Showing posts with label japanese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label japanese. Show all posts

Unraveling the Mysteries of Murakami: A Journey into Translation and Cultural Specificity

delve into translation

Intriguing Insights into the World of Murakami Translations

Since I first delved into the mesmerizing pages of Murakami Haruki's masterpiece, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in English several years ago, I have been captivated by the enigmatic allure of his storytelling. As an avid enthusiast of Japanese literature, stumbling upon a living Japanese author prominently displayed on the shelves of my local old bookstore was an exhilarating experience. Murakami has undoubtedly ascended to become an iconic figure in the realm of Japanese literature translated into English, amassing a devoted readership with each subsequent release. However, as conversations about Murakami's work often arise among fellow enthusiasts, one question consistently surfaces: How faithful are the English translations?

Unveiling the Invisible Architecture of Murakami's International Success

In his newly published book, Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami, David Karashima, an accomplished writer and translator himself, unveils the hidden infrastructure that underpins the international career of literary giants like Murakami. Karashima delves into the intricate processes involving multiple translators, editors, and publicists who mold Murakami's work into a consumable product for Western readers. While some readers might anticipate gaining deeper insights into Murakami's persona, they may initially find themselves disappointed as Karashima extensively explores the behind-the-scenes intricacies of translating and editing Murakami's books. Yet, this is where the brilliance of Karashima's work truly shines through: he compels Western readers to confront long-held myths surrounding the practice of translation. The title of the book itself aptly conveys the essence of Karashima's message: when we read about Murakami, we are essentially reading Murakami, as channeled through the talents of translators like Alfred Birnbaum, Elmer Luke, Jay Rubin, and other key figures Karashima illuminates. Moreover, while Karashima primarily focuses on Murakami's body of work, his book also prompts us to contemplate how Western readers approach translated literary works in general.

Challenging Assumptions: Translators as More than Mere Conduits

During countless conversations with ardent Murakami fans, a pervasive belief emerged, suggesting that translators were mere mechanical entities, facilitating a straightforward one-to-one conversion from one language to another. However, this assumption fails to acknowledge the true nature of translation and betrays an underlying anxiety harbored by readers: the fear of missing out on a deeper connection with their cherished author when engaging with translated works. Karashima deftly highlights the multifaceted factors that influence the degree of fidelity between the Japanese original and the English translation, including the omission of culturally specific elements. Such adaptations are occasionally driven by practical considerations, such as removing references to historical events that may confuse contemporary readers or feel outdated due to the time lapse between the original publication and the translated version. Additionally, while repetition may be an effective literary device in Japanese, it often loses its impact in English. Consequently, translators and editors, with the author's consent, may opt to trim repetitive content to enhance the overall flow of the text, resulting in a shorter English rendition. Karashima's work, however, emphasizes another crucial determinant in the translation process: the publishing houses. He recounts the famous translation and editing journey of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which was originally written in three volumes but condensed in the English version. Karashima reveals, "At approximately 290,000 words, [Jay Rubin's translation] was far longer than the 125,000 words initially proposed in a draft contract with the publisher." Eventually, three chapters were excised to align with the stipulated word count, and the book emerged to widespread critical acclaim in 1997.

Inviting Readers into Cultural Landscapes: The Translator's Perspective

To gain further insight into the complexities of translating texts that interweave multiple cultural elements, we could learn from one expert, Morgan Giles, the translator of Miri Yu's Tokyo Ueno Station—a work longlisted for the 2020 National Book Awards for Translated Literature. Giles's approach to translation diverges from the cultural homogenization Karashima identified in some early translations of Murakami's work. She endeavors to create a space where readers are encouraged to embark on their own explorations and delve into cultural nuances that may not be immediately apparent. Giles expounds, "While translating, I subtly explain that Pocari Sweat is a soft drink, but nowadays, everyone has access to Google." By providing readers with the tools to familiarize themselves with unfamiliar settings, Giles paves the way for a richer reading experience. She elaborates on her current project, The End of August, another novel by Miri Yu, which seamlessly blends Japanese and Korean languages and cultures within the text. This linguistic and cultural fusion lies at the heart of the book's structure and intent, posing a formidable challenge to most readers. Giles remarks, "If I lose that essence in translation, I will have lost the essence of the book itself." While Giles believes that the extensive editing witnessed in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle would be less prevalent today, she also notes that a form of gatekeeping still lingers concerning the length of translated works. Unlike Murakami's weighty tomes, which required truncation in the 1990s, Giles points out that publishers nowadays tend to exhibit greater interest in lengthier books, which differ from the more concise formats prevalent in Japan's publishing industry.

The Elusive Quest for Translation Accuracy and the Influence of Market Forces

This raises a pivotal question: What defines translation accuracy when publishers hold the power to excise or rearrange material from Japanese-to-English translations or even disregard content deemed incompatible with the target market? The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle provides an extreme case, allowing readers to unequivocally reject any form of "tampering" with the original text. Yet, such a stance overlooks the artistic craftsmanship inherent in translation, particularly when language intertwines so intricately with culture and lived experiences. As readers, we often forget that words on a page convey more than mere literal meaning—they encapsulate emotions. Ginny Tapley Takemori, the translator of several texts, including Murata Sayaka's acclaimed Convenience Store Woman, shared a few examples from her own translation process. She draws attention to the concept of a 炬燵 (kotatsu), a low wooden table adorned with a quilt or futon and featuring a heat source underneath. Kotatsu not only remains absent from English-speaking countries but also carries a wide array of affective connotations. Takemori explains that it often represents "an image of cozy family harmony, like sitting in the kotatsu with your granny while eating mikan oranges." Translating a scene involving a kotatsu encompasses more than a literal portrayal of the object itself.

Another significant linguistic nuance in Japanese lies in the use of (boku) as a gender-specific pronoun for "I," distinct from (watashi), which is used by both men and women but carries a more feminine connotation. Each version of "I" carries a distinct emotional undertone. To exemplify this, Takemori describes her translation of a short story titled "Culture Shock," written by Murata for a performance at the Manchester Arts Festival in 2019. In this piece, the story commences with the word boku, signifying a male voice, likely that of a boy. Takemori emphasizes the significant impact of this voice, particularly as Murata predominantly writes from a female perspective. In Japanese, the gender of the narrative voice is evident from the outset. However, conveying this organic gender distinction to English readers poses a challenge. Takemori ingeniously resolves this by utilizing another word that appears later in the story when an elderly woman uses the term 可哀想 (kawaisō), which can be translated as "poor thing" or "pitiable." Initially, Takemori considered translating it as "You poor thing," but she ultimately decided on "You poor boy," clarifying the gender of the speaker without awkwardly interrupting the narrative flow. As Takemori aptly states, "Although it isn't the first word, at least it's included."

Recognizing the Collaborative Nature of Translation and Expanding Our Reading Horizons

"Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami" illuminates the forces that have propelled Murakami to his current status as a literary titan in Japan. Simultaneously, it underscores the influential roles played by translators, editors, and publishers in shaping the final product, dismantling the myth of direct access to the "authentic" voice of the author. While the original author undoubtedly serves as the foundation for a story's success, the translator also deserves recognition, as their initial interest in a work often paves the way for an author's international acclaim. Although there has been a surge in Japanese-to-English translations, particularly focusing on women writers, Karashima's book also enables readers to comprehend the market dynamics driving this expansion. Which books are selected for publication, and what are the underlying reasons? By shedding light on these aspects of the translation industry to a broader readership, my hope is that Karashima's readers will actively seek out the works that translators like Giles and Takemori are diligently bringing to life—texts that resist shedding their cultural specificity or texts that demand readers to delve deeper. We can continue to relish Murakami's works, but we can also discover other remarkable authors to explore.

In conclusion, delving into the realm of translated literature invites us to appreciate the intricate artistry of translation, recognize the collaborative efforts involved, and expand our literary horizons beyond the familiar. Translations are not mere replicas; they are vessels that transport the essence of a story, allowing readers to experience the profound impact of language and culture across borders.

How to Get Started with Light Novel Translations

If you love reading Japanese light novels, then you might have considered translating them into English to share them with other readers. Light novels are an increasingly popular genre in English-speaking countries, and there are plenty of fans who are hungry for more content. However, getting started with light novel translations can be challenging if you don't know where to begin. In this article, we'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to get started with light novel translations.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Light Novels
  2. Why Translate Light Novels?
  3. Learning Japanese
  4. Translating the Text
  5. Editing and Proofreading
  6. Formatting and Typesetting
  7. Publishing the Translation
  8. Legal Issues
  9. Building a Community
  10. Tips for Success
  11. Conclusion
  12. FAQs

Understanding Light Novels

Light novels are a popular genre of Japanese literature that are typically aimed at young adults. They are similar to young adult novels in Western literature, but they are often serialized and published in smaller volumes. Light novels often feature illustrations, and they are known for their engaging stories and characters. In Japan, light novels are a massive industry, and many of them are adapted into anime and manga series.

Why Translate Light Novels?

There are many reasons why you might want to translate light novels into English. First and foremost, it's an excellent way to share your love of the genre with other readers. It can also help to fill a gap in the English-language market, providing more content for fans who are hungry for more. Additionally, translating light novels can be a great way to improve your Japanese language skills and gain experience in translation.

Learning Japanese

Before you can translate light novels, you need to have a solid understanding of the Japanese language. This means studying grammar, vocabulary, and kanji. You can learn Japanese through textbooks, classes, or online resources. It's also helpful to immerse yourself in Japanese culture by reading manga, watching anime, or listening to Japanese music.

Translating the Text

Once you have a solid understanding of Japanese, you can begin translating the light novel. It's important to translate the text accurately, preserving the original meaning and tone as much as possible. This means understanding cultural references and idioms and finding the right equivalent in English. You can use translation software, but it's essential to use it only as a tool and not rely on it completely.

Editing and Proofreading

After you've translated the text, you need to edit and proofread it carefully. This means checking for grammar and spelling errors, as well as ensuring that the translation is coherent and flows well. It's helpful to have a second pair of eyes look over the translation to catch any mistakes or issues that you might have missed.

Formatting and Typesetting

Once the translation is complete, you need to format and typeset the text. This means ensuring that the text is easy to read and that the illustrations are placed correctly. It's important to pay attention to details, such as font size and spacing, to ensure that the final product is professional-looking.

Publishing the Translation

Once you have a finished translation, you can publish it online or in print. There are many platforms available for publishing translations, such as fan translation websites or self-publishing platforms. It's important to be aware of copyright laws and to obtain permission from the copyright holder before publishing your translation.

It's important to be aware of legal issues when translating light novels. Copyright laws protect the rights of the author and publisher, and it's essential to obtain permission before translating and publishing a light novel. You should also be aware of potential issues with fan translations and be prepared to face some fight from the copyright owner

Building a Community

Building a community of readers and fans is an essential part of translating light novels. This means promoting your translation on social media, interacting with readers, and participating in forums and communities related to light novels. It's also helpful to collaborate with other translators and editors to improve the quality of your translations and reach a wider audience.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips for success when translating light novels:

  • Choose a light novel that you're passionate about and that has a dedicated fan base.
  • Work with a team of editors and proofreaders to ensure the quality of your translation.
  • Be patient and consistent in your translation work, and don't rush to publish before it's ready.
  • Engage with your readers and build a community around your translations.
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the light novel industry.


Translating light novels can be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby or career for those who are passionate about the genre. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can get started with light novel translations and share your love of the genre with others. Remember to prioritize accuracy and quality in your translations and to build a community of readers and fans around your work.


  1. Do I need to be fluent in Japanese to translate light novels?

  2. Yes, you need to have a solid understanding of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, and kanji to translate light novels accurately.

  3. How long does it take to translate a light novel?

  4. It depends on the length of the novel and your level of proficiency in Japanese. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete a translation.

  5. Can I make money from translating light novels?

  6. It's possible to make money from translating light novels by publishing them online or in print. However, you should be aware of copyright laws and obtain permission from the copyright holder before doing so.

  7. What's the best way to promote my translations?

  8. The best way to promote your translations is to build a community of readers and fans on social media and other online platforms. You can also collaborate with other translators and editors to improve the quality of your translations and reach a wider audience.

  9. Can I translate a light novel without the author's permission?

  10. No, you should obtain permission from the author and/or publisher before translating and publishing a light novel. This is to ensure that you're not violating copyright laws and to respect the rights of the original creators.

Understanding the Differences Between Novels, Light Novels, and Web Novels

As a passionate reader, you've probably encountered different types of literary works, such as novels, light novels, and web novels. These genres have diverse origins, styles, and target audiences. In this article, we'll delve into each of these genres, outlining their unique characteristics, and highlighting their differences.

Novels: The Classic Form of Literature

Novels are a traditional and extensive literary work that presents a story through characters, plot, and setting. They usually have an average word count of 70,000 to 100,000 words or more, and they can be divided into chapters or sections. Novels are typically published in physical book format, and you can find them in libraries, bookstores, and online.

One of the defining traits of a novel is its depth and complexity. Novels explore themes, characters, and plotlines in great detail, resulting in a rich and immersive reading experience. They can be standalone works or part of a series, and they can be written in various genres, such as romance, mystery, horror, or science fiction.

Light Novels: A Popular Genre in Japan

Light novels are a genre that originated in Japan, known for their shorter length, which is usually 40,000 to 50,000 words. Light novels often contain illustrations and are targeted towards young adults or teenagers.

One of the unique features of light novels is their serialization. Light novels are frequently published in installments in magazines or online and later compiled into book form. They are also recognized for their fast-paced and action-packed stories, featuring themes such as magic, adventure, or romance.

Web Novels: A Product of the Digital Age

Web novels, as the name implies, are novels published online. Authors typically self-publish them on various platforms, such as websites, blogs, or online forums. Web novels are often available for free to read, but some authors may monetize their work through donations or ads.

One of the advantages of web novels is their accessibility. Readers can access web novels from anywhere with an internet connection, and authors can reach a large audience without needing a publisher or physical distribution. Web novels are also recognized for their interactive nature, allowing readers to leave comments and feedback for the author.

The Differences Between Novels, Light Novels, and Web Novels

Although novels, light novels, and web novels share certain similarities, such as their use of characters, plot, and setting, they have significant differences. Here are some of the main differences between these genres:

Length: Novels are typically longer than light novels or web novels, with an average word count of 70,000 to 100,000 words or more. Light novels are shorter, with an average word count of 40,000 to 50,000 words, while web novels can vary in length.

Target audience: Novels are generally targeted towards a broader audience, while light novels are aimed at young adults or teenagers. Web novels can be targeted at any audience, depending on the author's preference.

Publication: Novels are usually published in physical book format, while light novels are often published in installments in magazines or online before being compiled into book form. Web novels are typically self-published online.

Format: Novels and light novels are frequently published with illustrations, but web novels may or may not include illustrations. Novels and light novels are often published in a physical book format, while web novels are digital and accessible online.


In summary, novels, light novels, and web novels are all distinct literary genres that offer unique reading experiences. Novels are the classic form of literature, while light novels are fast-paced and action-packed, often with serialized publication. Web novels are accessible online and interactive,

Exploring the World of Anime Heroes and Villains: Understanding the Good and Evil in Anime

Anime has captured the hearts of many worldwide, and its popularity is due to the intricately crafted characters that inhabit its stories. Among these characters, heroes and villains are vital components that shape the anime's narrative and atmosphere. In this article, we will delve deeper into the world of anime heroes and villains, their defining traits, motivations, and their role in influencing the story's overall direction.

Unpacking the Anime Hero 

Anime heroes are known for their unwavering sense of justice, courage, and determination. They are the story's protagonists and are motivated by their desire to safeguard their loved ones and to make the world a better place. Many anime heroes possess supernatural abilities, which they employ to combat evil and protect the innocent.

Goku from Dragon Ball Z, Naruto from Naruto, and Luffy from One Piece are some of the most famous anime heroes. Fans adore these characters because of their never-say-die attitude, their ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles and their display of compassion for others.

The Dark Side of Anime: Understanding the Anime Villain 

Anime villains are the polar opposite of heroes, and they often constitute the story's primary source of conflict. Villains in anime are known for their malevolence, cruelty, and disregard for human life. Although some anime villains may have a tragic backstory that explains their actions, it does not justify their evil deeds.

Some of the most iconic anime villains include Frieza from Dragon Ball Z, Light Yagami from Death Note, and Johan Liebert from Monster. These characters are renowned for their complex motivations and their ability to challenge the hero on both physical and intellectual levels.

Navigating the Gray Area: Anti-Heroes and Ambiguous Characters 

Not all anime characters are easy to classify as heroes or villains. Some characters fall in the grey area between good and evil, and their morality is unclear. Anti-heroes are characters that possess heroic qualities but may engage in morally ambiguous behaviour or possess a dark side. They may seek revenge, personal gain or pursue justice beyond societal norms.

Ambiguous characters are those whose motivations and allegiances shift as the story progresses. They may start out as heroes or villains, but their true nature is unveiled over time, and their loyalties may change.

The Impact of Heroes and Villains on the Anime Story 

Heroes and villains are instrumental in shaping the anime narrative, and their actions significantly impact the story's direction and outcome. The hero, usually the protagonist, is the character that the audience roots for, while the villain, the antagonist, is the one the hero must defeat.

The interactions between heroes and villains are the driving force behind the story, and their conflicts generate tension and drama. In some cases, villains may have valid points of view, and the hero must navigate the moral ambiguity to find a resolution that benefits both parties.

In Conclusion Anime heroes and villains are more than just fictional characters; they represent the eternal battle between good and evil that exists in our world. Their stories inspire us to be courageous, to fight for what is right, and to stand up against injustice.

Whether we root for the hero or empathize with the villain, anime allows us to explore the intricacies of human nature and the struggle between light and darkness. So the next time you watch an anime series, take a moment to appreciate the depth and complexity of the characters and their impact on the story.