• 2017/09/06 Column

    An unfortunate gap: on Japanese-Russian translations of juvenile and YA books


    When I was studying Russian literature at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow, most of the people I had contact with were unaware that I was Japanese. My close friends all knew it, of course, but I made a point of not volunteering the information to other students and teachers when we first met. … Details

  • 2014/01/14 Column

    Translating Ryotaro Shiba's "Saka no ue no kumo" (Clouds above the Hill)


    Ryotaro Shiba has been called a kokuminteki sakka (a truly national writer) by many people, including my friend Fumihiko Katayama, chief priest of the Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku, Tokyo, near where I live. Many people I know personally have shown more interest in and enthusiasm for the project of translating Shiba’s massive work of blended … Details

  • 2013/10/15 Column

    Coloring books for seniors: keep your hands busy and your brain will thank you


    Japanese has many idioms and sayings that refer to te—the hands. Back-scratchers, for example—those long skinny devices typically made of wood that allow us to scratch itchy spots we could not otherwise reach—are known as mago no te, "grandchild's hand." The expression neko no te mo karitai—literally, "we'd like to borrow even the hands of … Details

  • 2013/06/06 Column

    A wild monster chase: yokai and Haruki Murakami


    If any one word sums up the canon of Haruki Murakami's fiction, it is "weird." For the record, I mean that as a compliment. But even the most ardent fan of Murakami in translation—and as we all know, there's a lot of them these days—would be forgiven for missing the echoes of traditional Japanese horror … Details

  • 2013/05/30 Column

    The allure of the historical—confessions of a translator


    Historical fiction has been a mainstay of the Japanese literary scene since about 1000 AD, when Murasaki Shikibu penned the opening lines of her classic Tale of Genji: In a certain reign (whose can it have been?) someone of no very great rank, among all His Majesty's Consorts and Intimates, enjoyed exceptional favor.(Translated by Royall Tyler, … Details

  • 2013/05/14 Column

    On Haruki Murakami's new novel: Liszt's "Years of Pilgrimage" turned extravaganza


    It's not unusual for the title of a Haruki Murakami work to refer to a piece of music. "Norwegian Wood," for example, or "South of the Border, West of the Sun." Even when the title makes no such overt reference, music may be featured memorably in the narrative itself, as with Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta in Murakami's previous novel, … Details

  • 2013/04/03 Column

    "Light" love stories all the rage


    As with other discretionary pleasures like alcohol and tobacco–though I suspect many book lovers will object to such a comparison–the hottest selling titles in fiction appear to indicate a strong preference for "lite" in reading matter as well. So-called "light novels," a distinctively Japanese category of fiction targeted primarily at teens that rose to prominence … Details

  • 2013/03/22 Column

    Toshihiko Yahagi's alternative goodbye


    The last time I met Toshihiko Yahagi for drinks at his regular "mess hall" in Akasaka, we faced off over a quibbling but telling remark. I paraphrased Joyce's famous remark "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake" by way of saying I thought that deep down people do not actually like, … Details

  • 2012/12/19 Column

    A flowering of police novels


    Japanese bestseller lists of recent years have been populated by a notable number of crime novels centering on police investigations. It is a commonplace of writers' handbooks that readers must never be allowed to become bored, and the timely deployment of a dead body is often recommended as a means to this end. Once this … Details

  • 2012/06/12 Column

    "The Child Who Was Born": between simulated experience and reality?


    Some picture books become lifelong friends, renewing themselves according to the reader's age and experiences or the changing times. The late Yoko Sano, who died in 2010, produced more than a few such works, including Hyakuman-kai ikita neko (The Cat That Had a Million Lives). In the summer of 2011, I re-read Sano's Umarete kita kodomo … Details