Women Dominate the Ranks of Japan's Illustrators (January 6, 2005)
In the highly competitive world of illustration, women are a major creative force.
Of all illustrators in Japan, roughly 80% are female, and these talented artists
are responsible for creating the characters, images, and packaging that is used
to promote some of the biggest and most influential companies and events in the
|Kinoko-gumi ((c)2002 HOKUTO/H/T)
Connecting with Consumers
When companies look for an illustrator, they want someone who can consistently
come up with images that quickly catch the eye of a mass audience. The illustrated
characters must be capable of eliciting immediate reactions.
Television commercials are filled with such characters. There's the Nova Rabbit,
appearing in the ads of Nova Co., a chain of foreign-language conversation schools;
Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Ltd.'s Qoo; and the Kinoko-gumi mushroom characters that
represent Hokuto Corp., which grows and sells mushrooms. The list goes on. All
these characters were created by professional female illustrators. "Women
are able to connect with other women, who are the country's leading consumers,
thanks to their ability to give expression to feelings of 'cuteness' and 'niceness,'"
explains a spokesman of confectionery maker Tohato Inc. The company relies heavily
on illustration in promoting its products, and it has featured a series of characters
designed by female illustrators in the designs of its packaging.
When Toto Ltd., a manufacturer of toilets, set up a website two years ago for
children, it enlisted female illustrators to come up with two hugely successful
characters: Benki Hakase (Professor Lavatory) and Unchon. A Toto representative
explains, "A woman's sensibilities enable her to relate to the feelings of
mothers who want to make their children enjoy using the toilet."
It is no surprise, then, that a large number of talented female illustrators are
independent professionals who are highly sought after for their skills. Some have
become celebrities of sort, such as Aranzi Aronzo, the brains behind Morizo and
Kiccoro, the mascots of EXPO 2005 Aichi, Japan; Sakazaki Chiharu, the creator
of East Japan Railway Co.'s Suica Penguin character; Maruyama Momoko, who came
up with Qoo; and Suzuki Sachiko, the creative force behind Kinoko-gumi.
Seeking Fame and Fortune
But although the job of an illustrator may seem creative and fulfilling - and
even glamorous - it often takes many years of struggle before an illustrator experiences
a degree of success. Many who aim to become illustrators need to work at other
jobs or draw heavily from their savings in order to pursue their dreams. They
must make do with working only part-time or on a temporary basis for many years,
not knowing when success will come, or if it will come at all.
One highly successful female illustrator in her early forties, whose achievements
include illustrating for a stationery maker, designing greeting cards, and producing
a picture book, is all too aware of the struggles. She recalls that in her early
years she was forced to live off unemployment benefits and savings from her years
as an office clerk.
Many aspiring illustrators pin their hopes on the Design Festa held twice a year
at the Big Sight exhibition hall in Tokyo's Ariake district. Although commonly known
among illustrators as a "gateway to success," given the profession's
highly competitive nature it is an extremely narrow gateway. But that didn't faze
the approximately 5,500 people, two-thirds of them women, who put their works
on display at the show in the spring of 2004.
One illustrator in her early thirties credits the exhibition for her entry into the
ranks of professional illustrators. Even so, her chosen career has proven to be
far from secure or stable. Throughout 2003 she worked on illustrating the cover
of a children's magazine, but after that job ended no more steady projects came along.
These days she works mornings as an assistant at a daycare center and spends the
afternoons concentrating on her illustrations.
"I don't only want to do illustration. I would also like to try working on
picture books and animation," she says. Despite all the hardships, she has
no plans to give up on her dreams. "I really love the job of being an illustrator,"
she says. "The appeal is that I'll be able to stand on my own two feet if
my work is accepted."
Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
(February 13, 2004)
SPICING UP LIFE
(January 28, 2002)