Japan Italy: Etegami “Discovering Italy through the eyes of Japanese children”

Etegami: discovering Italy through the eyes of Japanese children

Italy is recognized as one of the most beautiful and appreciated countries of the world thanks to not only its beautiful landscapes but also for the profound cultural riches that our country offers. An exhibition called “Etegami. How Japanese children see Italy” is being held in Pisa from June 16, 2017. This exhibition has been organized by the Japan Italy Foundation and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, together with the Japanese Embassy and the Japan Cultural Institute. On display are the works of several Japanese children who were asked to describe Italy as they see it through their eyes. The results are not only impressive but also touching.

Photo Credits: http://www.italiagiappone.it/attivita_etegami.html

But what exactly is an Etegami? An Etegami is one of the most popular and loved methods used by Japanese people. It consists of a simple drawing accompanied by a short and heartfelt message using black ink to define lines and writing, and watercolours to realize the insides. Even if not all the postcards sent by children were done in this precise style, each and every one of them was based on the 7 fundamental principles of the Etegami, established by Kunio Koike in the 60s.

Photo Credits: http://www.italiagiappone.it/attivita_etegami.html

The 7 fundamental principles of Etegami

From the Japan Italy Foundation official site:

1. Being good is fine, but not being good is better

The motto of Etegami is “Being good is fine, but not being good is better”. If the drawing was done with commitment and passion it is not necessary to have high drawing skills. In an Etegami written in a personal style and with commitment, the personality of an individual is easily perceived. The most important thing is the way we look at the postcard: it has to be unique and original; even if you are not skilled it will still remain a unique piece of art.

2. Do not make a draft

In an Etegami, the concept of “I made a mistake..!” does not exist. So, every piece is the real thing. When we make a draft there’s the idea that we need to do everything in the best way and create a work of perfection while worrying about making a good impression. Appearance ends up taking priority over something that identifies ourselves. A postcard is deemed as a success when it is able to show the natural demeanour of the person who made it. An impromptu Etegami without a draft has to convey the mood of the moment in which it was realized and what it was meant to express is that moment.

3. Draw after an attentive observation and draw ‘big’

An Etegami does not have an imposed model. On the contrary, it has “the principle of strenuously gaze without averting the eyes”, or else, it is drawn after an attentive observation of the original subject. If we look hard at fruits, vegetables, flowers and all the other things that surround us, we will notice details we didn’t notice before.

On “Etegami” postcards, we are advised to ‘draw big’. By increasing the size even two or three times the original, and through strenuous and attentive observation, our observation spirit will gradually sharpen without us realising it. Even if the card cannot contain the whole drawing it’s okay. The person looking at it will imagine the cut out parts in their own way.

4. Represent only one thing

To those who start to draw an Etegami for the first time, we suggest that they choose only one object. It is necessary to stare at it without averting the eyes from it.

Photo Credits : http://www.italiagiappone.it/attivita_etegami.html

5. Draw each line carefully and slowly

When we draw contour lines quickly we end up forgetting to observe with attention. If we draw slowly we can really focus on what we are doing. Moreover, the more slowly you proceed, the easier it will be for the feeling to penetrate. The aim of drawing a line slowly is “drawing while concentrating all our energies into thinking about the person to whom it is dedicated”. In fact, an expressive line is something that only appears when we trace it with all our energies. So, the important thing is to draw while focusing on expressing our own feelings.

6. Always send what you have done

Let’s always send the Etegami we have realized! The meaning of this postcard is not: I’ll send it when I’ve become skilled; since it did not come out as I wanted it to, I won’t send it! The idea of making a mistake does not belong to Etegami. Even if one thinks he made a wrong Etegami, since it has been made according to his own personality, it still is what he did in that moment. There is a particular charm in this.

Etegami distribute happiness. Both people who draw them and people who receive them have fun and become cheerful. Let’s always send them out.

7. Write words with all your heart

It is important that the words that accompany the drawing are few and that they are written naturally, as you have felt them in your mind. Do not worry if these words do not always relate to the things that are depicted. The good thing of Etegami is that it does not chain you to the rigid epistolary style. There is no need for the initial greeting formula usually found in letters. Let’s write with a clear handwriting thinking only of whom will read it.

Photo Credits : http://www.italiagiappone.it/attivita_etegami.html

Children are the future of our world, we all know this, and the The Italian Institute of Culture in Tokyo has asked several Japanese children to draw Italy based on their imagination. Primary and middle school children across Japan have met this request and have drawn over 25,000 Etegami that are now exhibited in Pisa, at the Museum of Graphics.

Photo Credits : http://www.italiagiappone.it/attivita_etegami.html

It is exciting to see how these drawings show us curious and suggestive images of how children of the rising sun country see our beautiful nation. A vision of Italy in in manga/anime style, filled with hopes, imagination and dreams of little Japanese children.

The initiative was born as part of ‘Italy in Japan’, the first and most important promotional initiative of the Sistema Italia (Italian System) abroad. Initiative that has seen our country protagonist in over 800 events throughout Japan.

Photo Credits : http://www.italiagiappone.it/attivita_etegami.html

Published by Polistampa, the catalog of the exhibition contains a selection of 300 Etegami divided into sections dedicated to cities and historical monuments, or characteristic aspects of Italian life and culture such as music and cooking. And there is also a special section entirely devoted to Pinocchio’s character.

A jury of representatives of the organizing authorities together with Professor Shigetoshi Osano, professor of Art History at the University of Tokyo, selected the most beautiful works to be published. Three winners were also nominated and were allowed to come to Italy as guests of Alitalia – Italia Tours.

Photo Credits : http://www.museodellagrafica.unipi.it

It is possible to see the exhibition from June 16 to September 30, 2017, at the Museum of Graphics at Palazzo Lanfranchi in Pisa.

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