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Miffy creator Dick Bruna fondly remembered as Japanophile

The Miffy illustration and message that Dick Bruna produced for affected children after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is seen. The message says, "my best wishes to Japan Dick Bruna". (C) Mercis bv

The life and work of Dutch illustrator and author Dick Bruna, who passed away on Feb. 16, will no doubt be cherished in many different ways -- with the main one probably being his cartoon creation "Miffy."

However, it is also worth remembering that the man behind the globally renowned cartoon rabbit was a passionate Japanophile with a deep interest in the country's culture and current affairs.

His attachment to Japan led him to draw a picture of a tearful Miffy following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, which was later published as a gift to children in affected areas.

Bruna's association with Japan runs deep. In 1964, his cartoon character Miffy became known as "Usako" in Japan, after the Miffy picture books were translated into Japanese by Momoko Ishii and published by Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers Inc.

The Miffy character -- said to be based on a rabbit that Bruna had as a child -- is known for its simple lines and colors. It is believed that the reason behind Miffy's straightforward style was that Bruna wanted to encourage his readers to use their imaginations.

Shogo Tetsuda, president of Dick Bruna Japan -- the operator of a website that provides Miffy-related information in Japanese -- paid tribute to the Dutch visionary, saying, "Bruna was a gentle man. He stuck with his tried and tested format, and his personality shone through in those illustrations."

On the Dick Bruna Japan Facebook and Twitter pages, numerous "thank you" messages have been posted by fans of the author-artist and his iconic rabbit creation.

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