November 5, 2011

JAPAN: Hokkaido roots spur woman to bring folk tales to masses

TOKYO, Japan / The Japan Times / Life in Japan / November 5, 2011

Missionary's daughter brings area's hidden Ainu culture, flavors to life in English

Special to The Japan Times

For Deborah Davidson, Hokkaido is not only home, it is a door to other worlds. As a child, she played with Ainu children and watched them care for the frolicking cubs of the "iomante" (bear ceremony). As a translator, she now focuses on bringing Ainu folk tales to an English-speaking audience.

A devoted fan of Ayako Miura, a famous novelist from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Davidson also followed Miura's creative path around the prefecture to translate her historical novel "Kairei" into English under the title "Hidden Ranges."

As the cross-cultural adviser for the small coastal town of Setana in southern Hokkaido in the 1990s, she joined cultural circles and learned to paintetegami, hand-drawn postcards using traditional Japanese sumi ink andwashi paper. Building on those artistic skills, she now concocts original illustrated recipes, inspired by Hokkaido and Japanese cuisine.

Davidson, 56, suffers from severe osteoarthritis and other health issues, which have left her virtually housebound since 2005. Still, she has found another world through her many creative endeavors.

Deborah Davidson sits at her home in Sapporo, surrounded by some of  her published works and favorite books. Below: An etegami featuring the image of catfish is one of the series that Davidson posted on her blog following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. 

"Even though I hardly leave the house these days," Davidson says, "I feel like I am traveling all over the world, all the time, meeting many interesting people."

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