SAZAESAN TEN. This was the poster for the recent Sazesan-exhibition in Fukuoka. I had the pleasure to check it out during the “Asia in Today’s World”-Summer School in Kyushu. Did you know that the manga artist Hasegawa Machiko invented her characters there? And that their “fishy” names stem from her long walks along the Momochihama beach in 1947? The Isono-Family is an icon of postwar Japan: Sazae means “turban shell”, her parents are called Fune (Ship) and Namihei (Shallow Wave), her husband Masuo is named after a “trout”, her siblings are Wakame (Seaweed) and Katsuo (Bonito). The youngest family member, Sazaesan’s kid, is naturally called Tarao (Cod).
Hasegawa Machiko’s four-panel-strips (yon koma manga) are still hugely popular today – the exhibition mainly invited visitors to read genga (originals): Enjoy good old Japan, rising from the ruins of WWII! Wooden houses and sandals, traditional kimonos and gender roles (Sazaesan as a housewife), warm-hearted Japanese neighborhood before the economic neurosis of “Japan Inc.”.
These manga are an echo of the past, and yet a pillar of contemporary manga culture. Hasegawa was so successful in Fukuoka that she soon moved to Tokyo to work for Asahi Shimbun. In 1985, she got her own museum in Setagaya, which contributed many objects to this exhibition. But Fukuoka hasn’t forgotten her. There is a permanent Sazaesan-Street with a small monument reminding us of Kyushu’s famous daughter. Interesting remark for researchers: Hasegawa (1920-1992) was influenced or even inspired by the American comic series “Blondie” by Chic Young (1901-1973). Obviously, manga was already born as a global mass medium.