Posts Tagged ‘Kenji Miyazawa’

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.

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Fourth Anniversary of 3/11

Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen StoriesThis week marks the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press) is a collection of YA fiction compiled to help teen survivors of the 3/11 disaster. This benefit anthology was edited by Holly Thompson.

Tomo offers 36 stories including 10 translations from Japanese (one from Ainu). These are:

“Anton and Kiyohime” by Fumio Takano, translated by Hart Larrabee

“Blue Shells” by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei

“The Dragon and the Poet” by Kenji Miyazawa, translated by Misa Dikengil Lindberg

“Fleecy Clouds” by Arie Nashiya, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

“Hachiro” by Ryusuke Saito, translated by Sako Ikegami

“House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa

“The Law of Gravity” by Yuko Katakawa, translated by Deborah Iwabuchi

“Love Letter” by Megumi Fujino, translated by Lynne E. Riggs

“Where the Silver Droplets Fall” by Yukie Chiri, translated by Deborah Davidson

“Wings on the Wind” by Yuichi Kimura, translated by Alexander O. Smith

The epigraph of Tomo, an excerpt from the poem “Be Not Defeated by the Rain” by Kenji Miyazawa, was translated by David Sulz.

All proceeds from sales of Tomo benefit teens via the NPO Hope for Tomorrow. Interviews and an educators’ guide may be found at the Tomo blog. Tomo is also available as an ebook.

 

AFCC 2014 (Part 1): A Japanese-English Translator in Singapore

Paul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture

AFCC logoEarly this month I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) at Singapore’s National Library. As a translator of children’s literature, I found much to interest me.

I’ve broken up my report into three parts. The first is a general overview of the festival and the relevance of an event like this for translators of Japanese literature (from my personal point of view). The second is a summary of Cathy Hirano’s presentation on translating children’s literature. The third is my report from presentations by Bill Belew, a professor in social media marketing, who had some useful tips on how to get more people to come and visit your website.

Smiles at AFCC 2014

Smiles at AFCC 2014. From left: translator Cathy Hirano, translator Paul Quirk, Yuuki Hasegawa, author and SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator Naomi Kojima, author Evelyn Wong

1. Overview of AFCC 2014

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is an annual event held in Singapore. It’s a place where authors, illustrators, translators, publishers, agents and others find out what is happening in the publishing world, share ideas, and find partners for their new projects. There are also events for librarians, teachers and parents, and so consumers and advocates of content for children can talk directly with the people creating content, giving them feedback as well as ideas for their next projects.

But to be totally honest, during the first day at the festival I was wondering whether it was such a good idea to be there. There were a lot of great authors and illustrators about, it was true, but I found myself asking, “As a translator, what can I get out of this?”

SCBWI Singapore books on display

I began translating children’s stories from two classic Japanese authors—Kenji Miyazawa and Nankichi Niimi—over two years ago, and publishing them online under the name of Little J Books. It’s still early days, but it’s something I really enjoy doing. My motivation is to create a way of introducing the kinds of stories that I like to other people who might be interested in Japanese literature. In future it would be great if I could get more translators involved, translating different authors, and get the books (with illustrations) into shops as well as online. But how do you go about doing that?

Well, I didn’t find the answer to this problem at AFCC 2014, but I did hear a lot of good ideas that could put me on the right track. I also got a lot better at explaining what I was trying to do. I realized that meeting people at an event like this is a great way to test out your ideas on people who share a lot of the same interests. It is also a great way to find out about all of the different authors and illustrators from around Asia, and listen to how their experience working with children’s books has changed their lives, as well as the children who’ve read their stories.

One more thing that I realized from attending the AFCC was that translators are well positioned to be promoters of content. Because we are bilingual, we can introduce (in the case of Japanese translators) our favorite Japanese authors and illustrators to the rest of the world, while at the same time introduce the rest of the world to Japan. Could anyone be better qualified to do that?

I had a terrific time at AFCC 2014, and in the end I got a lot out of it. A lot of ideas, a lot of contacts, and a lot of new friends. I hope I can make it back there again soon.

Hardworking volunteers at the SCBWI desk

Hardworking volunteers at the SCBWI desk

Here is a sampling of some of the presenters that spoke this year.

Sally Gardner, an award winning English author who has sold over two million books, spoke about how important it was to write from the heart. Don’t think about what kind of story sells, but ask yourself what kind of story you want to tell, and then write that story.

Fazeila Isa, a lecturer in early childhood and special education at the Sultan Idris Education University in Malaysia, used the example of the picture book Arabella by Wendy Orr and illustrated by Kim Gamble to demonstrate how a child with a disability can be incorporated into the story without the focus being on the disability.

There is a strong need for more books that incorporate people with handicaps into the story, or have them as the protagonists. Writers (and translators who choose to translate such stories) can help to empower disabled children through storytelling.

Mahtab Narsimhan (children’s author) and Cristy Burne (children’s author) gave a talk on how to create spine-tingling scary stories. One tool that both of these authors use to create tension is folklore. Mahtab uses fearsome characters from Indian folklore such as the Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva, and Cristy uses zany characters from Japanese folklore, such as an umbrella that comes to life and runs around on one ‘leg.’

Scary stories are an important tool for enabling children to overcome their fears.

Mariko Nagai, a poet, prose writer and author of Dust of Eden—and the Assistant Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan—spoke about the topics of improving literacy and promoting cross-cultural understanding. She also pointed out something that is easy to forget, which is that poetry is an integral part of a child’s early education. Children may not understand the meaning of the poetry, but they love the rhythm and rhyme, and are quick to commit poetry to memory.

Mariko launched Dust of Eden during the AFCC. Dust of Eden is an important story that has been written with great sensitivity, about how a thirteen-year-old Japanese American girl and her family are placed in an internment camp during World War II. With so many children spending years inside refugee ‘institutions’ in countries such as Australia, it is a story that still has great relevance today.

Watch this blog for two more posts (Parts 2 and 3) about my favorite speakers at AFCC.

Kenji Miyazawa’s Poem of Strength

By Sako Ikegami, Kobe

The famous poem Ame ni mo makezu, sometimes translated as “Be Not Defeated by the Rain,” was discovered in one of the notebooks of Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933).

Miyazawa, to whom the URL of this blog pays homage, was a children’s author and poet who hailed from Iwate Prefecture in Tohoku, northeastern Japan.

How would you like to show us your rendering of Kenji’s poem?  Feel free to post your translation in the comments section.  For inspiration, perhaps you’d like to view the YouTube videos below.

雨ニモマケズ
宮澤賢治

雨ニモマケズ
風ニモマケズ
雪ニモ夏ノ暑サニモマケヌ
丈夫ナカラダヲモチ
慾ハナク
決シテ瞋ラズ
イツモシヅカニワラッテヰル
一日ニ玄米四合ト
味噌ト少シノ野菜ヲタベ
アラユルコトヲ
ジブンヲカンジョウニ入レズニ
ヨクミキキシワカリ
ソシテワスレズ
野原ノ松ノ林ノ蔭ノ
小サナ萓ブキノ小屋ニヰテ
東ニ病気ノコドモアレバ
行ッテ看病シテヤリ
西ニツカレタ母アレバ
行ッテソノ稲ノ朿ヲ負ヒ
南ニ死ニサウナ人アレバ
行ッテコハガラナクテモイヽトイヒ
北ニケンクヮヤソショウガアレバ
ツマラナイカラヤメロトイヒ
ヒドリノトキハナミダヲナガシ
サムサノナツハオロオロアルキ
ミンナニデクノボートヨバレ
ホメラレモセズ
クニモサレズ
サウイフモノニ
ワタシハナリタイ

Read with a Tohoku intonation:

And translated into the Iwate dialect: The actual poem reading starts around 1:35.

Introducing Ourselves

Hello from Japan and around the world. We are members of the SCBWI Tokyo Translation Group, whose goal is to introduce more Japanese children’s literature to the English-speaking world.

This home page will feature posts on our craft: translating Japanese children’s literature into English. We will also highlight the children’s literature and culture of northeastern Japan, or Tohoku, in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

Our URL pays homage to Ihatov, a paradise envisioned by children’s author and poet Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933). Miyazawa came from Iwate in Tohoku.

We hope you will come away from this site eager to learn more about Japan through its children and their books.