Posts Tagged ‘Akiyuki Nosaka’

One Passage, Six Translations—Akiyuki Nosaka

hotaru-no-haka-amazon-co-jpBy Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok 

At SCBWI Japan Translation Day on October 22, 2016, Ginny Tapley Takemori presented a workshop on translating excerpts from literature for young adults. One passage was a paragraph from Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) by Akiyuki Nosaka (1930–2015), and portrays a war orphan living in Sannomiya Station, Kobe, after the end of World War II.

Prior to Translation Day, five translators submitted renderings of this paragraph. Their renderings were then blinded for critique by Takemori in a full session.

Two of the submitters and Takemori also tackled a paragraph that follows this one, which comprises a single long, highly challenging sentence in the original.

Below are the original passage and five translators’ versions, the final two of which have the further paragraph (not given in Japanese). Below that is Ginny Tapley Takemori’s rendering of both paragraphs.

This passage may disturb young children.

Original Passage

省線三宮駅構内浜側の、化粧タイル剝げ落ちコンクリートむき出しの柱に、背中まるめてもたれかかり、床に尻をつき、両脚まっすぐ投げ出して、さんざ陽に灼かれ、一月近く体を洗わぬのに、清太の瘦せこけた頰の色は、ただ青白く沈んでいて、夜になれば昂ぶる心のおごりか、山賊の如くかがり火焚き声高にののしる男のシルエットをながめ、朝には何事もなかったように学校へ向かうカーキ色に白い風呂敷包みは神戸一中ランドセル背負ったは市立中学、県一親和松蔭山手ともんぺ姿ながら上はセーラー服のその襟の形を見分け、そしてひっきりなしにかたわら通り過ぎる脚の群れの、気づかねばよしふと異臭に目をおとした者は、あわててとび跳ね清太を避ける、清太には眼と鼻の便所へ這いずる力も、すでになかった。

[Source: America hijiki, Hotaru no haka by Akiyuki Nosaka (Shinchosha, 1968). ISBN-10: 4101112037]

Translation A

Seita sat hunched over against a pillar outside the beachside exit of Sannomiya Station, buttocks pressed to the floor and legs stuck straight out before him. The glazed tiles of the pillar were chipped away in places, exposing the concrete underneath. Though his skin had been burned by the harsh sun, and he had not bathed in nearly a month, Seita’s hollow cheeks were pale and sunken. In the night he watched the silhouettes of men who brandished fire and cursed like raiders swelling with arrogance, and in the morning he watched the children walking to school as though nothing had happened. Those with khaki-coloured uniforms who carried their belongings wrapped in white cloths were from Kobe First. The ones with satchels were from public junior high schools. The girls from Kenichi, Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate all wore loose-fitting pants and middy blouses, but you could tell them apart by their collars. They passed Seita by in an endless stream of legs. Most did not even register that he was there – those who noticed a strange smell and glanced down gave a start and hurried to avoid him. Though it was only a few steps away, Seita no longer had the strength to crawl to the bathroom.

Translation B

Along the government railway line on the ocean side of Sannomiya Station, slouched against the exposed concrete of a pillar whose tiled surface had crumbled away, Seita sat with his backside on the floor and his legs splayed out before him. Despite long exposure to the burning sun and not having bathed in nearly a month, his sunken cheeks were sallow and ashen. At night he stared at the silhouettes of the men who made bonfires and cursed loudly like bandits, animated by the arrogance in their hearts, and in the morning he watched other children heading off to school as if all were right with the world: Kobe Middle School Number One with their white and khaki bundles, Municipal Middle School shouldering school knapsacks, the girls from Prefectural Number One, Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate all wearing loose workpants and sailor tops differentiated by the shape of each school’s collar. Among the endless stream of legs passing by there were those who, glancing down upon detecting a whiff of something foul, hurriedly leapt away to avoid Seita, who by now lacked even the strength to crawl to the nearby bathroom.

Translation C

Leaning slumped over on the beach side of the Sannomiya Station on the Sho Line against a pillar whose tiles had come off to reveal the bare concrete, butt to the floor, legs sticking straight out in front, completely sunburned, Seita’s emaciated cheeks only became paler, although he hadn’t bathed in almost a month; at night he watched the silhouettes of the men building a bonfires like bandits and shouting curses, perhaps out of pride in their agitation; and in the morning the khakis, whites, and folded cloth bags of Kobe 1 Junior High, the backpacks of the municipal junior high, and top of the prefecture Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate students he could tell apart by the shape of the sailor collar over their monpe work pants; people in the never-ending crowd of legs passing by who looked down at the bad smell they wish they hadn’t noticed hopped, flustered, to avoid him; already, he didn’t have the strength to crawl even an inch to a better place.

Translation D

On the side of the railway ministry’s Sannomiya station facing the ocean, the tiles were peeling off a concrete pillar. A boy sat under it, hunched, ready to fall over anytime. Butt to floor, legs stretched out, at the mercy of the sun, unwashed for nearly a month. Seita lay, cheeks hollowed, sunken, pale white. In the night, he sat gazing out at silhouettes of men who, as if aroused by their memories, swore like bandits, shrilling at the top of their voices, cracking like bonfires. In the morning, students passed by on their way to school as if nothing had happened, Kobe middle schoolers in their khakis and white cloth bundles, municipal city schoolers with their backpacks, and the Prefectural First, Shinwa, Shoin, and Yamate girls differentiated by the collars of sailor-styled uniforms worn over their working clothes. Endless pairs of feet would move along normally, until a nose caught the odor that brought their eyes down to their feet, then they would jump frantically aside, away. No morsel of strength was left in Seita to crawl to a place away from those noses or eyes.

Children, homeless and orphaned, sit at every 3-foot wide pillar, leaning in what felt like the bosom of their mothers, in the train station. They gather here because it is the only place they are allowed to enter. Or maybe because they longed to be among people, like it used to be. Or perhaps because they could always have water. Or in hope of that someone who would give them something to eat. The black market under the railway tracks at Sannomiya station began in September, from a cup of caramelized sugar water dished straight out of an oil drum going for 50sen each. Soon there were steamed potatoes, steamed cakes made from potato flour, rice balls, glutinous rice cakes, fried rice, red bean soup, steamed buns, udon, tempura rice, curry with rice, cake, rice, barley, sugar, tempura, beef, milk, canned fish, shochu or sweet potato liquor, whiskey, Japanese pears, large summer oranges, rubber boots, bicycle tyre tubes, matches, cigarettes, workman’s two-toed shoes, diaper covers, military blankets, military boots, military uniforms, half boots. An alumite lunch box of barley, freshly-packed in the morning by the wife is a “good ten yen, just ten yen.” A weary hand reaches down to remove a shoe, dangle it on one finger, and offer it instead for “how about twenty, twenty yen.” Seita first wandered in, lured by the smell of food. In time, he would find a space the size of a single grass mat to peddle old clothes. Selling off his late mother’s kimono, the inner dress, sash, and outer collar, which had all faded away while soaking in the water in a bomb shelter, he managed to somehow buy food to survive for two weeks. He then sold his school uniform, which was made of good cloth, those cloth bindings from the calf to the ankle, his shoes, but certainly not his trousers? As he dithered, he gradually came to spend the nights in the station. Families with young boys would return from evacuation in full celebratory color, carrying school bags packed with a mess tin, kettle, and metal helmet. Cloth bags dangling, evacuation hoods still neatly folded within. They probably gave out emergency rations in the trains. Relieved to have come thus far, they would leave behind steamed bran cakes for him, strings undone, like some unwanted baggage. A sympathetic soldier back from the frontlines or an old lady who took pity, reminded of her grandchild around the same age, would place a bite of leftover bread or pan-fried soy beans wrapped in paper a polite distance away, like they would in an offering to Buddha. Seita took these gratefully. Now and then, the station master would try to drive him away, making him get up, but the reserve MP manning the ticket gate would stand up for him. We do have lots of water, he reassured. Once he got back, he just sat. Two weeks later, he could no longer get up.

Translation E

Seita sat on the floor of Sannomiya government railway station, the side toward the ocean. His back sagged against a pillar whose tiles had peeled off, exposing the concrete, and his legs splayed out before him. The sun had roasted him. He had not bathed in nearly a month, and his emaciated cheeks hung hollow and pale. At night, he watched the silhouettes of furious men who lit bonfires and cursed like bandits; in the mornings, he watched students commute to school as if everything were normal. Students in khaki who carried white cloth bundles headed to Kobe Middle School Number 1; students with leather backpacks went to Municipal Middle School. Girls bound for Prefectural College Number 1, or Shinwa or Shoin or Yamate, wore monpe pants and sailor tops whose collars told them apart. In the endless stream of legs were those that jumped away, owners’ eyes averted, upon smelling Seita’s stench. He had not the strength to crawl to the toilet nearby.

Children like him sat in all directions against the three-foot pillars, as if the pillars were their mothers. They had come because the station was the one place where they were allowed, or because they could be near people again here, or because they could drink water, or because they hoped for a handout when someone dropped his guard. As soon as September came, a black market had opened beneath the railroad tracks, beginning with a spot where people paid fifty sen for a cup of sugar water drawn from a steel barrel. Soon there were steamed sweet potatoes, sweet potato flour dumplings, rice balls, daifuku dumplings, fried rice, rice flour dumplings in red bean sauce, manju dumplings, udon, tempura rice, curry rice, cake, plain rice, barley, sugar, tempura, beef, milk, canned fish, shochu liquor, whiskey, pears, sour oranges, rubber boots, bicycles, tire tubes, matches, cigarettes, cloth work shoes, diaper covers, military blankets, military boots, military uniforms, military half boots. A man would hold up some barley meal in an Alumite lunch box his wife had packed that morning and say, “How ’bout it, ten yen?” Another would remove his worn shoes and hold them up by a finger, saying, “Hey, twenty yen, hey, twenty yen.” Seita, lost and drawn in by the food smells, had laid out his dead mother’s under-kimono, obi, false collar, and waist strips for under the obi, all with the colors run and faded due to getting wet in an air raid. These sold for enough to feed him for two weeks, and then he had sold his middle school uniform and gaiters. By the time he was starting to hesitate, wondering if he could really sell his pants, he had begun to spend nights at the station. Families with children sometimes returned by train from bombing evacuation sites, their air raid hoods still folded in canvas bags, their rucksacks holding ration kits, kettles, steel helmets; dressed in their best, they carried the steamed rice-bran dumplings seemingly distributed for emergencies in trains, which they would decide they no longer needed and give Seita to lighten their loads. Or a demobilized soldier or an old person with grandchildren his age might take pity on him. They would leave their items softly a distance away, as if offering them to the Buddha: leftover bread, roasted soybeans. He would receive the gifts gratefully. Sometimes a station employee would chase him off, but a military police reservist at the wickets might knock the employee down and protect Seita, saying they at least had plenty of water here. In that way Seita had put down roots. Two weeks later he could no longer stand.

Translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori

In the mainline Sannomiya Station, bayside exit, Seita sat slumped against a column, its tiles peeling off to expose the bare concrete, with his bottom on the floor and both legs stretched out straight before him. He was sunburned to a frazzle and hadn’t washed for almost a month, yet his emaciated cheeks were sunken and pale. Come nightfall, he gazed at the silhouettes of men conversing rowdily with excessive bravado as they warmed themselves around the watch fire like bandits. In the morning he saw children his age heading off to middle school as if nothing were amiss, khaki-clad boys with white bundles from the top prefectural school and those with satchels on their backs from the city school, and girls sporting sailor blouses over their baggy wartime pantaloons, the folds of their collars indicating whether they attended the prestigious prefectural school or one of the three expensive private academies. The legs of the unseeing crowds filing purposefully past jumped to avoid him only at a whiff of his stench. But Seita no longer had the strength to crawl to the nearby toilet.

War orphans clustered around the base of each of the solid meter-thick columns as if finding in them motherly protection, having gathered here perhaps because it was the only place they were allowed in, or because they yearned to be among the crowds of people, or because here there was water to drink or some hope of scraps of food being tossed their way. Already by the beginning of September someone had started selling burned sugar dissolved in a drum of water for fifty sen a cupful under the railway arches, and almost overnight a black market had sprung up offering steamed sweet potatoes, sweet potato dumplings, rice balls, rice cakes, fried rice, bean soup, bean jam buns, noodles, tempura and rice, curry and rice, and then cake, rice, barley, sugar, tempura, beef, milk, canned fish, rice liquor, whisky, pears, bitter oranges, gum boots, bicycle inner tubes, matches, cigarettes, rubber-soled work shoes, nappies, army blankets, army boots, army uniforms, army boots. Men stood holding out the aluminium lunchboxes of barley rice their wives had packed for them just that morning “Yours for ten yen, yours for ten yen!” or dangling their tired old shoes in one hand “Twenty yen, how about it? Twenty yen!” Drawn singlemindedly by the smell of food, Seita had stumbled aimlessly in and sold the underkimono, sash, collar, and waist tie that were the only mementos he had of his mother from the flooded air raid shelter, the colours faded and run, at a second-hand clothing stall consisting of a single straw mat spread out on the ground, and had thus somehow managed to keep the wolf from the door for a couple of weeks—then went his rayon middle school blazer, gaiters, and shoes, and while wondering whether he could go so far as to sell his trousers, before he knew it he had become a nightly fixture inside the station. Here a boy with his family apparently returning from evacuation to the countryside, fully decked out with his air raid hood neatly folded and placed over his canvas bag, his mess tin and kettle and steel helmet attached to his backpack, left Seita some mouldy ricebran dumplings, no doubt emergency food prepared for the train journey and now it was no longer needed, discarded to lighten the load. Others—a kindly soldier returning from the front, an elderly woman with a grandson his age who took pity on him—left crusts and roasted soybeans wrapped in paper placed quietly at a safe distance, as if making an offering to Buddha, which he gratefully accepted. From time to time he was shooed away by the stationmaster, but the adjunct from the feared military police guarding the ticket gate sent the man sprawling, protecting him, and there was always enough water, so having found some comfort he settled in and put down roots until one day a couple of weeks later he could no longer stand.

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016 in Yokohama

scbwi-logoBy Wendy Uchimura, Yokohama

October 22 saw two dozen translators gather in Yokohama for SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2016. Sessions were held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., covering a variety of topics and all in a lovely convivial atmosphere.

The day began with a pre-recorded Skype interview with publisher Julia Marshall (Gecko Press) that gave everyone a great peek into the world of a children’s publisher. We learned some of the ins-and-outs of how the translated version of a book comes into print and heard some important tips on how to approach publishers with our ideas for works to translate.

translation-day-2016-julia-marshall-au

Julia Marshall speaks by Skype from Wellington, New Zealand, with Avery Fischer Udagawa.

SCBWI International Translator Coordinator and Japan Translator Coordinator, Avery Fischer Udagawa, then spoke about SCBWI and SWET and gave all the participants the chance to share information on their current projects.

Following right on, renowned translator Zack Davisson joined the group via Skype and was interviewed by Batchelder Award-winning translator Alexander O. Smith. After answering questions from the room, Zack and Alex engaged in a mini translation joust. Their challenge was to translate several sections from the manga How Are You? by Miki Yamamoto, with the extra added pressure that the artist herself was in the room! Given the caliber of both translators, it was no surprise that the result was a draw.

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Zack Davisson, via Skype from Seattle, and Alexander O. Smith pose with manga artist Miki Yamamoto.

The last session of the morning featured translator Ginny Tapley Takemori, who talked about how she got into the craft and her work on The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka and The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, the latter of which has been shortlisted for the 2017 Marsh Award.

 

 

After a delicious, healthy lunch and lots of chatting, Yumiko Sakuma gave a talk in Japanese about recent trends in Japanese children’s and YA publishing, where the number of new publications is high. Ms. Sakuma focused on 3 themes of high interest in Japanese children’s/YA literature: the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and related Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster; bukatsu, or after-school clubs; and stories of war and peace. Ms. Sakuma recommended a number of titles in these areas and also encouraged us to check out children’s books that have been selected for awards, including the Sankei Juvenile Literature Publishing Culture Award, Noma Children’s Literature Prize and the Japan Picture Book Award.

2016-10-22-13-47-08

Yumika Sakuma introduces a picture book by Kazu Sashida about the 2011 tsunami.

The final session of the day was an opportunity to have Ginny critique our previously-submitted translations of selected excerpts (anonymously, of course!). It is rare to receive feedback on our work, and it was interesting to see how everyone had approached the texts: The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui and Graveyard of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka.

As always, this event was a valuable opportunity to meet with others involved in the translation of children’s literature, learn more about activities in the field—from the perspectives of both publishers and translators—and get ideas about how to improve our work.

translation-day-morning-group-photo

Participants in Translation Day 2016 at the end of the morning. The slide shows works by Akiyuki Nosaka and Tomiko Inui, both translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

 

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) scbwi.org

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

 * * * * * * * * * * *

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) scbwi.org

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

* * * * * * * * * * *

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: https://ihatov.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/an-interview-with-ginny-tapley-takemori

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: www.tcj.com/confessions-of-a-manga-translator. He describes his career path and publications here: https://ihatov.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/an-interview-with-translator-zack-davisson

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: http://baobab.way-nifty.com/blog/ and http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/baobab-star/. Her essay “What Exactly Is Translation?” is available in an English translation by Deborah Iwabuchi: www.swet.jp/articles/article/pianyan_little_keys_and_yumiko_sakuma_2/_C30

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. www.geckopress.co.nz

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. www.bentobooks.com

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. www.averyfischerudagawa.com

japan.scbwi.org

ihatov.wordpress.com

An Interview with Ginny Tapley Takemori

Ginny Tapley TakemoriBy Sako Ikegami, Kobe

Ginny Tapley Takemori is a British translator based in rural Ibaraki, Japan, who has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers. Two of her translations are due out this year from Pushkin Children’s Books: The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka and The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui.

Takemori will discuss both titles at an event in Tokyo on June 20, 2015: On Whales, Blue Glass, War and Young People.

Here she introduces The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine.

Sako Ikegami: First, please allow me to congratulate you on the publication of such a historically important translation. It’s a beautiful rendition of Akiyuki Nosaka’s seminal, autobiographical work.

Ginny Tapley Takemori: Thank you very much. I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to translate it, and delighted that you enjoyed my translation.

Could you tell us a bit about Nosaka and the background of this story collection?

Nosaka experienced the war as a child, and lost his adoptive parents in the bombing of Kobe. He was evacuated along with his younger sister, who died of starvation. He went on to become an extraordinary public figure in Japan, famous as a prolific writer, scriptwriter, chanson singer, comedian (rakugo and manzai), TV personality, and even politician. The stories in The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine reflect his horrifying wartime experiences, and their profoundly antiwar message is emphasised by setting them all on 15 August 1945, the day of Japan’s surrender. Nevertheless, they are sweetly and sensitively written, retaining the innocence of the child, and highlight aspects of war that are often overlooked.

Whale cover

Would you tell us a little bit about your own background, how you came to learn Japanese, and what got you interested in children’s literature translation, in particular? Is there any genre of books that you particularly enjoy working on?

My background is somewhat unconventional, to say the least. I became interested in Japanese literature while working as a literary agent in Barcelona, and translating from Spanish and Catalan. One of our clients was the Japan Foreign Rights Centre, and I read up all the books they sent us in English in order to sell them to Spanish and Catalan publishers. At the same time, a Japanese friend gave me some Murakami Haruki books, and I began seeking out whatever Japanese literature I could find in English (which at the time involved scouring bookshops wherever I went), while also reading the weekly Dragon Ball mangas in Spanish, and watching anime such as Dragon Ball, Yawara, etc on Catalan TV. Completely swept away by the different vision they afforded and also intrigued at the challenge of learning a very different language, I decided to drop everything and enrolled on a BA Japanese course at SOAS (London University) with the long-term goal of translating Japanese literature into English. I became interested in children’s literature as a child, devouring whatever books I could get my hands on, and that interest never left me. I am also keenly interested in adult literature, and now translate fiction for both adults and children. I have a very eclectic taste, from literary fiction to mysteries to sci-fi and fantasy—and everything in between. My only criteria for enjoying a book (as reader or translator) are that it engages me mentally and emotionally, fires my imagination, and leaves me a little bit changed from before I read it.

How did you come to translate The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine?

Thanks to existing translations in French and German, the editors at Pushkin Press had already read it and acquired the rights. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time, since Pushkin had just released Ryu Murakami’s From the Fatherland, With Love, which I co-translated. They had already approached me about Tomiko Inui’s The Secret of the Blue Glass, and had actually offered Nosaka’s book to my good friend and co-translator Ralph McCarthy, who instead recommended me. I fell in love with Whale instantly, as I’m sure he knew I would.

Is there any story in Whale that you particularly love?

To be honest, I love all the stories. What struck me very strongly in Nosaka’s voice was his deadpan sense of irony, almost sarcastic in places. He brilliantly captures the raw experience of war, while at the same time remaining tender—a combination I find devastating. The stories are all very powerful, and also opened my eyes to aspects of the war I had never known about. This edition only contains seven of the original twelve, but Pushkin had me translate all of them with the intention of including the remaining stories in future editions. I hear they are contemplating releasing an e-book of all the stories, which I very much hope happens. If I had to pick out just one that made a particularly deep and lasting impression on me, it would have to be “The Mother That Turned Into a Kite.” It still brings tears to my eyes when I read it.

I understand that you are from the UK. It seems that while stories about war in juvenile literature are less popular in the United States, many award-winning books in the UK (winners of the Carnegie Medal, Whitbread/Costa Book Award, and more) are stories about children affected by war. Do you believe that the readership in the UK may be more open to stories from Japan that deal with this topic, since the UK experienced intense bombings (such as the Blitz), like Japan? The two countries also share a history of sending children out into the countryside to protect them from bombings. Goodnight Mister Tom is one of my favorite novels.

Britain didn’t suffer anywhere near the extent of the devastation that Japan did, but they did experience the nine-month Blitz (in which mostly factories and docklands, rather than civilians, were targeted) as well as other aspects of war, including all the men being called up to fight, food shortages and rationing, evacuation of schoolchildren, etc. My parents are about the same age as Nosaka and I grew up hearing them talk about their experiences, and how we must never let it happen again. They inculcated in me a strong anti-war sentiment that remains with me today. My mother-in-law lost her house in the Tokyo air raid as a child, and I’m sure her traumatic experience has defined her life. While the US was very much involved in the war and experienced the draft and rationing, other than Pearl Harbor they did not experience bombing raids or fighting on their home territory, so I think the reality was rather different for them, and perhaps that is reflected in attitudes to stories about war for children.

Do you have any thoughts on why The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine has been translated now, so many years after the war? Have we become too complacent? Do we and our children need reminding of the horrors?

I’m not sure Pushkin Press had any particular intention in publishing this book now other than that it’s a very good book that deserves to be available in English. In terms of my own feelings about it, I worry that now the experience of the last world war is disappearing from living memory we seem to be headed that way again. Yes, perhaps we are too complacent. There are many wars going on around the world, many children and families are suffering, but these hardly affect those of us living in peacetime and we become inured to the images of suffering that we see on TV. I feel strongly that people should be aware of the reality of war and why we should do everything in our power to avoid it—whether it affects us directly or not. That is why stories like the ones in this collection are so important.

In many ways these stories are difficult to read because they are honest and there is just so much pain and loss—topics that children’s books tend to avoid. Was it difficult to translate these in a way that would appeal to a child, as well as a general readership?

I translated them the way they spoke to me in Japanese. I imagined them being read to children and tried to make the narrative voice appropriate—especially aiming for a kind of fairy-tale style—but I didn’t change anything in the original Japanese to try to make them more “child-friendly.” I’m not certain that Nosaka intended them specifically as children’s stories so much as stories viewed through the eyes of children. He describes the brutal reality of war, but at the same time he imbues the stories with empathy and humanity, qualities that override all else. I think they are probably more appropriate for young adults than younger children, and of course I think they appeal to adults too—but then, all good children’s books do.

Some of the stories have Japanese children’s songs in them. What was your experience translating these “familiar tunes” into a totally different language?

In this edition of Whale, only two of the stories have songs in them: one, in “The Parrot and the Boy,” is an established children’s song, “Seagull Sailors” by Toshihiko Takeuchi, and the other is an impromptu lullaby sung by the mother to her child in “The Mother That Turned into a Kite.” In the case of “Seagull Sailors,” I looked up the full lyrics and listened to a number of renditions of the song. I also tracked down an existing translation by a certain B. Ito that I thought was very good and better than anything I could produce myself, so I used the relevant lines from that (of course crediting the translator on the copyright page). There is another children’s song in a story not included in this edition that I approached in the same way—although I couldn’t find any existing translation that I liked, so I did my own. The lullaby in “The Mother That Turned into a Kite” is not meant to be a polished song—she makes up the words as she goes—so I simply tried to capture the feelings, anguish, and emotions she expresses through them.

This holds true for Nosaka’s Grave of the Fireflies (not included in this volume): Given the grim settings and outcomes in these stories, I was surprised by how uplifted I was by the characters and their stories. I imagine that this must be why Nosaka’s stories have endured over the decades. Do you have any thoughts on this?

I think what is so important about Nosaka’s writing is that in amongst all the destruction and suffering, he can find love, courage and hope. The characters in his stories are children and animals, innocents who cannot understand, or adults swept up in the tide of history by events beyond their control—but all human, and all tragic. All are portrayed with an empathy that underlines our very humanity. There is no trace of sentimentality. The contrast between the violence and destruction and this tenderness is devastatingly poignant, heartbreaking and beautiful, and I think it is this that makes them ultimately uplifting.

I’ve wondered how readers outside of Japan might accept the way that these, and I guess many Japanese stories in general, don’t really end up with a “happily ever after” type of ending. What has been your experience in that regard?

This is one of the things that first had me so intrigued about Japanese literature. In the West we are so used to there being a satisfying ending that we forget that life often isn’t really like that, and stories don’t need to be like that either. I’ve come to feel that sometimes this “happy” ending stops us from seeking other elements that can make a story meaningful—as in life, the process is often more important than the ending. I do realize that many Western readers struggle with this unfamiliar way of writing, and I don’t have a simple answer to how we can reconcile this, but I do feel that English-language readers are becoming more open to different ways of seeing the world as translated literature gains popularity. In Nosaka’s case, I think the stories are so well constructed and beautifully written that most readers will just be swept away by them—at least I hope they will.

Thank you again for such a sensitive and well-written translation of Nosaka’s stories. I sincerely hope that Whale reaches the wide readership it deserves.

If my translation succeeds in drawing readers into these wonderful stories, I will be very happy.

Ginny Tapley Takemori will speak to SCBWI Japan in Tokyo on June 15, 2015.

Sako Ikegami can lay claim to various titles—clinical pharmacist, medical translator/writer, children’s book reader—but best enjoys working with young adult books. She aspires to bridge her two cultures, US and Japanese, by translating children’s literature. Her translations include Ryusuke Saito’s stories The Tree of Courage and Hachiro, which appears in Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories and is introduced here.

Upcoming Event: Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori

Blue Glass coverThe Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori: On Whales, Blue Glass, War and Young People

Time: Saturday, June 20, 2015, 6:00–7:30 p.m.

Place: Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Conference Room 2, 5-53-67 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (near the United Nations University; map)

Fee: SCBWI members 800 yen; nonmembers 1,200 yen

RSVP: To reserve a place, email japan (at) scbwi.org by Friday, June 19

This event will be in English.

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Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori will discuss two children’s books she translated from Japanese into English, both of which are due out from Pushkin Children’s Books this year: The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka and The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui. Both titles explore sobering themes of war, suffering and loss through intriguing characters: a whale who courts a military submarine, a mother who becomes a kite, a family of Little People who sleep in cigarette boxes and craft their shoes out of book jackets. Takemori will describe how she came to translate the two books and discuss some specific translation issues that she grappled with in the process.

Akiyuki Nosaka (b. 1930) lost his mother at birth and his adoptive parents at age 14 in the U.S. bombing of Kobe. A former Diet member, he has authored nearly 100 books including Grave of the Fireflies, animated by Studio Ghibli.

Tomiko Inui (1924–2002) worked as a preschool teacher before becoming an editor and acclaimed author of children’s books. For over two decades she ran the Musika Library, a project to provide books directly to children.

Ginny Tapley Takemori is a British translator based in rural Ibaraki, who has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers. 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 GrantaWords Without Borders, and a number of anthologies. She has also translated nonfiction 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.

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