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Ghibli Museum Shorts' Co-Creator Yuriko Yamawaki Passes Away

posted on by Joanna Cayanan & Egan Loo
Yamawaki's books with sister Rieko Nakagawa inspired 3 short Ghibli anime projects

Award-winning and celebrated picture book illustrator Yuriko Yamawaki passed away in her home on September 29 at 8:32 p.m. after a bout with the autoimmune disease Sjögren syndrome. She was 80. Her family held a private funeral service led by her husband Susumu.

Yamawaki was born in Tokyo on December 3, 1941. During her third year in high school, she illustrated No-No Nursery School (Iya Iya En), a self-published book by her older sister Rieko Nakagawa. She then made her professional debut while still a student at Sophia University under her maiden name Yuriko Omura.

On most of her books, Yamawaki collaborated with her sister (who also wrote the lyrics to the songs in Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's My Neighbor Totoro anime film). In particular, the sisters launched the children's book series Guri and Gura (Guri to Gura) about two field mouse twins and other forest creatures in 1963. The perennial best-selling series has 21.5 million copies in circulation and translations in several languages including English.

The sisters published the Sora Iro no Tane (The Sky-Blue Seed) children's book in 1964. Studio Ghibli and Nippon Television Network then turned the story into three television anime shorts, which aired in Japan in 1992. The sisters' picture books also inspired the Ghibli Museum's anime shorts "The Whale Hunt" (pictured above) in 2001 and "Treasure Hunting" (pictured left) in 2011. Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki directed or developed all three anime projects.

Yamawaki and Nakagawa received the Kikuchi Kan Prize for Japanese literature in 2013.

Sources: Kobe Shimbun NEXT via Hachima Kikō, NHK

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