Announcing SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016!

Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka, to be discussed in workshop by Ginny Tapley Takemori at Translation Day 2016

Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka, to be discussed in workshop by Ginny Tapley Takemori at SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016: Japanese Children’s Literature in English

A day of presentations, critiques, and conversation for published and pre-published translators of Japanese children’s/YA literature into English, including prose literature and manga.

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2016 

Time: Registration 8:30 a.m. Sessions 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Place: Yokohama International School, Yokohama, 2F Pauli Bldg

Fee: Advance registration 3,500 yen for current SCBWI or SWET members; 5,000 yen for nonmembers. At the door 4,500 yen for current SCBWI or SWET members; 6,000 yen for nonmembers.

Advance registrations and translations of texts for workshop with Ginny Tapley Takemori (see below) due by Friday, October 7, 2016. 

Registration:  To reserve your place and request workshop texts, send an e-mail to japan (at)

This event will be in English, with one session in Japanese.

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SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016 Schedule

8:30 Registration | 8:50 Opening Remarks

9:00-9:30 Julia Marshall: How to Publish “Curiously Good Books From Around the World”

The founder of Gecko Press and a translator in her own right, Julia Marshall publishes world literature for children in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. Marshall describes how Gecko Press works and its recent Japan titles, such as Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, translated by Cathy Hirano. (Pre-recorded Skype interview.)

9:30-10:00 Avery Fischer Udagawa: SWET, SCBWI, Submission Opportunities and Speed Share

As SCBWI International Translator Coordinator and Japan Translator Coordinator, and a longtime SWETer, Avery Fischer Udagawa shares about SCBWI and SWET and leads participants in a “speed share” of their current projects. She also shares about submission opportunities for participants in Translation Day, from interested publishers.

10:00-10:45 Zack Davisson: Convergence and Divergence in Prose and Manga Translation

As translator of The Secret Biwa Music that Caused the Yurei to Lament by Isseki Sanjin and the two manga seriesand Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki, Zack Davisson discusses his craft and engages in a mini-joust with Batchelder Award-winning translator Alexander O. Smith. (Via Skype.)

11:00-12:00 Ginny Tapley Takemori: Historical Fiction for Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers

As translator of The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka and The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, Ginny Tapley Takemori has delved into Japanese narratives of World War II and delivered them movingly to young English-language readers of the 21st-century. She shares gleanings from her journey.

Lunch—Bring a lunch, and “talk shop” with fellow translators in the event room or nearby Minato-no-Mieru Oka Park.

1:30-2:15 Yumiko Sakuma: Japanese Children’s and YA Publishing, Present and Future

As a critic, editor, professor and translator of more than 200 books for the Japanese children’s market, Yumiko Sakuma knows the industry inside-out. Here she gives an overview of Japanese children’s/YA publishing since World War II, a look at recent trends, and information on how to scout out promising new titles. (In Japanese.)

2:30-4:00 Ginny Tapley Takemori: Translation Workshop

Ginny Tapley Takemori critiques participants’ translations of selected excerpts from literature for young adults. The excerpts will include text from Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka.

Translation Day participants must submit their translations of the selected text for this workshop by October 7, 2016. To request the text and register for Translation Day, send an e-mail to japan (at)

4:00-4:30 Discussion/Q & A and Closing Comments

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SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016 Speakers

Ginny Tapley Takemori is a British translator based in rural Ibaraki Prefecture, who has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers. She studied Japanese at the universities of SOAS (London) and Waseda (Tokyo) and earned her MA in Advanced Japanese Studies from The University of Sheffield. She has translated the middle grade historical novel The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, and the young adult short story collection The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka. She has another children’s project in the works. Her book translations for adults include The Isle of South Kamui and Other Stories by Kyotaro Nishimura and Puppet Master by Miyuki Miyabe, as well as From the Fatherland, With Love by Ryu Murakami, co-translated with Ralph McCarthy and Charles De Wolf. Her fiction translations have appeared in Granta, Words Without Borders, and a number of anthologies. She has also translated non-fiction books about Japanese art, theater, and history, and worked as an editor of translated fiction, nonfiction, and illustrated books at Kodansha International. Earlier on, she worked in Spain as a foreign rights literary agent and freelance translator from Spanish and Catalan. She describes some of her children’s/YA work here:

Zack Davisson grew up in Spokane, Washington, and did freelance writing for a JET newsletter and expat magazines in Japan, before earning his MA in Advanced Japanese Studies from The University of Sheffield. He rewrote his thesis as the book Yurei: The Japanese Ghost, and subsequently translated a novella from classical Japanese: The Secret Biwa Music that Caused the Yurei to Lament by Isseki Sanjin. He has since translated the landmark manga series Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki and is at work on a seven-volume series of Mizuki’s classic yokai comic Kitaro. The Birth of Kitaro, published in May 2016, and Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon, forthcoming in October 2016, are the first volumes in this collection. Davisson has collaborated with Mark Morse on an original comic, Narrow Road, and has written a much-commented-upon translation essay: He describes his career path and publications here:

Yumiko Sakuma was born in Tokyo and worked as an interpreter and in-house editor before becoming a freelance editor, translator, critic, and professor of Japanese children’s literature. She has translated more than 200 children’s books into Japanese, and her work has garnered many awards, including the Sankei Juvenile Literature Publishing Culture Award. She also researches African literature and runs a project promoting African children’s books in Japan. Her blog and website provide valuable information about Japanese children’s titles: and Her essay “What Exactly Is Translation?” is available in an English translation by Deborah Iwabuchi:

Julia Marshall grew up on a farm in Marton, New Zealand, and worked in Sweden for 12 years at a Swedish publisher of multi-language company magazines and web communications. She then returned to New Zealand (Wellington) to set up Gecko Press in 2004. Gecko Press “translates and publishes award-winning, curiously good children’s books from around the world [specializing] in English versions of award-winning children’s books by internationally well-established authors and illustrators.” Titles from Japan include The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai; Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai; and Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake; all translated by Cathy Hirano.

Alexander O. Smith is the founder of Kajiya Productions Inc., co-founder of Bento Books Inc., and based in Kamakura. His translation of the YA fantasy novel Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe earned the Batchelder Award in 2008. He translated the parable in verse “Wings on the Wind” by Yuichi Kimura for Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories.

Avery Fischer Udagawa lives near Bangkok. Her translations include the middle grade historical novel J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani and the story “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba in Tomo: Friendship through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories. She serves as SCBWI International Translator Coordinator and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator.

Misuzu Kaneko: The Sad Life of a Happy Poet

misuzu-kanekoBy Sally Ito, Winnipeg, Canada

When Misuzu Kaneko (1903–1930) started writing poetry, she lived in the town of Senzaki in Yamaguchi prefecture. It is a picturesque place on a finger of land extending into the Sea of Japan. Misuzu would have been in her late teens, just out of high school. An avid reader with ready exposure to books in the family bookstore, she took to writing poetry with natural, unaffected ease. And she was happy then. Or so I would like to think.

Like Yazaki Setsuo who re-discovered Misuzu’s poetry in the sixties, my encounter with Misuzu began first with the poetry which I, too, found startlingly fresh and arresting. The poetry led naturally to the question ‘Who is this Misuzu?’ and much like Yazaki I was drawn to finding out who this voice belonged to. What I discovered was both astonishing and yet somehow predictably tragic. Misuzu had a short life which she ended herself after a terrible arranged marriage that left her physically unable to look after her daughter. For only a brief period in her early twenties did she enjoy literary success before everything came crashing down around her.

As my aunt Michiko and I began translating Misuzu’s poetry together (which eventually resulted in the publication of the book, Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko) we did so with the weight of her sad life on our minds. Her life was incongruous with the poetry, written as it was, for children. Michiko wondered if Misuzu was happy. Some of her poems were dark; Misuzu was mindful of mortality, and she was unafraid of death. However, as we worked through the poems together, Michiko sensed that Misuzu was happy, and happiest when she was writing of the things she observed with the particular child-like vision she had of the world. And this happiness was deep and true and worth recording.

There are some people too gentle for this world, I thought, while working on the translations. Misuzu seemed like one of them. And yet what a treasure she left to the world in her poetry!  Feeling that I had to work out my complicated feelings about Misuzu’s short life and her luminous poems, I wrote this essay, “Forgotten Woman,” recently published in Electric Literature.

Photo Courtesy of Preservation Association of Misuzu Kaneko’s Work.


Japan Titles on Book Riot List of 100 for #WorldKidLit Month

by Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Book Riot is a literature blog “dedicated to the idea that writing about books and reading should be just as diverse as books and readers are.”

We were delighted to see that in a recent posting for #WorldKidLit Month, 100 Great Translated Children’s Books from Around the World, there were several books from Japan, including some translated by members of our group. Two were Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit  (by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano) and Brave Story (by Miyuki Miyabe, translated by Alexander O. Smith), both Batchelder Award winners.


#WorldKidLit Month image © Elina Braslina

Chelsea Buns in Nagano for #WorldKidLit Month

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

September is #WorldKidLit Month, a time to notice if global stories are reaching kids in the form of translations. My children enjoyed one such story, and met the translator, on a recent trip to Nagano.

img_5948Hart Larrabee with two (hungry) readers of #WorldKidLit

Hart Larrabee has interpreted for the Japanese Olympic team; translated nonfiction about art, design and architecture; and translated Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki for the new book Haiku: Classic Japanese Short Poems. He lives in Obuse, a small town where Issa and the artist Hokusai both created famous works.

But my family visited Obuse to hit a bakery. That’s because a picture book Hart had translated, The Nurse and the Baker by Mika Ichii, got us hungry for Chelsea buns from Obuse Iwasaki, a shop where the buns are made using a recipe from a Canadian nurse.

the-nurse-and-the-bakerThe Nurse and the Baker: The Story of Chelsea Buns in Obuse

In 1932, Canadian missionaries opened a tuberculosis sanatorium in Obuse. In 1935, a nurse named Lilias Powell became head of nursing there. She was known as a stickler for high standards.

04Text and illustrations © Mika Ichii. English translation © Hart Larrabee.


Koyata Iwasaki was the fourth-generation head of Obuse Iwasaki, located in the center of town. His great-grandfather had founded the shop in the early 1860s. After World War II, Koyata-san delivered bread to the sanatorium and learned to make Chelsea buns from Miss Powell. He experimented repeatedly to meet her high standards. And a local specialty was born.

The Nurse and the Baker tells this story with a focus on Koyata-san, a fine baker who nonetheless quakes in his boots when summoned by the exacting Miss Powell. He tries (and fails) many times to make her recipe with local ingredients. When he succeeds, she is moved to tears because he has given her a taste of home.

Mika Ichii’s illustrations and story, in Hart’s translation, more than prepared my kids to appreciate the Chelsea buns at Obuse Iwasaki—still arrayed near a photo of Miss Powell, as described in the book. And it was a huge treat to meet the late Koyata-san’s wife, who still works in the store.

Yet the “delicious” part of this story to me as a parent, is that the picture book’s focused telling, joyful climax and crack English have caused my children to return, repeatedly, to a story about trying. They’ve also learned words like “tuberculosis,” “sacrificed” and “specialty,” seen how a business can show gratitude, and absorbed a slice of Japanese/Canadian history.

We owe you, Hart!

img_5957-editedSign for Hart Larrabee’s business, Letter and Spirit Translation, in Obuse. At left is the logo for his wife Sakiko’s business, Takeuchi Acupuncture, Moxibustion, and Massage. 

The Nurse and The Baker: The Story of Chelsea Buns in Obuse is a bilingual book published by local press Bunya and order-able from anywhere. 

Kyoto Journal Features Translator Cathy Hirano

Kyoto Journal 86 Page 132

By Wendy Uchimura, Yokohama

The inspiring talk “Why I Translate for Children and Teens in a Translation-Resistant Market,” given by translator Cathy Hirano at the 2014 SCBWI Japan Translation Day, a biennial event, has been skillfully adapted into an article that appears in Kyoto Journal Volume 86.

Cathy Hirano is an award-winning translator whose works include The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, as well as Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi.

With an introduction by Avery Fischer Udagawa, this article delves into why we should bother to translate children’s literature, the benefits of sharing culture, how the English publishing world can sometimes act as an obstacle, and how the translator can play mediator between the author and the editor.

Top: page 132 of Kyoto Journal Volume 86. This issue is downloadable here.

Kyoto Journal 86

Publishers Weekly Features Poet Misuzu Kaneko

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko has been featured by Publishers WeeklyIf you are still trying to decide whether to reserve a copy of this picture book from Chin Music Press, due out in late September, be sure to read this in-depth introduction and have a look at a few of the beautiful illustrations. Poetry by Misuzu Kaneko, text and translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi. Illustrations by Toshikado Hajiri.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.06.03




AFCC 2016 (Part 3): Slideshow Afterglow

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Last month I thoroughly enjoyed Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016, where Japan was the Country of Focus. While physically present in Singapore’s National Library Building, I spent three days immersed in presentations about Japan. This post contains slides from several.

Early on I spoke about 31 Japanese children’s books available in English translation—from folktales to fantasy, and from picture books to edgy YA. Click for the full slideshow (an 18 MB download).

J Children's Books in E by Avery Fischer Udagawa AFCC 2016

Or here is a PDF list of Japanese children’s books in English translation, recommended for the AFCC 2016 Festival Bookstore (118 KB). We passed many of these around in my session thanks to a generous loan from Denise Tan of Closetful of Books. Thank you, Denise!

One of the leading translators of Japanese children’s books into English is the amazing Cathy Hirano. Her AFCC 2016 talk “On Translation” featured this humorous slide, which is a literal translation of a page from a Japanese picture book.

Yoda slide by Cathy Hirano AFCC 2016

To read how Cathy handled this text in her final draft, watch for Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake, due out in August 2016 from Gecko Press.

A picture book you might already have seen from Japan is this one, published by Kaisei-sha.

The Tiny King slide by Akiko Beppu AFCC 2016

The Tiny King appeared in a presentation by editor Akiko Beppu, who spoke of how some illustrators in Japan—including Taro Miura—are making picture books with striking two-page spreads, and working in a style with international appeal.

Yumiko Sakuma, a translator and critic, spoke of Japanese middle grade and YA novels about afterschool activities (bukatsu)—some of which are unusual, such as archery and metalworking. This slide of hers shows two novels by Mito Mahara, published by Kodansha.

Afterschool activity bks slide by Yumiko Sakuma AFCC 2016

Ms. Sakuma presented the history of Japanese children’s literature since World War II as well as recent trends and needs. Her figures showed Japan is publishing as many as 5,000 new children’s titles per year; 4,381 in 2015, of which 16.1 percent were translations from abroad (in the U.S., this figure is around 2 percent).

Miki Yakamoto, a manga artist and assistant professor at Tsukuba University, gave a thorough overview of manga in Japan, explaining that for years major works have begun as serials in manga magazines. This was the case with her own work Sunny Sunny Ann! in the magazine Morning:

Manga magazine slide by Miki Yamamoto AFCC 2016

Ms. Yakamoto pointed out that manga is evolving due to new technology, but right now manga magazines and books make up just under 40 percent of all printed matter published in Japan.

One of my favorite sessions of the conference was Kazuo Iwamura’s; I learned that his Family of Fourteen books, featuring a family of mice in a forest, ring true because Iwamura himself grew up in woods. “The woods were my playground,” he told us.

The Family of Fourteen books AFCC 2016The above set is translated into English by Arthur Binard, published by Doshinsha.

How much children’s literature from Japan and Asia is represented in the English-reading world? I spoke about this in my other solo presentation, “Understanding the Business of Translation.” Click to download (4 MB).Cathy Hirano and Nahoko Uehashi slide by Avery Fischer Udagawa AFCC 2016

My thanks to those who gave permission to use slides above. Any errors herein are mine alone. Much gratitude to the National Book Development Council of Singapore, to Asian Festival of Children’s Content, and to this year’s Japan: Country of Focus team. Kanpai, AFCC!