Posts Tagged ‘Sachiko Kashiwaba’

Nicky Harman and Avery Udagawa Discuss “Firstclaw” by Sachiko Kashiwaba

By Nicky Harman, London
On Translation Columnist, Asian Books Blog

NH: I’m delighted to be interviewing Avery Fischer Udagawa, because I have a huge admiration for translators who focus on young readers. I started by asking her about her latest translation piece in Words Without Borders, and why she wanted to translate it.

AFU: “Firstclaw” at Words Without Borders is my rendering of イチノツメと呼ばれた魔女 by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a fairy tale from her collection of linked tales, 王様に恋した魔女 (Kodansha, 2016). I encountered this story on precisely the morning of October 24, 2018, in the large Maruzen Marunouchi bookstore in Tokyo, where I had gone to spend time before a meeting with the author. Since we are all stuck at home these days needing vicarious outings, I’ll share that I savored this book over chiffon cake in Maruzen’s third floor café, glancing out as JR local trains and bullet trains pulled in and out of Tokyo Station. I even exchanged bows with a window washer who floated by in his rigging.

Hours later, Kashiwaba herself signed my book. That was a story scouting day for the ages!

“Firstclaw” struck me as a skillfully wrought, surprising tale of a reclusive witch, a resourceful princess, and a brave king. I found the ending (which I won’t spoil here) curiously joyful, and I chose to translate it out of readerly pleasure.

When I submitted my translation last year to Daniel Hahn, guest editor of WWB’s April 2020 issue, I also wondered if “Firstclaw” might contribute to discussions in publishing about authors writing outside their own cultural identities. Ms. Kashiwaba’s oeuvre of fantasy writing includes many works with distinctly Japanese characters—kappa spirits, yuki-onna, shape-shifting raccoon dogs, local gods—but she also writes witches, dragons, vampires, and in “Firstclaw,” a “blond sovereign.” She grew up reading western children’s literature in translation and counts Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Chronicles of Avonlea as influential in terms of form. Hahn, for his part, sees a “kinship” with Europe in “Firstclaw” and observes that “the webs of influence in children’s literature are dense and rich.”

Does it matter that “Firstclaw” comes from Japan? Readers may find this question stimulating, but I mostly just hope that the story cheers them up, as it does me.

With Sachiko Kashiwaba on October 24, 2018

NH: I’ll confess to having much less experience translating children’s literature than adult novels, so I’m intrigued by this question: do you think there is an essential difference between the two?

AFU: I don’t think there’s an essential difference at all.

The English-language publishing world categorizes literature as children’s or adult—and as middle grade, young adult, and so on within children’s—largely for marketing purposes and to help booksellers and librarians shelve books. This practice can help to ensure that young readers encounter books appropriate to their developmental level, which no one can argue with. It does, however, sometimes obscure the fact that literature is literature, and much of what sells as children’s literature in fact offers much to adults. The reverse is true, as well. Fiction like Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Louise Heal Kawai, works not only as adult fiction but also as MG and YA.

NH: When you interviewed my friend and translation colleague Helen Wang (who is a whizz at all things kidlit from Chinese), she said, about her translation of Jackal and Wolf by Shen Shixi: “Some of the fighting scenes are quite graphic and intense, but it was the psychological behaviour that I found more disturbing, especially where Flame tests a potential suitor.” Have you come across similar dilemmas in translating from Japanese and if so, how did you deal with them?

AFU: Yes, Japanese children’s books do sometimes include elements that might disturb young readers of English, due to culture gaps. For example, children of divorce in Japan often experience the trauma of never living with one parent again, which shows up in children’s books involving divorce. This reality may shock young overseas readers accustomed to traditions of joint custody. I have not dealt with this challenge personally.

Sachiko Kashiwaba’s novel 帰命寺横丁の夏, which I am pitching as Temple Alley Summer, includes a nine-year-old whose impoverished father sells her into servitude. While set in a fairy tale section of the book, this character’s plight has historical antecedents in pre-modern Japan, which might make it normal-ish fare for readers of the original. It could trouble some readers of the English, however. As the translator, I would never dream of changing this plot element, but in selecting this book to work on, it mattered to me that it goes on to show the child seeking freedom and agency, ultimately overcoming her past. I believe that English-language publishers will appreciate this aspect, too.

NH: What’s the nicest thing a young person has said to you about one of the books you translated.

AFU: “Mom, would you hurry up and translate the next chapter?” (I have two daughters, aged 8 and 12.)

NH: What kind of promotion do you find yourself doing for a finished and published novel? and what do you find is most effective when promoting a children’s book?

AFU: When promoting children’s books, it’s key to engage not only young readers, but also adult “gatekeepers” such as parents and educators, who are often the ones actually buying the books. With J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani—a historical novel set in Tokyo after the 1964 Olympics—I have done school visits to interact with students, talks for the general public, and presentations to teachers and librarians both on- and offline. In several cases, I have had the privilege of co-presenting with the author. Sharing with my Japan- and kidlit-focused colleagues has also been very helpful. I treasure the professional organizations SWET and SCBWI and conferences such as the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.

NH: I can see from your blogs and interviews that you champion Japanese literature for kids, and put a lot of effort into pitching the books you like and finding sources of funding. How do you balance your paid and your done-for-love work?

AFU: Wouldn’t I love balance! Translating J kidlit into E is my passion, but it is a true labor of love. Even the most decorated member of my field, Cathy Hirano—translator of Hans Christian Andersen Award (“little Nobel”) laureate Nahoko Uehashi, among others—cannot live on what her children’s work pays. (Cathy is also the translator of Marie Kondo’s decluttering books; she coined the English phrase “spark joy” for ときめく.Less than five percent of children’s books published in the US each year are translations (I believe the UK is similar), compared with 15 percent or more in Japan. There just isn’t enough demand for #worldkidlit in English. Yet.

Meanwhile, I work as native language coordinator at International School Bangkok, a job that I find meaningful in itself, and I have a family. Under Covid-19, this means I facilitate virtual school on weekdays and chip away at work on evenings and weekends. Translation has to take a backseat. I know from experience, however, that this tough patch will make the future chances to translate, promote, and scout books in cafés all the sweeter.

NH: When you have time, what your current projects?

AFU: I am pitching Temple Alley Summer, a middle grade novel that showcases Kashiwaba’s gift for writing fairy tales, Japan-inspired fantasy, and contemporary realism, all in 52,000 engrossing words. A third-grade teacher who read this manuscript emailed me, “I stayed up reading when I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep.” She hopes to add it to her classroom library when it comes out.

For now, that’ll keep me going!

Cross-posted from the Asian Books Blog with permission.

Meet Master Editor Akiko Beppu

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Akiko Beppu has edited many iconic works of Japanese children’s literature that are known in other languages, including English—books by Naoko Awa, Sachiko Kashiwaba, Yuichi Kimura, and 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Nahoko Uehashi, among others. Recently retired from Kaisei-sha Publishing Company, where she had been editor for some 42 years, Beppu-san has also supported SCBWI Japan since its very first event.

Earlier this year, the regional team invited Beppu-san to a special lunch in Ginza. Our write-up of this gathering includes an introduction to her many works.

Ready to meet a master editor? Join the Thank You Lunch for Akiko Beppu over on the SCBWI Japan blog.

Japan Kidlit for Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation Month! Here are Japan kidlit titles (picture book through Young Adult) by #womenintranslation that have appeared on this blog so far. Click to read more!

The Nurse and the Baker by Mika Ichii, translated by Hart Larrabee

Little Keys and the Red Piano by Hideko Ogawa, translated by Kazuko Enda and Deborah Iwabuchi

The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai, translated by Cathy Hirano

Are You An Echo? The Lost of Poems of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, translated by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi

Totto-chan by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, translated by Dorothy Britton

The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Brave Story written by Miyuki Miyabe, translated by Alexander O. Smith

 

TOMO with stories by Naoko Awa, Yukie Chiri, Megumi Fujino, Sachiko Kashiwaba, Arie Nashiya, Yuko Katakawa, and Fumio Takano; translated by Toshiya Kamei, Deborah Davidson, Lynne E. Riggs, Avery Fischer Udagawa, Juliet Winters Carpenter, Deborah Iwabuchi, and Hart Larrabee

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano

Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano

Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder

 

Two Stories for Children Commemorate 3.11

The Cape for Waiting for the Wind

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

As March 11 draws near, it’s time to count another year since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. It’s hard to believe it has already been five years.

NHK World/Radio Japan’s The Reading Room is currently featuring two stories for children that relate to the earthquake. The first is “The Cape for Waiting for the Wind” by Sachiko Kashiwaba, and the second is “The Wind Telephone” by Yoko Imoto (and our appreciation goes to the anonymous translators!).

Both stories illustrate the pain of loss in very Japanese ways, but they end with the  universal hope that thoughts sent up to the departed have been successfully communicated.

While listening, I was reminded of how Japanese children’s stories can sometimes cross the line of what we might expect young children to understand, but, in a culture where not everyone feels free to talk about their feelings, children’s stories are often a source of comfort to adults. “The Wind Telephone,” especially, prodded that inner child in me who will never quite recover from what happened on March 11, 2011.

The Wind Telephone by Yoko Imoto

Top: Illustration for NHK World/Radio Japan broadcast of Kaze machi misaki (The Cape for Waiting for the Wind) by Sachiko Kashiwaba. Above: Picture book Kaze no denwa (The Wind Telephone), written and illustrated by Yoko Imoto. Click on either image to access the NHK broadcast (20 minutes) and complete copyright information.

 

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.

One Passage, Five Translations – Sachiko Kashiwaba

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

At SCBWI Tokyo Translation Day on June 16, 2012, Alexander O. Smith presented a workshop on translating excerpts from teen-appropriate novels in contrasting genres. One excerpt was from the novel Tsuzuki no toshokan (The “What’s-Next” Library) by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a work that began as an online novel and won a prestigious Shogakukan Children’s Book Award in 2010.

Kashiwaba is a prolific author of works set in contemporary Japan that weave in fantasy and folklore. Her novel Kiri no muko no fushigi na machi (The Marvelous Village Veiled in Mist) influenced Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away. 

In Tsuzuki no toshokan, Kashiwaba explores what might happen if the characters from children’s books sought to learn “what happened next” to readers who loved them, just as readers of books seek to learn what happens to their favorite characters in stories. The main character of the novel is a librarian named Momo who, in the excerpt discussed by Smith, has moved back to her childhood home and is reconnecting with a relative.

For this blog post, Smith shared an excerpt from Tsuzuki no toshokan along with translations of four participants in the workshop, followed by his own. He writes:

“Here’s a section from the wonderfully nuanced Kashiwaba piece we translated for the workshop on Saturday. The original Japanese comes first, followed by translations submitted anonymously by translators in attendance, followed by my own take on the section. It’s a great example of how many valid ways there are to translate any given line, especially when dialogue comes into play. See how different each translator’s approach was to the mention of Momo’s father at the top of the section, and how they dealt with the potentially gnarly second ‘mention of her father’ at the end. Also, here you will find five different translations, with four entirely different ways to translate Aunt Anzu’s admonition for Momo to ‘live better.'”

Enjoy! We welcome comments on these renderings of Kashiwaba’s text.

杏おばさんのほうが、
「義正に似て、不器用そうな子だね。」
と、桃さんのお父さんの名前を口にした。
「義正といっしょで、どうせ砂をつかむみたいに、手の中からみんなこぼれてしまったんだろう。どうして、上手に生きられないかねぇ。」
と、ため息をつく。
桃さんは、お父さんまでひきあいにだされて、くちびるをかんだ。

[Source: Tsuzuki no toshokan online version, part 1, pp. 7-8]

Translator A: Aunt Anzu spoke first, mentioning Momo’s father by name. “You seem to have Yoshimasa’s knack for making a hash of things. I suppose you’ve let it all spill through your hands like so much sand, same as he did. I don’t understand,” she sighed, “why you can’t live a little smarter.”
Momo bit her lip, annoyed at having her father brought into this.

Translator B: Her Aunt spoke,
“You look awkward, just like Yoshimasa,” bringing up the name of Momo’s father.
“Yoshimasa and me, we wanted to grab sand but it all spilt out from our hands. How come we can’t have a good life?” she sighed.
Momo bit her lip at having the subject of Dad dragged into the conversation.

Translator C: Aunt Anzu was the first to speak Momo’s father’s name. “You look like Yoshimasa. Clumsy.” She sighed. “You’re just like him. Everything spills out of your hands like sand. Can’t you do anything right?”
Momo bit her lip at the mention of her father.

Translator D: “You’re a bungler just like Yoshimasa, aren’t you?” Aunt Anzu said, mentioning Momo’s father. “You let everything slip through your fingers, just like sand. Why can’t you live like you ought to?”
Momo bit her lip at being compared with her father.

Alexander O. Smith: It was Auntie Anzu who mentioned Momo’s father first. “You’re an unfortunate child, just like Yoshimasa was. Always trying to grab on to everything, ‘til it slips through your fingers like sand. Really,” she sighed. “Can’t you do anything right?”
     She didn’t need to bring him into this, Momo thought, biting her lip.