Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Binard’

Kenji Miyazawa’s Poem of Strength, Now a Bilingual Picture Book

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Enduring poetry lends itself to being read and reread over time, as it becomes colored by the issues of the day. The poem Ame ni mo makezu by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) heartened many people after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, which struck Miyazawa’s home region of Tohoku six years ago this month.

Miyazawa’s poem has since come out in a bilingual picture book edition: Rain Won’t. Translated by poet Arthur Binard and illustrated by Oscar-nominated animator Koji Yamamura, Rain Won’t first presents the text in its original vein and then reframes it in contemporary context, in an afterword.

Translated in first-person verse, this rendering immediately compels the reader to identify with the poet’s aspirations, at times adding sentiments implied in the original, at others preferring subtlety over wordy literalism. If Binard’s text stays true to the determined tone of the original, then Yamamura’s illustrations flesh out images of farmland and nature in Tohoku’s Iwate prefecture, which Miyazawa would have known so well.

On the cover is Mt. Iwate in the distance, and readers will just about make out a person walking past some stalks of rice in the rain toward paddies in the distance. Hidden in plain sight are other living creatures—a frog, a bee, a grasshopper. Together they frame the poem in its intended setting. The person remains at a distance in the book, acting as a guide or a projection of the poet’s aspirations, only coming at the end to stand close to the reader.


Translator Arthur Binard (photo by Kelia Li), animator-illustrator Koji Yamamura (profile photo). 


 

This textual and visual presentation is followed by Binard’s afterword, an interpretation of the poem post-March 11. It reframes and explains how the poem should serve not only as a source of strength, but also as a reminder and a rallying cry.

The book acknowledges other English translations of Ame ni mo makezu. Among them is “Strong in the Rain,” which accompanied actor Ken Watanabe’s reading of the piece on YouTube just four days after the earthquake (video from kizuna311.com), and “Unbeaten by Rain” which was read on April 11, 2011, in the interfaith service “A Prayer for Japan” at Washington National Cathedral (begins at 29:22 in video from cathedral.org).

Published in 2013 on the day the original poem is dated—November 3—Rain Won’t is available from Japan in the Japanese/English bilingual edition, and in Chinese and Korean editions.

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!

NHK Website Offers Folktale Translations

By Juliet Winters Carpenter, Kyoto

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK has a new website that offers translations into multiple languages of three Japanese folktales. (I translated the second folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter, into English.)

NHK World Once Upon a Time in Japan

The translations into other languages—Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese—are all based on the English versions, which announcer Yuko Aotani reads aloud beautifully, with appropriate music and sound effects. The illustrations are great too—and all three stories will eventually be published as picture books.

The website does a terrific job of introducing the Japanese-to-English translators, as well, offering “studio interviews” with profiles, photos, and extended interviews about the translations. What a great idea!

Juliet Winters Carpenter and Aotani

Juliet Winters Carpenter (left) and announcer Yuko Aotani

Aotani and Arthur Binard, translator of Urashima (or Urashima Taro)

Aotani and Arthur Binard, the translator of Urashima (or Urashima Taro)

Aotani with Roger Pulvers, translator of Crackle Mountain

Aotani and Roger Pulvers, the translator of Crackle Mountain