The Vessels of Life

by Masao Kosuge / Makoto Horikawa


32 pages / March, 2011 / 1,500 yen (w/o tax)

What Animals Taught Me About Life


This picture book is set in the hugely popular Asahiyama Zoo in Hokkaido.
In the story, Toko’s family went to visit the Asahiyama Zoo. There the chimpanzees, wolves, yezoshika deer, polar bears, and penguins were all raising their young.
However, when they got to where the fierce animals were, Ichi the tiger was nowhere to be seen. While they were looking for Ichi, they saw a sign that said “In Mourning.”
Had Ichi died? Toko began to cry. With the curator who happened to pass by at that moment, Toko followed the 4-billion-year-long journey of the “thread of life.”
With delightful, fantastical illustrations, this book expresses the important role played by the “vessels of life.”

From the editor

This book is actually the first book proposal I came across when I started working. I sent a request to Mr. Kosuge, who was a zoo curator at the time. I remember well how happy I was when I received his consent to work with me. It has been two and a half years since then, and although it has taken a while, the project has resulted in a very satisfying book. Shin Horikawa’s adorable illustrations, done in beautiful colors, contribute greatly to the attractiveness of the book.
I hope that The Vessels of Life will become a favorite for many children.


Masao Kosuge

Masao Kosuge was born in Sapporo, Hokkaido, in 1948. He graduated from the Hokkaido University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1973 and started working as a veterinarian at Asahikawa Asahiyama Zoological Park. He later became the manager of the animal husbandry section, the assistant park director, and, in 1995, the park director. He introduced new facilities, such as the penguin building, the seal building, and other animal behavior exhibits, turning a park that was on the brink of closure into the one with the highest number of visitors per month in Japan. From 2009 to March 2010, he was the honorary park director. He now is a visiting professor at Hokkaido University, and he delivers lectures and talks in many places around Japan.
He has written a number of books, including Teachings for 15-Year-Olds: Lessons from Penguins (Kodansha), A Story About the Asahiyama Zoo: Wolf Forest (Illustrations by Hiroshi Abe; Kadokawa), What Does it Mean to Live?–A Message About Life from the Director of the Asahiyama Zoo (Kadokawa), Asahiyama Zoo Revolution–Restoration Projects that Fulfilled a Dream (Kadokawa One Theme 21), and Asahiyama Zoo Diary–Wolf Forest and Polar Bears at Asahiyama Zoo (Illustrations by Ai Akikusa, Photos by Shuho Imazu, Kadokawa; Tsubasa Publishing).
Masao Kosuge lives in Asahikawa City.

Makoto Horikawa

Makoto Horikawa was born in Monbetsu, Hokkaido, in 1964. He studied Agriculture at Hirosaki University, and after studying art and woodwork in Asahikawa, he began working on picture books and illustrations.
Among the picture books he has illustrated are Writings of an Insect (Written by Ineko Matsutake; Fukuinkan), Shuppatsugata-Konkun (Benesse Corporation), and Fun Maps of Hokkaido Picture Book (Winner of the Bibakarasu Prize at the Kenbuchi Picture Book Place, Hokkaido Shinbun Press). His illustrations have appeared in The Darkness in the Pencil Case (Written by Masamoto Nasu; Kaiseisha Wonderland), and Go Schwatmann! (Written by Rie Muranaka; Fukuinkan).
He is also involved in workshops for children and in conductive education for the disabled, and he has applied his experience in a manual titled Easy Ways to Make Homemade Toys–Play With Your Baby (Fukuinkan).
Makoto Horikawa lives in Asahikawa City.