7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #584: Featuring Koki Oguma

h1 April 29th, 2018 by jules

From “The House of Stairs”: “Ms. Danko loves to climb.
She’s built herself a house of stairs that looks just like her in every way.”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)


Today, I’ve a book written and illustrated by artist Koki Oguma (and translated by Gita Wolf), a set of genuinely quirky stories in which the author-illustrator wanders around his Tokyo neighborhood and tells readers tales about the residents. The Barber’s Dilemma: And Other Stories from Manmaru Street (Tara Books, May 2018) all kicks off with “The Artist and his Cat,” where Koki introduces himself:

I live on Manmaru Street with my cat, Kuro. There are always lots of people coming and going in my neighborhood, and I like that. Some days I like to sit and watch people as they go about their day, and at other times I stroll around Manmaru Street, with no particular plan. Lots of ideas come to me, so I go home and start to doodle. Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m scribbling, so I start talking to my doodle, to find out more. And then I find myself thinking: ‘Hmm … that’s a good story ….’

There’s a short story for each page, with an accompanying illustration. These abstract pieces play with line and shape in unrestrained, seemingly spontaneous ways. Many of the stories are bizarre and funny — both the stories and art manage to capture a child-like wonder. The titular story is one of Mr. Kenji, a barber who tends to a man with a “terrific moustache” (the art carries this one); there’s a story of a woman who wonders if chairs need a rest too and places chairs on her body; there’s Syoko and the jacket her mother sewed her for her birthday, filled with snakes and crocodiles; and there’s Ms. Momo, whose son makes her a necklace of mud and stones. There are hats made of cream, bad teeth that climb out of a man’s mouth and dance around him, super long boots, a man who munches on people’s very long shadows, candy slides, and more.

It’s unique, this one. Here’s a bit more art from the book. …


From “The Barber’s Dilemma”: “Mr. Kenji is our barber.
Sometimes he is not sure of himself. …”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)


From “Ms. Kiyoko”: “When she’s in the juice bar on Manmaru Street,
Ms. Kiyoko drinks orange juice. …”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)


From “The Friendly Seaweed”: “In the noodle bar on Manmaru Street,
Mr. Siota ordered a soup. To his surprise, the seaweed in the soup rose up …
and began chattering away like they were old friends. …”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)


From “The Cream Hat”: “My neighbour Ms. Kurata loves cream.
She likes it so much that she makes cream hats for herself. …”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)



THE BARBER’S DILEMMA: AND OTHER STORIES FROM MANMARU STREET. Copyright © 2017 Tara Books Private Limited. For the illustrations: Koko Oguma. For the text: Koki Oguma and Gita Wolf. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Tara Books.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *


2) New music from Shakey Graves. Janelle Monae’s album is now out. New music all-around.

3) Friends over for pizza, wine, and cheesecake.

4) This dinner was to celebrate a friend of ours, who is moving away soon. I’m grateful for her time in Nashville and that I got to know her.

5) Independent Bookstore Day was yesterday. Carson Ellis designed this year’s shirts.

6) My friend and I did story time at Parnassus for Independent Bookstore Day. After I read Juana Martinez-Neal’s Alma and How She Got Her Name, which the children seemed to really like, I asked if any of them knew the story of their name. The response was relatively quiet, as most of the kids were super young. But, later, a girl (maybe six years old?) came back to me and my friend, with her father not far from her, and said quietly, “I asked my dad the story of my name.” And she told us. Best. Story. Time. Follow. Up. Ever. (And her name is beyoooootiful.)

7) The new issue of the Horn Book.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #584: Featuring Koki Oguma”

  1. Good morning, Imps! Hello to Koki, Ms. Danko, Gita, the stairs, and, of course, Kuro the cat.

    Jules: Three cheers for independent bookstores as well as new music. Yay for storytime and personal stories!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Care
    2) Share
    3) Daring-do
    4) Doing
    5) Done
    6) Did
    7) Content

  2. Such a vibrant book. I love tje idea of short stories.
    Jules, what a week for you. Kick 5 especially.
    LW: Missed you last week. I always love your kicks.
    My Kicks:
    1. Arbutnoth Honor Lecture.
    2. Naomi Shihab Nye
    3. Seeing Betsy Bird.(she gave the intri to Naomi)
    4. Seeing a blogger, Ramona.
    5. Independent Book Store Day. Won a book.
    6. More Naomi books bought.
    7. My students’ work on display at the event.
    Have a great week.

  3. Love these amazing and trippy illustrations, and that they accompany short stories.

    Jules – your dinner of pizza, win, cheesecake & celebrating friends sounds like a perfect night. Listening to Shakey Graves now, and Janelle Monae is so awesome. She is a go-to when I need a quick dance party pick-me-up.

    LW – your kicks this week are high-enegery motivational!

    Jone – what a book-filled wonderful week you had!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Got my poetry postcard in the mail!
    2) Busy productive work week.
    3) Sunshine for 2 days!!!! So needed.
    4) A HH with a colleague where we got to sit on a patio in the warm, beautiful sunshine.
    5) A dinner club dinner. Great food & good conversation.
    6) Being part of a panel yesterday for a work-related event that was a fun & lively & thought-provoking discussion.
    7) Saw “Atomic Blonde”. Damn Charlize Theron is convincing as a badass spy.
    7.5) Daisy getting to go in the car with a friend on a coffee and puppacino run. She of course totally enjoyed herself and made the friend laugh.

    Have a wonderful week Imps!

  4. LW: High-energy kicks, indeed. You go. As always.

    Jone: I have LOVED seeing the Arbuthnot pics on social media. SO EXCITED that you’re there. So jealous, too! Also yay Betsy.

    Rachel: Atomic Blonde is next on our list. Instead, last night we watched Logan Lucky, but blech. I don’t recommend it for a thousand reasons. (Should have watched Atomic Blonde instead. I’m also looking forward to her new movie, Tully. Have you seen trailers?) … What a good week you had, filled with friends and rewarding work and good food and lively conversations. AND DAISY.

    Have a good week, you all!

  5. Jules – I saw Logan Lucky too & was not impressed either. It had its moments, but overall, meh. Although Riley Keough was not bad. And speaking of things/people related to Elvis – have you seen the HBO doc yet “Elvis Presley – The Searcher” – its so good and all about his musical inspirations. Lots of old footage and photos – he was so beautiful. Makes me want to see his old “Elvis – the ’68 Comeback Special”.

  6. YES! I’m very nearly done with part-two of that documentary.

    My FAVORITE Gillian & David song:

  7. Also, Rachel, one thing I really appreciate about the documentary is that they show footage INSTEAD of putting the camera on people talking. Making use of all the space they have!

  8. Jules – yes!! Way to optimize the footage. I love all the old photos and film footage and the images conjured of him sneaking off to churches and bars to soak up music. I found the ’68 comeback special a few places – the Graceland store has a box set with outtakes – might be a nice bday gift to myself this year. 🙂

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