Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Kashiwaba Sachiko

Entry updated 21 December 2023. Tagged: Author.

(1953-    ) Japanese author, largely of fantasy fiction for children and Young Adults, beginning with Kiri no Mukō no Fushigi-na Machi (1975; trans Christopher Holmes as The Marvelous Village Veiled in Mist 1987), in which the titular Brigadoon-like Polder [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], where local accents echo that of Kashiwaba's native Iwate, is revealed to a six-year-old child on a summer vacation, who is obliged to then work there to pay for her room and board. This was merely the first of a number of Kashiwaba otherworlds, to which reluctant and often troubled protagonists are transported, in order to find comfort and self-actualization in everyday chores, the exchange of favours and human contacts. In 1998, the director Hayao Miyazaki began discussions on acquiring the story for an Anime adaptation, but later abandoned the project to make the thematically similar Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001 vt Spirited Away). This became a matter of minor controversy when Kashiwaba's illustrator Kōzaburō Takekawa accused Miyazaki of plagiarism. Takekawa's contribution was flensed from subsequent editions and replaced with work by Hiromi Sugita, although the publisher Kōdansha sent mixed messages by trumpeting on the cover that it had indeed been an "inspiration" for the Oscar-winning film.

Kashiwaba cites her own childhood influences as Mary Poppins (1934) by P L Travers and the Narnia series by C S Lewis, which are most readily apparent in her concentration on fantasy settings inspired by a European sensibility, rather than any specifically oriental Parallel World. In a common trope in Japanese fantasy fiction, the recurring word fushigi (variously parsed as mysterious, wonderful, strange, marvellous) in Kashiwaba's book titles seems intended, either authorially or promotionally, to evoke Fushigi no Kuni no Alice, the common Japanese title of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865; trans Shizuyo Nagayo 1908), which is most often rendered as "Alice in the Mysterious Country". Such resonances can be found even in books lacking the fushigi identifier, such as Ringo Hata no Tokubetsu Ressha ["Special Train to the Orchard"] (1989) in which the titular vehicle magically transports its occupants to the place that they most need to go, however counter-intuitive the destination may at first appear.

Chikashitsu kara Fushigi-na Tabi ["A Mysterious Journey from the Cellar"] (1981) introduced two self-insertion characters for the author: a grumpy alchemist (Kashiwaba herself trained as a pharmacist at Tōhoku Pharmaceutical University), and a well-travelled aunt, who invites herself along on the child-protagonist Akane's adventure, seemingly because she believes she will personally enjoy it more. The cellar itself, in Aunt Chii's pharmacy, turns out to be a gateway to a place where magic still works, and from which Jonbar Point our own world diverged by more enthusiastically adopting the steam engine and the consequent Industrial Revolution. As so often in fantasy for children, the alternate reality is a sandbox for working out the protagonist's issues in the mundane world, although here Akane's apathy presents a distracting lack of engagement with the adventure she embarks upon for much of the story, until she slowly begins to develop a Sense of Wonder for the marvels around her. The story was adapted into an animated film, Birthday Wonderland (2019), directed by Keiichi Hara, the title of which directly alludes to the "Alice" connections, with Chii's store transformed into a junk shop.

Aunt Chii is also indicative of a recurring theme in Kashiwaba's works, which is her speculations about different ages of reader might approach the same story: she is a knowing and enthusiastic participant, daring the juvenile reader to return to the adventure a decade later and re-experience it as a mature adult rather than as a callow child. This interest in the long-term after-effects of a reader's experience comes most artistically to the fore in Tsuzuki no Toshokan ["The 'What's Next' Library"] (2010), a Fabulation in which characters from a number of fairy tales, including the works of Hans Christian Andersen, escape from their respective books in a library in order to find out what happened next to the children who once read them. Repeatedly in Kashiwaba's fiction, it is implied or stated outright that children are revisiting adventures that their parents once had – for example, Lina in Kiri no Mukō no Fushigi-na Machi has been sent there by her father, and Akane in Chikashitsu kara Fushigi-na Tabi is successor to an earlier visitor, "the Green Goddess", whose name seems to derive from Midori (green), that of her own mother.

Inspired, like many other Japanese creatives (see, for example, Makoto Shinkai and Yōko Tawada) to write a fantasy response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Kashiwaba returned to the folklore of the Iwate region with Misaki no Mayoiga ["The House of the Lost on the Cape"] (May 2014-July 2015 Iwate Nippō; fixup 2015). Kashiwaba reimagines the disaster on two levels, as a supernatural crisis that has released ancient malevolent spirits that require exorcism, and a mundane opportunity for her three leading characters, each fleeing some sort of trauma, to reinvent themselves as a surrogate family in a magical mansion, where the retelling of ancient folktales creates the air of a Club Story. An Anime adaptation, The House of the Lost on the Cape (2021), directed by Shinya Kawatsura, redacts some of the more interesting characterizations from the novel to reflect its expected audience, turning a housewife fleeing an abusive husband into a teenage runaway, and omitting the original subplot that the tale's wise old crone has herself found new meaning in life, freed by the earthquake from her previous fate of confinement to a retirement home. The film drifted sufficiently from the plot of the original to generate a new version, Misaki no Mayoiga Eiga Novelise ["The House of the Lost on the Cape: The Film Novelization"] (2021), written by Narumi Morikawa, based on the screenplay by Reiko Yoshida.

While many of these works received critical praise, Kashiwaba found a more enduring financial success with her Monster Hotel series, beginning with Monster Hotel de Omedetō ["Congratulations at the Monster Hotel"] (1991), which exploited common juvenile urban myths – a derelict building near the post office in a generic small town is revealed as the titular guesthouse, haunted by a menagerie of ghosts and ghouls. A decade after the series seemed to have reached a natural conclusion, it was resurrected with Monster Hotel de Internet ["Internet at the Monster Hotel"] (2001), which might be termed, within the parameters of this encyclopedia, to be a Technothriller. The series appeared to receive a second jolt of revitalization after the release in Japan of the film Hotel Transylvania [2012 vt Japan Monster Hotel], directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, with a title that was sure to drag Kashiwaba's unrelated series into the orbit of digital search engines. Subsequently, Kashiwaba has also translated several children's books from English, including "Disney Princess" Ties by Gail Carson Levine, and a Japanese edition of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908; trans Sachiko Kashiwaba as Akage no Anne 2015). [JonC]

Sachiko Kashiwaba

born Hanamaki, Iwate, Japan: 9 June 1956



Monster Hotel

Kaidō Dochidochi

Obake Juku

La Monetta

Kuishinbo Kuma no san

  • Kuishinbo Kuma no san ["The Hungry Bear"] (Tokyo: Kiseisha, 2005) [Kuishinbo Kuma no san: binding unknown/]
  • Nakimushi Yagi no san ["The Fretful Goat"] (Tokyo: Kiseisha, 2005) [Kuishinbo Kuma no san: binding unknown/]
  • Yukkuri Kame no san ["The Slow Turtle"] (Tokyo: Kiseisha, 2005) [Kuishinbo Kuma no san: binding unknown/]

Obake Bijutsukan

individual titles


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies