2 October 2013: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Anne of Green Gables and Tokyo
By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises
When you think of Stratford-upon-Avon, you think of a certain poet and playwright by the name of William Shakespeare.
We are talking apples and oranges …or jellyfish and lobsters here… but in certain circles around the world…in some of the most unlikely places…
Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island is not known for Queen Charlotte, not remembered for the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that led the way to Canadian Confederation, and not thought of at all for almost anything else…except for the work of a relatively minor author named Lucy Maud Montgomery and a series of novels that begin in 1908 with “Anne of Green Gables.”
Charlottetown. Photos by Corey Sandler
But let’s start with the real place that is Prince Edward Island.
Charlottetown is the capital of Canada’s least-populated province, Prince Edward Island.
The city is the country’s smallest provincial capital, with a population of about 35,000.
(Canada’s three territories: Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories have smaller populations, but they are not provinces.)
Autumn in Charlottetown. Photos by Corey Sandler
The town was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III.
Charlotte (1744 to 1818) was a Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Queen of the United Kingdom.
Canada has produced some very notable authors, including Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, the poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen,
Michael Ondaatje (“The English Patient”,) Margaret Atwood, (“The Handmaid’s Tale”,) Mordechai Richler (“The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,”,) and Robert Service (“The Cremation of Sam McGee”) among them.
But none have had the global impact of Lucy Maud Montgomery.
About 150,000 tourists visit Green Gables each year; in the peak months of July and August as many as 2,000 per day.
On the day of our visit, two much larger (and spectacularly ugly) cruise ships were in the harbor. We came in by ship’s tender, threading our way to shore. Photos by Corey Sandler
There are some other businesses on the island: fishing, potato farming, and recreation.
But a large portion of the province’s income comes from tourism, and most of that is directly or indirectly related to Anne.
Which brings us to Japan.
“Anne of Green Gables” was translated into Japanese in 1952 and quickly adapted as one of the standard texts for teaching English in the nation’s schools.
There are Anne of Red Hair fan clubs all through Japan; one of them is the Buttercups.
There are major groups of fans in Europe, Australia, and China as well.
But only in Japan have they taken it to the level of idol-worship, comic books, refrigerator magnets, and wedding ceremonies.
In Japan, Anne is almost everywhere.
Why are the Japanese so fascinated with Anne?
It could be the beautiful pastoral settings of Prince Edward Island, something which connects with the Japanese appreciation of simple nature.
But as the writer Calvin Trillin observed in a 1996 essay in The New Yorker, it could also be a fascination by Japanese girls with this impossible creature Anne who is so un-Japanese:
feisty, independent, with a face full of freckles topped by a mane of red hair.
That is as much of an alien creature for the Japanese as Godzilla.
All photos copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like to purchase a copy of an image, please contact me.