Israeli moviemaker tracks down Japanese woman featured in ’50s picture book

Kyodo

After a three-year search, an Israeli filmmaker has located and met with a Japanese woman who, as a girl, featured in a picture book that has enchanted Israel for over half a century.

Dvorit Shargal met Thursday with the woman, referred to as “Noriko-san” in the book originally published in Sweden in 1956, the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo said Friday.

Eva Crafoord, 64, from Sweden, the other heroine in the book “Eva visits Noriko-san,” accompanied the filmmaker in her hunt and also met with her in Japan.

Shargal traveled to Tokyo on Monday to seek out the woman and feature her in a documentary. An aide said the woman is now in her 60s and lives in Tokyo.

No other details about her were made available, but she released a statement through the embassy saying, “I am both surprised and happy to hear that the book in which I appeared is loved in Israel.”

The Swedish Embassy said it had been contacted by the woman after her husband read a newspaper article about Shargal’s search, adding that Shargal, Crafoord and the woman talked for several hours.

“It was like a dream,” Shargal said, adding that the woman “resembled herself as a young girl in the picture book.”

“Eva visits Noriko-san” tells the story of a Swedish girl, Eva, visiting her Japanese friend in Tokyo, Noriko, and introduces Japanese culture via their interaction. It was written by Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), known as the creator of “Pippi Longstocking.”

“Eva visits Noriko-san” has remained popular in Israel following the publishing of its Hebrew edition in 1957, and the 28th edition is currently being printed. Shargal said the woman known as Noriko-san may well be the most famous Japanese in Israel.