Art Spot: Koto Rumble

Art Spot: Koto Rumble

Koto Rumble is a Valley artist who is in the process of translating The Grapevine‘s own StarDrop by Mark Oakley into Japanese! Her work is also currently featured at Kentville’s Hardware Gallery as part of their [g]astronomy exhibit, presented throughout the month of October to coincide with Devour! The Food Film Festival.

I was born in Sapporo, Japan, and immigrated to Wolfville in 2017. I was an English teacher and a freelance translator in Japan. I am an artist specializing in kiri-e, which is a traditional Japanese cut paper art style, and I also paint and create sculptures. Since moving here, I have become an associate member of ATINS (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Nova Scotia).

My husband Jamie and I decided to move to Canada in 2017 after we had lived in Japan for several years. Jamie’s mother is originally from the Valley and she had moved back to Port Williams from Ontario. When we visited his mother, older sister, and family in 2016, we fell in love with the Annapolis Valley. Actually, Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan where I am from, is very similar to Nova Scotia. The weather, people, food, environment (and more) have made me feel very at home in the Annapolis Valley. I also feel a lot of possibilities in the Annapolis Valley as a sustainable, international community. Wolfville is definitely a very inclusive place to call home.

In my artwork, my themes include the environment, nature, people, community, food, culture, and indigenous people. I go into nature and pick stones, feathers, seeds, and other things to use for my artwork. Also, I use local art flyers, magazines, comics and newspapers—including The Grapevine! I want to reuse and recycle as much as I can.

I used to run an English school with my husband in Japan, and we created many events and workshops. One was a kids’ art workshop, and I realized in doing it that I wanted to create my own art, partly because my brother, Rui Shimokuni, was a great classically-trained artist.

Also, my husband Jamie suggested that I continue creating my art. I remember when I was a child, I couldn’t express my emotions or feelings easily through conversations or phrases, so my mother decided to give me some paper and let me tear it up into whatever I wanted, and she put a big piece of paper on the wall and let me draw pictures with my brother. Those nice memories shaped my art style, I think.

After moving to Canada in 2017, I researched local events and information. The Grapevine helped me a lot! The Grapevine immediately attracted me because I love art and community events. When I opened the newspaper, StarDrop grabbed my heart. I am an immigrant and I couldn’t get a work visa immediately when I arrived, so I sympathized with Ashelle from StarDrop because she is from the outside and she, too, couldn’t immediately get a job.

I decided to translate it by myself, and to contact Mark when I was ready. However, I happened to see Mark at the Box of Delights bookshop one day. He was drawing his cartoons, and even though I had never seen his face I was sure that it was him. My husband encouraged me to go inside and say hello to Mark. I told him, “I am going to translate StarDrop into Japanese!” and Mark enthusiastically said, “Wow! That sounds nice!” Our translation project started like that. Sometimes, I can’t stop myself if I really want to challenge myself with something very interesting, and neither can Mark I guess. We made a contract to publish the Japanese version of StarDrop on Steemit, a cryptocurrency-based social media website. I share each episode on various social media platforms as well.

As a translator, I usually just work with the text and then send it on to the company or client. However, Mark suggested that I use the GIMP software to input my Japanese text right into his comic book pages. I wanted to learn something new, and now, with his help, I am able to do this. Jamie found a cool Japanese font that I am using, but that font does not contain all of the Japanese kanji (Chinese characters), so I have to spell the words out with Japanese hiragana characters (like an alphabet). I feel that is kind of perfect for Ashelle, because she is from outer space. Her English is not perfect all the time, so it looks great if I use imperfect Japanese!

Also, finding and selecting specific phrases for each StarDrop character is challenging. There are many dialects or ways of talking in Japan, somewhat like the Nova Scotian or Newfoundland accents. I selected different dialects for each character.

Anne of Green Gables has been very popular in Japan for a long time. When I saw somebody’s comment about StarDrop as “Anne of Green Gables from space” on Mark’s homepage, I thought, “Yes! Japanese people will love the Annapolis Valley,” because Japanese people love details that are connected to stories, nature, people, food, or real life situations. Japanese people love comics that combine descriptions of real life with fantasy. We all grow up with comics.

I also have many future projects in my mind. They are basically never-ending! I would like to do art projects for kids, children’s books, music events, other translation projects, and more! Jamie and I are enthusiastic about creating things that connect people with nature and with pleasant feelings. I will just keep on dreaming and creating, because if we wish and dream, it will come true!

To see Koto Rumble’s cut paper artwork, collage art, blog and photography, visit