunt” and “Treasure Hunting.” Hayao Miyazaki was involved with all of these adaptations, either working as the director or developer.
In 2013, the sisters also took home the Kikuchi Kan Prize for Japanese literature.
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.