Friday, July 8, 2011

A Rabbit & his Sword

Tomorrow (July 9th) the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA is celebrating The Year of the Rabbit by hosting Stan Sakai creator of  “Usagi Yojimbo” with a day of comics, anime, and stories for the whole family.  Usagi Yojimbo (Literally meaning "Rabbit Bodyguard,") is a popular comic book series created by Sakai. Over 25 years ago, a rabbit in samurai costume sought shelter from a snowstorm announced, "I am called Miyamoto Usagi." It was the beginning of a comic book series with a blend of American and Japanese elements (Sakai grew up in Hawaii) winning the National Cartoonists' Society Award and the comic book industry's Will Eisner Award as well.  According to interviews I found online with Sakai, his rabbit comic book character is based on a real samurai named Miyamoto Musashi.  One day Sakai drew a rabbit with his ears tied in a “chonmage” or traditional samurai topknot and he loved the design so much he renamed him Miyamoto Usagi. (Usagi means rabbit in Japanese.)  Stan Sakai may not have had rabbits as a child, but told an interviewer that “rabbits play an important part in Japanese folklore. In the West we have the man in the moon, but in Japan the legend is that there is a rabbit -- or rather, a hare -- in the moon. Rabbits are also a part of Japanese folktales and are usually the good guy. It was just natural for Usagi to be a white rabbit.” (Photo: Stan Sakai