Cherry Blossoms in Lithuania
Cherry Blossoms in Lithuania is a handy compilation by Haruna Akagi and Ignas Sakalauskas, concerning the history of Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) – a Japanese diplomat who was residing in Kaunas, Lithuania, at the start of World War II. The book consists of two parts, where the first part is a manga – a Japanese comic book – drawn by Ms. Akagi and telling the story of the selfless Japanese Consul Sugihara who saved at least 6000 war refugees of Jewish origin by issuing them transit visas to Japan. The author depicts Sugihara as a noble and brave diplomat, ready to risk his life to save others.
The second part of the book complementing the short story, consists of additional information and pictures of Chiune Sugihara and his comrade Jan Zwartendijk, a diplomat from the Netherlands, who also took part in saving war refugees in Kaunas. Although, he is usually given less attention than Sugihara, Jan Zwartendijk is not forgotten in this book, and is described as a brave person who rescued more than 2000 Jews from the Nazis by issuing visas to a Dutch colony in the Caribbean Sea.
Written in three languages – Lithuanian, Japanese and English – this book is a perfect introduction to Chiune Sugihara for those who are not yet familiar with this Japanese Consul and his work in Kaunas. Those who already have substantial knowledge about Sugihara will be pleased to discover an artistic interpretation of the story – the manga serves as the key element of the compilation, creating a sensation of Sugihara’s heroism.
This unconventional project was supported by several organizations and institutions in Lithuania and Japan, including the Japan Foundation, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuanian’s World Center, Sugihara Museum in Kaunas, and the Sugihara “Diplomats for Life” Foundation. The idea of the book was introduced by the Japanese Culture Club HASHI in Kaunas.Brief descriptions of these partners can be found in the second part of the book.
Overall, the attempt to commemorate the work of Chiune Sugihara by publishing this book is a successful example of how to introduce historical facts in a non-complex and playful way, suitable both for young and matured readers. Being the very first Japanese manga about Chiune Sugihara in Lithuania, this 56-page long book is a must-have for those who are interested in their country’s history and its heroes. Everyone should find a place for Cherry Blossoms in Lithuania in their home and keep it as one of the few symbols that connects Japan to Lithuania, and also human beings to Holocaust victims and their relatives.
立陶宛（リトアニア）の桜 / Cherry Blossoms in Lithuania / „Sakuros Lietuvoje“, 2013. – 56 p.
Authors: Haruna Akagi (manga), Ignas Sakalauskas (project coordinator)
Editors: Jurgita Perskaudienė (English), Simona Grušaitė (Lithuanian)
Designer: Daiva Šulgaitė
Number of copies: 500
Published by Lithuanians’ World Center, S. Daukanto g. 11, 44305 Kaunas, LITHUANIA
Printed by UAB „Judex“, Europos pr. 96C, 46351 Kaunas, LITHUANIA
I put this book in my hands 20 min ago, and haven’t read it all, however it has fascinating appearance: short comics, basic information about Chiune Sugihara, and his work and deeds of saving Jewish in Kaunas. The book is in three languages what’s very convenient. And on top of this, the first impression is really warm — young people doing remarkable project for Sugihara’s memory, and contribute to Lithuania’s and Japan’s cooperation.
When I read the book for the first time, I realized that Lithuanians are very kind. Why? Because they published such a wonderful book. I greatly appreciate this! I always keep it in the most visible spot on my shelf, and wish you to continue such amazing Lithuania’s and Japan’s cooperation, and complete many more interesting projects.
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