April 29th, Showa Day is coming

Did you miss it? Showa Day (Wiki, ), a Japanese National holiday was April 29th.

The holiday just started this year and is on Emperor Hirohito’s birthday. Showa Day will be celebrated every year from now on… One more day without work! Kind of. It’s a part of Golden Week.

This holiday has been proposed and overturned in the past, and is quite controversial.

Happy Showa Day!

I spent my Showa Day collecting furniture from random foreigner Sayonara Sales to prepare for my upcoming move back to Osaka!

– Harvey

The 3 day priest

More Japanese random trivia for you. This is an interesting expression that we can all probably use…

I know I can.

「三日坊主」”mikka bouzu” “The Three Day Priest”

This expression can be used to describe someone who is unable to stick with something they have started to do.

Literally, it is referring to someone who had decided to become a priest, but was unable to continue practicing for more than a mere three days before giving up. Possibly becomoing a “bad priest“.

For example, I decided to do twenty push-ups everyday as a new years resolution…

I think I kept that up for about, oh… 3 days. Just like the expression goes.

So, whenever you start something, don’t be a 「三日坊主」! Stick with it!

– Harvey

Jay Rubin on Translation

Well, Jay Rubin has come and gone. The talk was about two hours long, and was extremely casual and interesting.

During the discussion I was able to ask both of the questions that Michael proposed, as well as others.

Does Jay Rubin plan to author any other books aimed at Japanese language learners, similar to “Making Sense of Japanese“?

Unfortunately the answer to this question was, “highly unlikely”. Making Sense of Japanese was excellent, and Rubin is also proud of it himself. However, he has retired as a full-time professor so is not regularly faced with questions about the Japanese language from students that were the impetus to create “Making Sense”. Now that he is finished with full time teaching, he is spending more time focusing on his own translation work. Specifically, Akutagawa stories.

Why did Jay Rubin pass up the chance to translate Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore?

Rubin had a very specific answer to this question. Apparently he is now in such a position that, though unofficial, he is pretty much the first choice for Murakami translations. However, he reserves the right to pick and choose which works he will translate, depending on whether he likes them or not.

It turns out that up until the beginning of chapter 17 Rubin loved “Kafka on the Shore”. In fact, chapter 16, where Johnny kills the cats, is one of his favorite moments in fiction. However after that, the book kind of went down hill for him. In the end, it just wasn’t something that he wanted to translate. Specifically, one of the things that turned him off were the preachy remarks regarding high culture by the character “Oshima”.

Some other interesting discussion was on the art of translation itself. One of the key points that Rubin shared regarding discussion was to translate at the paragraph level, as opposed to sentence by sentence. This allows the translator to put all of the Japanese into their head, let it be converted into thoughts, and then put it back on the page in good English. Going sentence by sentence and getting picky with grammar does not turn out a good literary translation.

Rubin also uses a dictionary extensively when working on translations. His dictionary of choice is Kenkyusha’s new dictionary. Apparently they have an electronic version available for Windows that is pretty slick.

He also mentioned a book he translated that I now want to read called “After the Quake“, which includes a short story called “Super Frog Saves Tokyo” which sounds like quite the trip.

All this book talk has made me want to start reading again!

Right now I am reading a book in Japanese called 「血と骨」”Blood and Bones” by Yan Sogiru which is a gritty life drama about Koreans living in Japan. Blood and Bones has also been made into a film by Beat Takeshi. I haven’t seen the film yet, but the book is intense.

Good stuff!

– Harvey

Jay Rubin – Murakami Haruki translator

Tomorrow Harvard professor Jay Rubin, translator of Haruki Murakami’s works and author of the highly acclaimed, “Making Sense of Japanese” is coming to my school to give a talk. One of the more famous Murakami novels he has translated is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

The topic of his talk hasn’t been disclosed yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be interesting.

Apparently, Jay Rubin gets “first dibs” to publish any work that Murakami publishes. If he likes it, he gets to translate it. If he doesn’t like it, others get to do the translation.

I have done some freelance technical translation, and even though in this type of writing both the original Japanese and target English are supposed to communicate the intended message as straightforward as possible, it’s still tough. I can’t imagine translating a piece of literature… and especially something by Murakami whose stories often include abstract and complex narrative structures. It should be fun hearing what Professor Rubin has to say!

Here is a article from The Guardian entitled “Jay Rubin on the difficulties of translating particularly unpleasant passages” where Professor Rubin discusses the difficulty of translating an especially gory and explicit scenes from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

I hope this turns your stomach a little: “His men held Yamamoto down with their hands and knees while he began skinning Yamamoto with the utmost care. It truly was like skinning a peach. I couldn’t bear to watch. I closed my eyes. When I did this, one of the soldiers hit me with his rifle butt. He went on hitting me until I opened my eyes. But it hardly mattered: eyes open or closed, I could still hear Yamamoto’s voice. He bore the pain without a whimper – at first. But soon he began to scream.”

This is just the beginning of the passage in Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle in which a Japanese espionage agent is skinned alive by a Mongolian army officer. It gets much worse. I remember living with this chapter day after day as I translated it from Murakami’s gruesome Japanese into (I hope) equally gruesome English. Unlike the narrator, Lieutenant Mamiya, I did not have the luxury of closing my eyes – even for an instant – as I worked on it. I am occasionally reminded of the experience when I see people hiding their eyes at a violent film. I once tried to talk to Murakami himself about this passage, but he refused: it was just too sickening, he said.

My personal favorite Murakami Haruki book is Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but there are still many Murakami Haruki books I have yet to read!

If anyone has any burning questions they want me to ask the Professor, let me know via the comments in the next 7 hours or so and I’ll be sure to ask and let you know how he responds!

– Harvey

Easily Confused

There is a adjective in Japanese for things that are easily confused…

紛らわしい。まぎらわしい pronounced, “magirawashii”, and often translated as confusing, misleading, equivocal, or ambiguous.

For me however, the word itseslf is confusing, as I often mistakenly pronounce it “magiwarashii”.


– Harvey

[tags]japanese, language, japan[/tags]

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