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Translated A-bomb book reminds us of the horrors of war

By Mie Sakamoto

A recently released English translation of a Japanese book about 321 junior high school students killed by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima is a poignant reminder of the inescapable suffering and militaristic indoctrination of youth at the time.

“Ishibumi” — meaning “cenotaph” — was first published in 1969, following a Hiroshima Television Corp. documentary about the bombing, and the first English translation of the text was published last December.

The motivation to produce an English edition almost five decades after the original was released came after former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima on May 27 last year, said the book’s editor, Naomi Saito. At the time, outspoken Japanese writer Ayako Sono wrote in a newspaper column that “Ishibumi” was the “only book” that needs to be given to the president. Read more

Source: Japan Times


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Translated A-bomb book reminds us of the horrors of war

By Mie Sakamoto

A recently released English translation of a Japanese book about 321 junior high school students killed by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima is a poignant reminder of the inescapable suffering and militaristic indoctrination of youth at the time.

“Ishibumi” — meaning “cenotaph” — was first published in 1969, following a Hiroshima Television Corp. documentary about the bombing, and the first English translation of the text was published last December.

The motivation to produce an English edition almost five decades after the original was released came after former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima on May 27 last year, said the book’s editor, Naomi Saito. At the time, outspoken Japanese writer Ayako Sono wrote in a newspaper column that “Ishibumi” was the “only book” that needs to be given to the president. Read more

Source: Japan Times

 


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‘Picture Bride Stories’: Stories of the resilient women who traded Japan for the cane fields of Hawaii

By Nicolas Gattig

“I thought if there was a way to walk across the ocean (back) to Japan, I would have done so.” This is how Haruno Tazawa remembers her early experience as a “picture bride” — the name for the more than 20,000 women who, during the period of restricted immigration between 1908 and 1924, left Japan to marry Japanese men mainly in Hawaii after only seeing them in photographs.

In “Picture Bride Stories,” Barbara F. Kawakami interviews 16 of these women who sailed to Hawaii, including Tazawa. A rich tapestry of immigrant lives, the book is narrated with generous sweep and great anthropological detail. A recurring theme is the hardships many of the women endured on the sugar plantations where they worked. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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Professor Who Wrote of Korean ‘Comfort Women’ Wins Defamation Case

By Choe Sang-Hun

SEOUL, South Korea — A professor whose book about Japan’s World War II-era military brothels angered Korean women who once worked there was acquitted on Wednesday of defaming the women.

The professor of Japanese literature at Sejong University in Seoul, Park Yu-ha, published “Comfort Women of the Empire” in 2013. She has since faced civil and criminal complaints from nine South Korean women who said they were forced to work at the brothels during the war.

A year ago, Ms. Park lost a civil lawsuit when a court said she had defamed the women with “false” and “distorted” content in her book and ordered her to pay each of the nine 10 million won, or about $8,500.

But on Wednesday, Ms. Park won the criminal case. In a case closely followed by the South Korean news media, a judge in the Eastern District Court in Seoul ruled that her academic freedom must be protected. Read more

Source: NY Times


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Mishima and the maze of sexuality in modern Japan

By Damian Flanagan

In June 1948, novelist Osamu Dazai committed suicide. The 38-year-old, who had just completed his masterpiece, “No Longer Human,” and whose fame was peaking, jumped into Tokyo’s Tamagawa Canal with his mistress, Tomie Yamazaki, and drowned.

With his acid wit and nihilistic vision, Dazai had been the key author who benefitted from the easing of censorship after Japan’s defeat in World War II. He scandalized and fascinated postwar society with his personal lifestyle — fathering children out of wedlock — and the fearless manner in which he depicted nontraditional relationships.

He undermined one of the key tenets of sexuality in modern Japan by suggesting that “romantic love” doesn’t always lead to marriage and happiness. Read more


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Japan: Sumito Yamashita claims 156th Akutagawa Prize

By Daisuke Kikuchi

The 156th Akutagawa Prize was awarded to 50-year-old author Sumito Yamashita for his book “Shinsekai (New World),” which explores his teenage experiences, the selection committee of the prestigious literary award announced Thursday.

“It’s delightful,” said Yamashita during a news conference held at a Tokyo hotel soon after the announcement.

Yamashita won the award after being nominated three times before.

“I may not have enough understanding of novels,” but winning the Akutagawa Prize “is incredible,” he said.

Born in 1966 in Kobe, Yamashita was long an established playwright and actor but started working on novels in 2011. The story in the book is of his actual experience of attending a theater school in Hokkaido where he supported himself and lived alongside the other students. Read more

Source: Japan Times


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Defining J-Horror: The erotic, grotesque ‘nonsense’ of Edogawa Rampo

By Eugene Thacker

In Japanese literature, there is a type of horror story that centers on an individual’s obsession with a single idea. It arises from the most innocent and everyday circumstances, but gradually this single idea becomes all-consuming, blurring the line between sanity and madness. In some cases, the transformations are not just psychological but physical, mutating a human being into something grotesque and unhuman.

Let’s say I’m a furniture designer who take great pride in their work. Nothing compares to the feeling of building a well-designed chair and then sitting in it for the first time. One day, I let my body slowly sink into a newly built chair, caressing the arm rests. The chair not only provides comfort and support, it seems to envelop me, to embrace me. Lost in my thoughts, my mind drifts and I stumble on a peculiar idea: I imagine myself accompanying the chair wherever it goes, experiencing what it experiences. I laugh to myself at such a ridiculous notion and dismiss it — but the idea keeps coming back. Read more

Source: The Japan Times


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Misuzu Kaneko: A deeper empathy for the natural world

By Louise George Kittaka

In her brief life, Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930) produced a body of work with themes that are every bit as relevant today as when she first put pen to paper nearly 100 years ago. Ostensibly a writer of poems for children, Kaneko’s work reveals a deep respect for the environment and an awareness of the interconnected nature of all living things.

In 2011, one of Kaneko’s most beloved poems, “Kodama Deshou ka?” (“Are You an Echo?”) was chosen by the Advertising Council of Japan to be used in a public service advertisement for TV following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Most companies withdrew their advertisements immediately after the disaster, and the council had to create filler ads, which were broadcast frequently in the proceeding weeks. As a result, Kaneko’s work reached almost every home across Japan. Read more

Source: The Japan Times

 


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‘Tokyo Poetry Journal’: an experimental space for Japan’s English-language poets

By Iain Maloney

tokyo

The third issue of the “Tokyo Poetry Journal” takes music as its central theme and, rather in the manner of the Nobel Committee for Literature, has chosen to blur the lines between poetry and songwriting. The first half of the new volume features song lyrics accompanied by QR codes that, once scanned, take the reader to songs on SoundCloud. Ranging from Bob Dylan-esque acoustic numbers to bilingual hip hop tracks, the editors are to be commended for this multiplatform approach to publishing. However, reading the lyrics on paper without the musical framework renders them somewhat denuded.

One standout piece in the second half is Ray Craig’s “Kiss Me Series,” where lines like “Kiss me with Cocteau Twins lullabies on your lips” in Sex Pistols-style lettering are presented alongside badly photocopied pictures of models, creating a wash of nostalgia. Read more

Source: Japan Times

 


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Nurturing translators of Japanese literature / Workshop created for networking, honing skills

By Shinya Machida

Six young translators of Japanese literature from inside and outside the country were invited to participate in a workshop on translation techniques and practical knowledge related to the publishing process.

First attempt

The project is the Cultural Affairs Agency’s first attempt to nurture next-generation translators capable of introducing modern Japanese literature overseas.

The workshop was held from Nov. 9 to 13 at the Shonan Village Center in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

At the event, Tynan Kogane, an editor at New Directions Publishing, told participants in English that his company was looking for edgy translations with a unique voice and style. Based in New York, the company is enthusiastic about publishing translated works of Japanese literature. While Kogane explained his firm’s publication policy, participants asked questions on topics such as how to establish a relationship with publishing agents and whether it is possible to publish long pieces.

Participants were native speakers of either English or Japanese, and all of them were aiming to translate Japanese literature into English. They were all prize winners in the Cultural Affairs Agency’s Japanese literature translation competition, which has been conducted twice. The agency paid about ¥2 million for travel, accommodation and other expenses of participants and lecturers. Read more

Source: The Japan News