Japanese short story translation “Memoirs of a Traveller” (ある旅人の手記): Prologue

By | August 10, 2016

A little while ago I reviewed the short story “Memoirs of a Traveller” (ある旅人の手記) which I discovered on the site syosetsu.com (review).

After reading through many stories on that site, this is one of the few that I really enjoyed, and also I felt it would be a good candidate for an English translation. I wrote a a message to the author (Romo Mamiya) and he said he was interested in having an English translation done, and would also help with any questions I had.

This was the first time when translating fiction where I had an opportunity to ask the author about the meaning or nuance of certain phrases, and I ended up asking many questions, all which were answered in detail. As a result, I think the translation I produced is pretty close to the author’s intention.

“Memoirs of a Traveller” was written with an interesting style that combines elements of prose and poetry. In particular, the spacing between lines is irregular, and according to the author this was done to control the sense of rhythm. In addition, most of the sentences are quite short, and some of them are incomplete (ex: “だが。”). I tried to retain these aspects, as well as others, in my English translation.

I’ve mostly completed the translations up to the fifth chapter of this story, which is the last one released on syosetsu.com as of this posting. You can see the prologue’s translation below, and I’ll follow with subsequent posts on the other four after the final editing is done.

You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter in full here.

As with all of my transactions, if you want to see the rest of this story’s chapters translated please consider liking or commenting on this post.

“Memoirs of a Traveller” by Romo Mamiya: Prologue


“I think I’ll go on a trip,”

I said to myself.

There wasn’t any particular reason.

It wasn’t like
I had an argument with my boss,
got my heart broken,
or was neck-deep in debt.

Nothing at all like that.

Finding a car I really liked.

Receiving an old camera from someone.

Stumbling upon a small tent in my closet.

The destruction of my beloved bicycle, which I had used for many years.

The release of the last book in my favorite series.

None of these things are the reason I’ve decided to go on a trip.

But maybe they did give me a little push on the back.

It wasn’t like there was anywhere I wanted to go.

In other words, I had no destination.

I wasn’t going in search of anything either.

Of course, that includes myself.

I’ll just simply go from here, to somewhere else.
And then from there, to a different place.

From somewhere that is not here, to somewhere that is not there.

This all went through my head when I woke up in the early morning and stared at the blurry ceiling.

“I think I’ll go on a trip,”

I said to myself.


(next chapter)

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8 thoughts on “Japanese short story translation “Memoirs of a Traveller” (ある旅人の手記): Prologue

  1. Amarin

    Hi Jeff,

    I would like to ask you about the verb 「おられる」in the following sentence which I came across from a manga.


    In my understanding, the objective for the verb is 「あちこちの少年院」.

    Is the verb used in passive form because of showing politeness or respect to 「白木葉子さん」?

    Thank you for your explanation

  2. Maddie Viering

    Thank you for translating this short story. I very much enjoy Japanese literary fiction.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks very much. I am putting up part of another new story soon.

      If you have any requests, let me know.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Sure, I hope it helps! I had written briefly about this in a previous post, but just be careful about when comparing. The reason is that I tried to do a translation that is very natural-sounding, which means you end up with a 意訳 (iyaku) as opposed to a 直訳 (literal translation). So in places where I have taken liberties you may be a bit confused.

      However, I am considering writing up more about my process of translating one of these days, and also maybe some posts comparing specific passages.


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