Kogi’s Mysterious Journey

Kindergarten-Grade 4. Kogi longs to capture the spirit of nature in his art. He draws majestic mountains, trees, waterfalls, and Lake Biwa’s glimmering fish, but his paintings are always lifeless and dull-until one supernatural morning when he wades into the cool, deep, shimmering water and becomes a golden fish. There he learns firsthand the freedom within the silence that pulsates in all of life. When hunger drives him to risk the fisherman’s baited hook, another miraculous transformation forces Kogi back to his life as a painter, but a painter now forever changed. Elizabeth Partridge’s elegant prose and Aki Sogabe’s cut-paper illustrations bring clean lines and lush color to this mysterious tale of discovery. (Amazon.com)
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Dutton’s Children’s Book
New York
ISSN Number
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)


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Mengdie Peng Chinese K-6th Grade Cardinal Maida Academy

Field of Interest/Specialty: Chinese
Posted On: 11/30/2017

Mengdie Peng
PreK-6th Grade
Cardinal Maida Academy
Kogi's Mysterious Journey is a Japanese children's Book. This book tells us a story about a painter whose name is Kogi. He devotes himself to brush painting, especially on fishes. He even got a real fish from a fisherman to study how to paint it more vividly. There was always something missing so his painting looks lifeless and dull. One day he had a strange dream in which he turns into a fish himself and caught by the fisherman who had given him fish before. Luckily, he was inspired by the dream and he remembered the feeling of diving deeply into the lake. He came to the lake and kept painting for couple of days. After finishing the painting, he walked to the edge of the lake with his painting and unrolled the scrolls in the lake, on which the fish wriggled off the paper and so does Kogi himself turns into a golden fish for real.
Although this is a children’s book, but it seems that adults will learn more from it. In my opinion, Kogi's experience reflects Taoist philosophy of Zhuangzi, who is a significant philosopher of Taoism after Laozi. In his opinion, man is an integral part of nature who should maintain personal freedom of body and mind. That’s how Kogi finally made his satisfied paintings. Only after he makes himself part of the nature creature which he draws then he is able to get a significant improvement in his painting. Although this is an interesting folk tale, I don’t think it is suitable for kids to read. Besides its philosophy theme, there are some inappropriate pictures like when Kogi turned into a fish he was killed by the fisherman, which is kind of cruel for young kids.

A Mystical, Magical Journey

Field of Interest/Specialty: Gifted Education
Posted On: 01/02/2016

Kogi’s Mysterious Journey, by Elizabeth Partridge, is a mystical tale of a simple painter named, Kogi. Kogi painted mountains and trees and waterfalls. Each day he painted the beautiful landscapes all around him. But, each day he felt as though there was something missing from his paintings. At one point, he throws his brush down in frustration after trying to paint his friend, Basho, a fisherman. Kogi feels as though his work will never be good enough – he will never adequately capture the real essence of his subject matter and it will continue to appear lifeless and flat.
As the story progresses Kogi’s friend, Basho, gives him a fish to paint. Kogi attempts to paint a likeness of the fish on paper. He is in a state of despair as yet again his painting disappoints him. Basho gives Kogi another fish. Kogi takes the fish home and puts it in a tub of water. The fish struggles to right itself and actually begins to breathe and swim. Kogi is touched by the fish’s fear and yearning to be free. He takes it back to the lake and releases it. And then something amazing happens. Kogi wades into the lake further and further, until he is submerged. A miraculous transformation occurs and he becomes a beautiful golden fish. He experiences everything that a fish would and goes deeper and deeper into the lake exploring. Eventually Kogi is hooked and reeled into the boat of his friend, Basho. Basho cannot hear Kogi’s pleas for his life and sells him to a rich man’s cook for dinner. As the cook slices into Kogi, he awakens back in his human form. He is forever changed though. From that point on, Kogi draws fish – many, many fish. He has scrolls filled with them. When he finished painting the last fish, he gathered his scrolls and took them to the lake. He unrolled the scrolls in the water and, “One by one, the fish wriggled off the paper and swam away.” And then, Kogi too waded back into the water and transformed again into the beautiful golden fish. That is where he remained swimming side by side with his painted fish. “And still people come every month, when the moon is full, hoping to catch a glimpse of a golden fish leaping in the waves.”
The book is beautiful and poignant and the illustrations, integrating cut paper, bring the characters to life. Partridge provided an Afterword in the book. She wrote that Japanese painters are instructed to seek the inspiration that exists in nature. They are, “urged to understand, to become, what they are painting.” This story describes how one painter, Kogi, did become what he painted. The language in the book is poetic and fluid, and the simple verse fits the Japanese folk tale well.