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Children's Songs
Kodomo no kuni and It's Artist
Children of Kodomo-no-kuni

1888 - 1930

Okamoto was born on the island of Awaji in 1888. His family moved to Tokyo in 1892 when his father assumed the post of vice president of the Miyako shinbun newspaper (later Tokyo shinbun). In 1906, after graduation from middle school, he entered a Western-painting research institute affiliated with the Hakubakai (White Horse Society), an association of Western-style painters and sculptors headed by Kuroda Seiki. He became manager of the institute in 1911. The following year, he joined Kishida Ryusei and other painters in organizing the Fyuzankai (Fusain Society), which angered Kuroda, causing him to be expelled from the Hakubakai research institute. In 1914 he married and became involved in work with the Geijutsuza, a theater group founded by novelist and playwright Shimamura Hogetsu. In 1915 he took charge of binding and illustrating for a "Mohan Katei Bunko" (Model Family Library) series published by Fuzanbo. During this period he was influenced by Western illustrations such as those by Edmond Dulac and Arthur Rackham. Okamoto was commissioned to do illustrations for Kin no fune [The Golden Ship], a magazine of children's stories and songs, from the time of its inauguration. In 1920 Kin no fune sponsored the staging of the play Blue Bird on the basis of Maurice Maeterlinck's original at the Yurakuza theater. Okamoto was put in charge of stage art, costumes, and lighting, which was highly acclaimed. In 1922 he became chief illustrator for Kodomo no kuni, starting with its second issue. He also began illustrating for Shojo kurabu [Girls' Club] in 1923 and for a new Osaka magazine, Kodomo asahi [Children's Asahi], in 1924. In 1927 he participated in forming the Nihon Dogaka Kyokai (Japan Association of Illustrators for Children) with Takei Takeo, Hatsuyama Shigeru, Kawakami Shiro, and others.