Japanese family treks across Pacific to see eclipse, visit Edgerton
EDGERTON—The Ogawa family had two places on their itinerary this week when they traveled more than 6,000 miles from Japan to the United States.
One stop was part of a global phenomenon—Columbia, Missouri, to see the total solar eclipse Monday.
The next stop has never had thousands of visitors in funny-looking glasses descend upon it to see a rare celestial sight, but it's a place known to generations of Japanese anime fans.
The location? Edgerton.
More specifically, it's the home of Sterling North, whose 1963 book “Rascal” was developed into a popular 1970s anime series in Japan.
The book is a story of North's childhood in Edgerton and focuses on a year when he raised a baby raccoon named Rascal.
Keisuke Ogawa; his wife, Kyoko; and their 5-year-old son, Tomohisa, all are fans of the TV show. Kyoko taped the entire 52-episode series when she was growing up, and Tomohisa watches the same recordings, she said through a translator, Mika Conway.
Kyoko started researching the TV show, titled “Rascal the Raccoon,” and learned it was based on a book. She and Keisuke have since read the original story and later discovered North's restored home in Edgerton.
The trip's main purpose was to see the eclipse, and traveling to North's home wasn't a quick detour.
The family wanted to do something that appealed to Tomohisa. Though the show's entire run was released in 1977, “Rascal the Raccoon” memorabilia continues to be a fixture in Japanese stores, the family said.
Betty Leonard, a Sterling North Society board member, said the Ogawas aren't the first Japanese family to make the trek to Edgerton. She's met a handful during her seven years on the board, she said.
A small shelf of Rascal anime memorabilia left by Japanese families sits on the home's second floor. Besides common items such as stuffed animals, there are toilet paper, soaps and other toiletries.
A decade ago, Nippon Animation sponsored an essay contest to commemorate the 30th anniversary of “Rascal the Raccoon.” More than 17,000 people entered, hoping to win the grand prize: a free trip to Edgerton, Leonard said.
For those families, seeing where North grew up and the local places that became settings in the “Rascal” book and TV show is an important part of growing up or reconnecting to childhood, she said.
Keisuke thought Edgerton looked a lot like what he imagined it to be, he said through Conway.
Kyoko said people enjoyed the anime show and book because it reminded them of childhood and growing up around nature.
“The whole animation is really accurate to the original story,” Kyoko said via Conway. “I think people can feel like it's also their story because it's Sterling's daily lifestyle. A lot of people feel the same way.”
Leonard hoped the Ogawas' visit would spark more local interest. Not everyone needs to travel thousands of miles to see the North home.