June is rainy season in Japan and boy, did it ever come with a vengeance at the end of May with torrential rains that swelled the rivers, and gusty winds that got the tree tops swaying! Sometimes the rain would go on all night long and listening to it drip off the eaves made me think of a leaky faucet with its pit-pat-pit-pat sound on the roof and balcony. We had to get used to carrying umbrellas everywhere (the trick is not to forget them somewhere when it’s stopped raining!) and I had to figure out a way of drying our laundry indoors. Of course, rainy days put a damper on sightseeing, so I was very glad to discover a privately run childrens’ picture book library near my house. Simply called Ehon Toshokan, or Picture Book Library, its small collection is located on the first floor of a house-like building near the Nigawa River in Nishinomiya. A quaint, turreted building, it’s a great place to spend a rainy afternoon with a child or by yourself (as more than one mother mentioned to me!) Dipping into the colorful world of illustrated Japanese childrens’ books was like taking a bath in wonderland. I have long admired the work of Japanese artists in the field of book illustration and found some wonderful books to look at and read. I was quite happy to stumble upon the Japanese equivalent of an alphabet book — a book of hiragana letters with accompanying words — by well known Japanese illustrator Mitsumasa Anno (whose books I’ve covered here before.) In this hiragana book, Anno has shown the shapes of the hiragana letters as they might look if they were carved out of wood; accompanying the wooden letter is an image of a traditional Japanese object beginning with that letter. Some of the items were unrecognizable to me so I had to look them up in the glossary at the back! This is a great children’s primer on not only hiragana but of the many objects unique to this country. Of course, my focus was on Japanese picture books of which there were plenty, but when I took my daughter to the library she wanted to check out the English books available, of which there were also a number. The library contains books from 27 countries in 18 different languages. She settled on Jon Sciezka‘s The Stinky Cheese and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales (illus. by Lane Smith, 1992) and had a blast reading it to me one rainy night. There’s something about curling up with your child with a good book on a rainy day that makes it seem … well, less rainy!