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.

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#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.

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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!

Talking Translation Over Coffee in Ofuna

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

On June 11, 2016, several SCBWI Japan Translation Group members and friends met for coffee in Ofuna Station, Kamakura. We forgot to take a photo until one participant had left, but here we are!

Meet-up 11 Jun 16

From left, Alexander O. Smith, Holly Thompson, Avery Fischer Udagawa, Geraldine Harcourt, Emily Balistrieri, and Wendy Uchimura. Not pictured: Andrew Wong. Photo courtesy Alex Smith.

Topics of discussion included publishers for new translation projects; strategies to keep out-of-print titles alive; and Japan’s MG/YA novels about unique afterschool activities, such as broadcasting club, diving, gardening, flying, and tanka poetry. We want to translate these books!

AFCC 2016 (Part 2): A Harvest of Knowledge About Japanese Children’s Content

At Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016 in Singapore, Japan featured as Country of Focus. Offerings included a Japan Booth and Japan-related sessions over three days of the conference.

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

IMAG2588_1Helping out at the Japan Booth and attending some sessions on the final day of the Country of Focus: Japan program at AFCC 2016 was enough for me to gain a harvest of knowledge on Japanese children’s content. I can only imagine how much more I could have learned from a full three days. Here are some quick impressions from the sidelines.

Right: AFCC Country of Focus poster with illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki. Photo by Andrew Wong.

The Japan Booth treated passersby to a selection of some 200 books. Drawn by the cover illustrations and exhibition panels, the curious stepped in to pick up the books. Some pored over them quietly, taking in the colors and stories in the pictures; others opened up to chat about writers, artists, and their own stories of Japan. Between sessions, Kazuo Iwamura’s and Chihiro Iwasaki’s works would sometimes create overcrowding in part of the booth. Many visitors were ready to take the books home with them after they had taken a look, even though they did not read much Japanese. (Singapore library users will be happy to hear that the books in the booth will soon inaugurate a brand new Japanese-language collection.)

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Books and panel on display at the Japan Booth. Photo by Naomi Kojima.

Naomi Kojima offered a popular hour-long session on Japanese picture books. She almost ran a half-marathon, racing through more than a dozen picture books in a room packed to the wall with eager listeners. Giggles and laughter accompanied her commentaries on Noboru Baba’s Ju-ippiki no neko (Eleven Cats) and Aju Kato’s Jicchorin no aruku michi (The Jicchorins Take a Walk) as everyone joined her in admiring the titles.

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Table covered with books toured by Naomi Kojima in just one hour. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Besides books, multi-talented musicians Toshihiko Shinzawa and Satoko Yamano charmed listeners with songs written for children and adults alike, and they demonstrated how adding music to picture books and vice versa can create new ways to enjoy both media. The International Library of Children’s Literature‘s Chihoko Tanaka captivated children and parents with lively performances of Japanese rhymes and folk tales, while award-winning manga artist Miki Yamamoto helped visitors create their very own folded peek-a-boo cards.

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Miki Yamamoto (upper right) helps visitors create peek-a-boo cards. Photo by Naomi Kojima.

This year’s focus on Japan coincided with the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Japan diplomatic ties, and a new chapter in literary collaboration began with an underwater launch of bilingual books (more on this here) as stingrays looked on in the Sentosa aquarium.

Festival participants got to hear Akiko Beppu, editorial director at Kaisei-sha, liken the work of an editor to that of content producer, linking author and reader and envisioning each book in the store from the start. Doshinsha’s chairperson Kyoko Sakai was on hand to share the techniques and psychology behind kamishibai, a form of storytelling theatre that uses large picture cards in a wooden stage. She made a brief but serious mention of kamishibai’s appeal and its sad history of use in wartime propaganda, and said she wanted the tradition to be used for peace and harmony.

Kamishibai stage (Doshinsha.co.jp)

Kamishibai stage. Image by Doshinsha.

Ms. Sakai’s message drew parallels with Yumiko Sakuma‘s remarks in her closing session: some authors in Japan now are working to bring up topics of war and peace in children’s books, because the country’s pacifist constitution is under threat. Ms. Sakuma also highlighted two other trends in Japanese children’s literature: a focus on unconventional relationships and less-common afterschool activities, and stories about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. She ended by stressing the need for even greater diversity in content for children in Japan.

Covering the recent changes and challenges in Japanese children’s books, Ms. Sakuma’s words proved a thoughtful closer. Like the other sessions, her speech offered hints of the hopes and dreams that we want children to cherish and chase―to help them on their way to shaping the future.