News | March 13, 2023

Eric Carle Loves Japan Exhibition

© 2001 Penguin Random House

Eric Carle, Illustration for Where Are You Going? To See My Friend! by Eric Carle and Kazuo Iwamura (Orchard Books). Collection of Eric and Barbara Carle.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art will open present its newest exhibition, Eric Carle Loves Japan, an exploration of Eric Carle’s long association with the country of Japan.

Carle made five trips to Japan during his lifetime. It was the picture book museums he and his wife Barbara saw there - Chihiro Art Museum in Tokyo, Anno Art Museum in Tsuwano, and Kazuo Iwamura Picture Book Hill Museum in Tochigi - that became the inspiration for the establishment of The Carle. The six Japanese maple trees outside the Museum’s Great Hall are a reminder of this important connection.

Carle noted, “The picture book museums that we visited and admired in Japan all those years ago planted a seed that has now blossomed and grown into a home for picture book art in our own country.”

Carle’s famous The Very Hungry Caterpillar was “hatched” in Japan in 1969. The book’s editor, Ann Beneduce, brought the project to Japan when she was unable to find a printer in the United States who could affordably construct the book’s unique design elements. It was the innovative engineers at Kaisei-sha Publishing Company in Tokyo who expertly printed and aligned the die-cut holes and shortened pages that became the book’s signature features. Now, 53 years later, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the most translated children’s book in Japan.

Eric Carle Loves Japan includes never-before-seen photographs of Carle’s visits to Japan over a 32-year period. Of special interest are the original illustrations by Carle and Kazuo Iwamura from their book Where Are You Going? To See My Friend!, a 2001 collaboration between two picture book giants. Also on view are Carle’s illustrated haiku, Japanese word collages, and the portrait he made of a mother specifically for the Japanese edition of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

There are several unique objects on view, including a Japanese quilted version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, exclusive Japanese merchandise, and prints donated by the Chihiro Art Museum when the Museum opened in 2002.

The Carle’s chief curator, Ellen Keiter, organized the exhibition with Courtney Waring, director of education, Motoko Inoue, Carle’s longtime creative director, and Rachel Hass, Carle’s former assistant and now a member of the Museum staff. Keiter says, “The exhibition is more personal than most, highlighting Eric’s fondness for Japanese culture. It includes ephemera like handwritten notes and photographs."

The exhibition opens on March 18, 2023, and will be on view through August 20, 2023.