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Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2000

Book bites

SHONEN: Where It All Started, by Yuji Ando. Kabushiki gaisha 22, 6-6-16 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052. 80 pp., 3,000 yen (cloth).

This beautiful bilingual book is basically an album of paintings by the well-known artist Yuji Ando, depicting his memories of a rural Japanese childhood in a setting that the photographer Johnny Hymas calls in his afterword "a child's natural playground."

Born in Tanuma in Tochigi Prefecture in 1951, Ando returned to his hometown when he was 31 and decided to settle down there. Thereafter, "shonen no hi" -- childhood days -- became the lifelong theme of his art. The selection here is representative.

Following the cycle of the seasons, from the melting of the snows to the blooming of the magnolias a full year later, the 39 paintings in this book are full of humor as well as beauty, as befits a child's perspective.

Nearly every scene shows children outdoors, engaged in such peaceful activities as helping with rice-planting and changing the shoji-screen paper; making snowballs; pounding mochi; collecting insects; playing and squabbling in the fields; or just sitting quietly with a friend as the sun goes down on the last day of summer vacation.

A dose of pure nostalgia.

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