HAJET, an association of assistant language teachers in Hokkaido, is doing a contest to design the cover for their guide to Hokkaido, which they will give out to the new teachers who will come this summer. This is my submission.
When I think about Hokkaido, compared to the other islands of Japan, I think of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Their language almost went extinct before the current day, when people are attempting to revive the culture. So I wanted my image to show the Ainu, and also three important animals of Hokkaido, representing its wild lands: the Hokkaido deer, bear, and owl. The last two were considered sacred (kamuy) by the Ainu.
Ainu patterns often feature bracket-like shapes (ayus) and spirals (morew), which often have sharp-pointed edges, which I read are to defend against evil spirits. So I incorporated this into the title, and the man’s attush robe.
The other thing I’ve found is that Ainu patterns are very symmetrical. They’re often symmetrical horizontally, and vertically too. This is very different from most Japanese art though, which is often asymmetrical and off-center. The picture isn't perfectly symmetric, but I made sure the title box was symmetric, and centered in the picture.
Other than that, the picture seems quite Japanese to me. I don’t know what an Ainu painting style would look like; I’ve seen Ainu carving and Ainu textiles, but never seen any Ainu-style painting. So I did the rest of it in a way that looks like an ukiyoe to me.
I’m not completely satisfied with the final version here, but the submission deadline came up, so there you have it.
UPDATE 2017/05/16: It won the competition and will be on the cover