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).
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.
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 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.
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:
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 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).
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!