Reviews /

Tokyo Night Parade

Authored by J.P.Takahashi
Illustrated by Minako Tomigahara
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc

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This is a book to widen horizons.  Eka lives in New York but is visiting her Grandfather in Tokyo. It is the last night of her visit and she fears that she may never again see her yōkai (supernatural) friends again as they do not travel across the seas. But tonight, dressed as a kitsune – a wild fox spirit – in a costume which is a gift from her grandfather, she hears the voice of the kappa (frog/turtle spirit) calling her from the garden. Together they walk into the darkness and hear the wild gushing wind and sound of the feet of the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons. Riding on the back of a giant raijū, bringing its thunder and lighting, Eka delights in the experience. Sadly, though, she knows that back in Manhattan her school friends don’t understand about her love for the demons; they think they’re frightening and creepy. So Eka celebrates the ‘glorious racket’ of the Night Parade while she can, dancing with the spirits.

At the centre of the story is a child’s experience of two cultures: one where the supernatural is seen as part of everyday life and the other where spirits and demons are to be feared. Eka asks the kappa ‘Are you all good spirits?’ and the kappa answers ‘Are you all good humans?’ There’s an answer to ponder on with young readers. As J.P.Takahashi explains, in an author’s’ note at the end of the book, ‘Perspective informs our characterisation of a yōkai’s actions as positive or negative’. The kappa is known to befriend lonely children and the choice of a wild fox spirit suits Eka as it is seen as clever, mischievous and fiercely loyal.

Not only does the apparently simple story provide much to be thought about and discussed, the glorious purples, reds, pinks and indigoes of Minako Tomigahara’s artwork riot across the double pages, the details of different spirits and demons give much to be pored over. The colour contrasts of day and night, Japan and America, underline the central notion of Eka’s two different lives and her sense of loss that the journey from America to Japan is so costly and so far. The endpapers, with more formal images of monkey, frog, bat, fox fish, cat, dragon and lion spirits, offer opportunities for finding out more about aspects of Japanese culture, bringing a different perspective to young readers from 6 years upwards about what might be seen in the darkness.