The house which Takeo Takei had lived until he was 19 years old is still standing in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. It was built in 1698 or 1699, over 300 years ago, so it is one of the oldest houses in Japan. It was a samurai residence, of which there very few, as they are usually made of wood and paper. Okaya-city municipal office, the owner of this house since 2008, decided to destroy. Many people have been against it and work for a social movement in which people maintain the house as a cultural asset for preservation.
There is a memorial museum dedicated to Takeo Takei: The ILF Doga Museum (イルフ童画館・長野県岡谷市, located in Okaya, Nagano, since 1998) . It collects and exhibits original illustrations of children's books by Takeo Takei, Maurice Sendak and other artists.
Takei was a very artistic child, he drew his first illustration three years old. He spent many hours alone at home (in his case due to weak constitution). When he was in the 2nd grade of primary school, he went to school two weeks in total, because of frequent illness. In these days, he immersed himself in drawing and writing, he imagined a fairy named "Mito" in his fantasy, and he played with it. This aspect of his childhood would later inform his deep respect for the artistic mind of the child.
Although originally discouraged by his father (the mayor of Hirano village) from becoming an artist, Takei ultimately attended the Tokyo Art School (known today as the Tokyo University of the Arts, the leading art school in the country and the alma mater of many renowned artists in Japan) with his blessing. There, he studied Western-style art and painting and graduated in 1919.
In 1922, Takei's artwork was on the first cover of the groundbreaking children's magazine "Kodomo no kuni (Children's Land)", which published artwork, songs, craft projects, and stories for children until 1944. It embodied a democratic and individualistic approach to children's education that emerged during the Taisho democracy in Japan (1912-1926), and that mirrored Takei's personal philosophy.
His output was prodigious in the 1920s: He wrote and illustrated his own stories, as well as Japanese folktales and other original fairy tales by Japanese writers such as Kenji Miyazawa. He also illustrated non-Japanese stories such as "The Thousand and One Nights" and in 1928, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen.
In 1927, Takei helped found the Nihon Doga Kyokai (Japan Association of Illustration for Children). At various times in his career, he also had a role as reviewer and selector of illustrations for various magazines. Sadly, much of Takeo's original artwork was destroyed by fire in Tokyo during World War II.