The King of Circles by Shuntaro Tanikawa, designed and illustrated by Kiyoshi Awazu, translated by Yosuke Kitazawa and Ottilia Tanaka / ISBN 9781957625010 / 24-page hardback, 9 x 9.25 inches, printed offset / published in July 2023 by 50 Watts Books
First published in 1971, The King of Circles is a free-spirited and imaginative collaboration between poet Shuntaro Tanikawa and graphic designer Kiyoshi Awazu. They take the reader into a colorful world where round objects compete for the title of "King of Circles."
About the author: Born in Tokyo in 1931, Shuntaro Tanikawa is a poet, translator, author, and screenwriter. During a prolific career spanning more than sixty years, Tanikawa has become one of the most well-regarded modern poets in Japan. His work has garnered praise both domestically and abroad, with his collection Floating the River in Melancholy winning the American Book Award in 1989. Tanikawa translated Mother Goose rhymes, Leo Lionni, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. Tanikawa has also authored many stories for children and was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2008.
About the illustrator: Kiyoshi Awazu was a self-taught graphic designer born in Tokyo in 1929. Fascinated by the intersection of Japanese tradition with modern culture, his imaginative works blended elements from Japanese woodblock prints, calligraphy and Buddhist art with bold colors and confident lines. Influenced by the works of American artist Ben Shahn, a strong political conscience is evident in Awazu’s works. The Return Our Sea poster, which won the grand prize at Nissenbi Exhibition in 1955 and cemented his position as an influential artist in post-war Japan, was created to protest the disruption to the lives of traditional fishermen caused by the American occupation of Japan. Known primarily as a graphic designer, Awazu’s curiosity and keen interest in the world around him led him to expand his colorful portfolio to painting, theater, three-dimensional works, and picture books.
About the translators
Yosuke Kitazawa is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer, whose work includes writings on music, history, and the Japanese American experience. He has produced numerous archival music projects, including the Grammy-nominated Japan Archival Series for Light In The Attic Records. He recently launched his own record label, Temporal Drift. Kitazawa previously translated Tiger Tateishi’s A Tiger in the Land of Dreams (50 Watts Books, 2022).
Ottilia Tanaka is a British illustrator, writer, and Japanese language specialist. A fascination with woodblock prints led her to study BA Japanese at Leeds University. A year spent studying abroad in Kyoto on a JASSO Scholarship at Doshisha University (2011–12) allowed Ottilia to immerse herself in Japanese art and visual culture. Following an internship at the East Asian Art Museum in Bath (2014–15), she gained a place on the JET Programme working as Coordinator for International Relations in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture and Tokyo (2015–20). During this time, Ottilia translated her first published book, The Hagi World Heritage Sites and undertook an MA in Illustration with Falmouth University, focusing on children’s books. Today, she seeks to occupy the intersection of art and language by exploring communication, both visual and linguistic, from her home in Machida, Tokyo.
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