Japanese Storyteller - Educator - Author

Hiroko Fujita

has retired from international touring
but shares her rare traditional folktales in English
through publications edited by Fran.

Read a review of past performances in America

"Japanese Folklore, Fukushima Style" 

Traditional Stories, Songs, and Games from Fukushima Prefecture

Mrs. Fujita tells country tales she learned in childhood from farmers and village elders while she was growing up in rural, mountainous Fukushima Prefecture. When she performed in America, professional storyteller Fran Stallings introduced each tale with a brief English synopsis; then Fujita-san told in the traditional manner, with lively gestures and facial expressions -- in Fukushima dialect Japanese! LANGUAGE WAS NO BARRIER. Even preschool children followed these tales with ease.

Drawing on her large repertory and wide experience with all ages, Fujita-san tailored each concert to the appropriate developmental and interest level of the audience. She enriched her programs with traditional children’s songs and old-time games (comparable to jacks, marbles). Where time and place allowed, audience members were invited to try their skill. These interactive programs delighted audiences of all ages at American festivals, conferences, schools and libraries.

After twelve spring tours reaching twenty-one states, Fujita-san decided that she is "too old" for this kind of travel. She now confines her telling tours to Japan, where she keeps a very busy schedule and is much in demand to teach and tell, especially in tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Prefecture. But American fans will never forget her warmth, humor, and sincerity. She truly opened a door to international understanding for a generation of American children, 1995-2008.

Hiroko Fujita and Fran Stallings
received the National Storytelling Network's
International StoryBridges Award
at the NSN annual conference, July 2003.

This award "recognizes the exemplary work, dedication and spirit of those individuals or groups that promote the art of storytelling in their own country or promote the building of bridges between their country and other counties through the use of storytelling and/or storytelling events."

General information
Mrs. Hiroko Fujita grew up in mountainous rural Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, hearing traditional country tales from the village elders: animal fables, comic adventures, and stories of family life in old times. Following a university education, she worked for forty years as a kindergarten teacher and primary grade librarian in Fukushima and in Kashiwa City just east of Tokyo. Now she is much in demand to visit schools and libraries throughout Japan, where her storytelling keeps the old tales and games alive for the videogame generation. She also speaks to older students and parents’ groups about the importance of the old stories and games in preserving cultural roots, reinforcing bonds between generations, and laying groundwork for literacy. She is a master teacher, involved in training younger colleagues.

Her first tour of the United States, in 1995, resulted in triumphant annual returns in 1996 - 2004, and 2006 and 2008. During her visits to California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington DC, she has addressed groups ranging from a handful of preschoolers to 300 adults -- children, educators, librarians, business executives and college students. She has led workshops and hands-on sessions with folks of all ages, as well as performing at festivals and banquets. Her poise and humor are never-failing. Children and adults alike are drawn to her warmth.

  • Lecturer at Kindergartner Training School, Kashiwa, Chiba-Ken, Japan. Kindergarten instructor; counselor (young handicapped children); and storyteller at libraries, schools, and kindergartens throughout Japan.
  • Collector & Editor of Endo Toshiko-no Katari (The Folktales of Toshiko Endo) transcribed from the telling of an elderly Japanese countrywoman, published in Japanese; co-sponsored by Japanese Folktale Society and Fukushima Folktale Society. Tokyo: Isseisha Press, 1995.
  • Stories to Play With (edited & adapted by Fran Stallings; August House 1999, ISBN 0-87483-553-4). This is the award-winning English edition of Ohanashi Obasan-no Kodogu (Story-Auntie's Tools) (Tokyo: Isseisha Press, 1996), a handbook for beginning tellers. Each story comes with complete instructions for a toy, craft, or game to share with small children. Isseisha has also published six more volumes in this series, unfortunately available only in Japanese.
  • Katare Yamanba (Tell Us, Mountain Woman) Vols 1 - 7, collections of her own ancient Fukushima Prefecture tales and lore. Published 1996 - 2005 in Japanese by The Young Yamanbas. English translations are being prepared for publication.
  • Fran and Hiroko's Story Book Fran Stallings' stories, edited and adapted into Japanese by Fujita-san! Volumes 1 & 2 are bilingual (English and Japanese on facing pages). Volume 3 is in Japanese with a separate English supplement. (Tokyo: Isseisha Press, 1999, 1999, and 2001). The stories from Vols 1 & 2 are available on CD (English only) as Traveling Tales, Vols 1 and 2.
  • Folktales from the Japanese Countryside 46 of Fujita-san's traditional stories, many in English for the first time.
  • Fujita-san is also featured in Margaret Read MacDonald's Tell the World: Storytelling Across Language Barriers
Born June 17, 1937. Married, 3 grown children. Residence: Kashiwa, Japan.

Fran Stallings

Fujita-san's interpreter and native guide, Oklahoma-based Fran Stallings has worked as a professional storyteller since 1982, performing and teaching nationwide. Fran met Fujita-san in 1993 and accompanied her on the U.S. tours. They have also done seven storytelling/book-signing tours of Japan featuring Fran’s stories. Three bilingual books of Fran’s world tales, edited by Fujita-san (see above), have been published in Japan. In November 2005 they were featured at the Asian Congress of Storytellers in Singapore.