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Otafuku: Joy of Japan Hardcover – September 15, 2005
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"Otafuku: Joy of Japan" is an ode to joy for one of these characters, a chubby, cherubic luck-goddess whose smiling face is one that I have seen for years but never known its name. Of no particular religion or station, Otafuku is simply a spreader of happiness and good fortune, seeking to make everyone as fat and jolly as herself. Often found in the kitchen, or above doorways, she is a smiling babies face, or an old grandmother offering you homemade sweets.
The author Amy Katoh is a super-collector of Otafuku. Living in Japan for more than 30 years, she has amassed a museum's worth of nicknack's and artifacts, ranging from 15th century Kyogen masks to modern toothpick holders. With the practised eye of an artisan (Katoh runs an artist's shop called "Blue and White" in Tokyo), she has haunted the flea markets and back-alley vendors selecting the finest and most charming Otafuku-wear available.
Highlighting her collection and a few choice pieces, Katoh has accompanied the photos with text, telling the origin and history of Otafuku, relating some stories of how she has brought luck and fortune into Katoh's life, and telling the lives of some others whom Otafuku has touched. The writing is as light and friendly as befits the subject, and her enthusiasm in infectious. Along with this are some beautiful haiku poems that give a feel for the pictures, creating atmosphere as haikus do.
Everything about "Otakuku: Joy of Japan" is authentic Japan. The text is bilingual, in both English and Japanese. The objects and images are things you will encounter in daily life in Japan. I love the flow of the ancient to the modern, and how no matter how many centuries pass, simple pleasures like Otafuku's happy face continue to keep smiling away.