By 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.
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.
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.
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.