Japanese tourists are wild about Rascal
The 7-year-old stood on tiptoes, dressed head to toe in pink, and looked at a comb that belonged to the famous author. A pink baseball cap with a raccoon patch adorned her head, and strawberry soda stained her mouth.
Mayu and her mother, Sanae Hatta, 35, came all the way from Japan to see Edgerton, model for Brailsford Junction and the place where North really kept a pet raccoon.
North’s book, “Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era,” became a wildly popular cartoon from Nippon Animation in Japan. To celebrate the cartoon’s 30th anniversary, the company sponsored a contest to send two people to Edgerton.
Mayu and Sanae joined about a dozen other Japanese tourists, including representatives of the Nippon and a company that makes stuffed Rascal toys.
One traveler, Mayumi Kondo, 38, paid her own way on the trip. She clutched a somewhat worn Rascal doll and beamed at everyone she met.
“I’ve loved Rascal a long time,” she said, struggling to express herself in English.
The visitors arrived Tuesday and toured the Sterling North Home and Museum, 409 W. Rollin St., Wednesday. They met members of the Sterling North Society board and Arielle North Olson, Sterling North’s daughter.
They found the sites in the home and city familiar. Animators visited Edgerton in the 1970s to paint an accurate portrait of the city for the Rascal cartoon.
The visitors nodded and smiled in recognition as they saw representations of the Christmas tree Rascal tried to climb, the bicycle with the basket he rode in and the high chair he sat in with two sugar cubes on its tray.
In the barn, they drank strawberry pop and ate blueberry pie, two important items from the book.
In fact, strawberry pop helped Sanae win the trip to Edgerton. The animation company invited people to write about their favorite scenes and randomly drew a winner. Sanae wrote about the scene in which Rascal and Sterling drink strawberry pop.
She also wrote about a childhood memory. When the Rascal cartoon first came out, Sanae was given a stuffed Rascal toy and was devastated when she lost it at a train station. She knew she wouldn’t get it back because the raccoon was so popular.
Sanae was thrilled to see Rascal’s real home. She and her daughter have grown closer watching the mischievous raccoon over and over on DVD, she said through an interpreter.
“I’m very happy because Edgerton in the animation and Edgerton in real life hasn’t changed much,” she said. “It’s like I’m living the story.”
Sanae even got a new stuffed Rascal—almost.
“Nippon gave one to my daughter, but I actually wanted one, too,” she said.