Monthly Archives: December 2016

Japanese book translation excerpt: “Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code” by Kohji Matsubayashi

So far, the translations that I have posted on this blog have mostly focused on portions of books, short stories, or online novels. But when I came across the book “Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code” (子供を億万長者にしたければ、プログラミングの基礎を教えなさい) by Kohji Matsubayashi(松林弘治), I decided I wanted to translate at least a small portion of this interesting book.

It is not my intention to give a detailed review of this book in this post. However, the excerpt I am giving here (which covers up to page 13) is pretty self explanatory and will give you a good taste for what the book is about.

This book is special to me because it covers three things which are important to me: software development (my day job), Japanese (a longtime hobby), and child upbringing (I have a young son).

As with some of my translations, I want to make it clear that is a non-official translation, not endorsed by the author or the publisher in any way.

While the original Japanese text was fairly straightforward and easy for me to understand, I had to put in a good amount of effort in order to have proper tone with natural phrasing.

It looks like there is no official English translation of this book, but you can see the original Japanese book for sale here.

If you would like to see more of this book in English, please feel free to like this post and/or comment. I have the contact information for the author, I can tell him if there is interest.

I will not be including any of the original Japanese text, but you can see the forward excerpted on this webpage.


Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code

By Kohji Matsubayashi  (Publisher: Kadokawa)



(Note: The forward is written with a large vertical font that fits 6 vertical columns per page)


President Obama sent a message to the children of the US.

“Don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

Why would he suggest such a thing?

To make money?

To give our children a brighter future?

Certainly, of those who have succeeded in business, some have known how to program.

In fact, the US and many other countries have started putting a focus on making programming part of their education system.

Of course, Japan is already one of these.

The reason for this emphasis, besides the economic advantages, is because learning to program is considered to have a positive effect on a child’s education.

Is it really safe for parents to take a passive stance on their children’s education?

However, perhaps you are a parent who has no experience with programming and doesn’t know where to start.

If so, it may be difficult to give your children realistic advice on how to learn programming.

But the fundamentals of programming are by no means difficult.

This book will help you quickly grasp the fundamental concepts of programming, along with the current educational resources available, and learn together with your children.

A child who discovers how fun programming can be will continue learning on their own and go on to do great things.


   Teaching children about computer programming is a topic which has been increasingly popular in recent years.

   In many forms of media we frequently see stories about IT entrepreneurs who were programming whizzes as children and later went on to become successful billionaires. There are even those who make an appeal to teach programming in Japan to our children in order to cultivate the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

   There have also been news reports that Japan may soon incorporate programming as part of its compulsory education program. In urban areas, programming classes targeting elementary, middle, and high school children are cropping up all over the place. Hands-on workshops for topics such as robotics and programming where parents can participate along with their children are extremely popular.

   And yet, why is there all this fuss about teaching programming to children who will not necessarily become programmers or computer engineers when they get older?

   In the 21st century, computers permeate nearly all aspects our daily lives, to the extent that we cannot even imagine a life without computers. This includes not just computer-like things such as smartphones and laptops; computers are actually being employed in many surprising places, embedded in non-computer-like things.

   Rice cookers, microwaves, refrigerators, air conditioners, and laundry machines. TVs, video recorders, and cameras. Robot vacuum cleaners, bath water heaters, digital scales, and body composition monitors. In our homes alone, the number is practically limitless–every day we are literally surrounded by computers. Even things like grocery store registers, bank ATMs, and online shopping cannot exist without computers.

   It is in such a world where the idea of making computers and programming a part of general education–just like reading, writing, and arithmetic–is becoming more and more predominant. The proponents of this are trying to push programming education from elementary school at the governmental level and give a thorough treatment of computer science in middle and high school.

   At the same time, the idea of using programming as a tool to foster creativity in children has also been gaining in popularity. Building a program and getting it to do exactly what you want is truly the epitome of a creative activity. Programming allows one to experience the joy of creating something which cannot be obtained by simply using computers.

   The type of programming where one enjoys the process of thinking things through and constructing a program on their own is by no means a technical exercise done for the purpose of becoming a programmer, but instead can be likened to an educational toy which expands the possibilities of a child. Recently, technology has been developed which allows children in the early grades of elementary school, or even younger, to experience programming. There is a surprising number of middle and high school students trying their coding skills against other kids, knocking out programs that can hold their own against an adult.

   “I have no experience with programming, but I want to get my children interested in it.”

   What should parents who feel this way do? This question was the seed that lead to the creation of this book.

   What is programing anyway? How do computers work? How does programming relate to everyday life and work? What is the best way to start learning about programming?

   In this book, I have aimed to provide information from a variety of angles in order to fill in some of the blanks regarding the above questions, and tried my best to convey the essence of what programming is.

   There is no such thing as being too young or too old to learn how to program. My hope is that you can think and learn together with your children, and search out programming-like things hidden in everyday work, life, and play; learn to understand at least a little about the basics of computers; and give your children a tiny nudge to dive headfirst into the fun-filled world of programming. If reading this book helps you with any of these things, I couldn’t be happier.

   In my career so far I have worked as an engineer and OS developer in both enterprise and educational settings on projects such as system development/improvement and consulting, as well authoring and management of technical books. In a sense, one of my duties was to act as a mediator between engineers, users, and contractors, communicating information using easily-understood language, and facilitating communication between all parties.

   This book is not intended to be an introduction to programming or a technical book. I have not included even a single line of actual code. Even so, I’ve tried hard to give simple, easy-to-understand explanations so that you can get a taste for the what programming is like. Because of that, some experienced engineers and programmers may find the contents of this book lacking.

   Instead, I’ve included information about programming education from a diverse set of sources. I’ve paid particular attention to structuring each chapter so it is relatively independent from the others, and you can enjoy the book in any order you prefer. Feel free to peruse the table of contents, find a chapter you are interested in, and dive into the book from that point.

   I hope you and your children will join me on a journey through the exciting world of programming.

– Kohji Matsubayashi



  1. The quote on line two was replaced with the quote directly from Obama’s speech:
  2. My English translation of the title (“Turn your kids into billionaires by teaching them to code“) is slightly different than the one listed on the cover of the book, which reads: “Teach your kids to code to turn them into billionaires”




Japanese historical short story review: 野望の狭間 (Opposing Ambitions) by 天野純稀 (Sumiki Amano)

Recently at a Kinonuniya bookstore I picked up the 2nd edition (2号)of the book 小説幻冬 (Shousetsu Gentou) which is a compendium of Japanese short stories. I chose this because I was looking for something to read on a holiday trip, and didn’t want to get involved a long story, so though short stories would be perfect.

When I sat down in the airport and started to read the first story, I was surprised to find it was a “歴史時代小説”, which is a short story (or novel) set in a specific historical period. The title is “野望の狭間”, which literally translates to something like “the space between ambition”, but I am calling it “Opposing Ambitions”.

I started reading, and almost immediately started getting bogged down due to many words I’d never seen before (ex: 評定, 末席, 家臣、刻限, etc.). The dialogue was even more challenging, with first person pronouns (それがし) and verb conjugation (狙うておる) which I was unfamiliar with.

To make things worse, there was very few furigana reading hints, and many kanji which I’d seen never or very rarely (暁). With the help of a few different dictionaries I was able to look up many of the words, but there was not a small number of words which I couldn’t find.

After a few paragraphs, I was getting so frustrated that I considered stopping and trying another story. After all, a great portion of my time was being spent on word lookup. When I discovered the period where the story was set was the Sengoku period (戦国時代), which is over 500 years ago, I got even closer to giving up. Besides my lack of knowledge about classical Japanese history, I also am not familiar with war practices (formations, armor, etc.). To give you an idea, the movie Gettysburg really put me to sleep (though I loved the music).

However, I decided to push through and after around the second or third page things started getting significantly easier. The number of words I had to lookup in each paragraph reduced greatly, and I learned to just accept certain words, like places names, even if I didn’t know their pronunciation or exactly where they were located. (Many of the place names used like 尾張 (‘owari’) are now called something else). I started learning to imagine the troop formations, and one or two of the sword fighting scenes invoked images of Samurai Showdown.

I finally reached the end of the story (it was around ~30 pages) and was greeted with a well-written, bittersweet conclusion. While the story seems to be part of a series, it is technically a “読切小説” which means it is meant to stand on it’s own. I am not sure how much of the story is fiction and how much is fantasy, but I think the biggest connection to reality is the famous feudal lord Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).

So far in my Japanese I’ve focused mostly on modern culture and language, but this gave me a really nice sampler into centuries-old Japan, and I’d like to come back to this type of literature again sometime. But I think the next short story I choose in 小説幻冬 will be a little more… modern (:

While reading this, my inner-translator did have an urge to take a crack at this, but I think I’ll hold off for now. Besides the fact I didn’t understand all of the text completely, transforming this into centuries-old English seems quite difficult, especially the dialogue. But if I get requests I may translate at least a portion just to give an idea what this is like.

Mobile app review: “Kitty Collector” (neko atsume / ねこあつめ)

Setting your computer, smartphone, and tablet to Japanese is a great way to expand your vocabulary in a natural way, using words in context instead of a dry vocabulary list. This means both the OS itself, as well as the applications or games you are using (sometimes the setting of these things is linked, sometimes not).

In this post I’d like to briefly review the mobile app “Kitty Collector”, called ”ねこあつめ” (neko atsume) in Japanese. “ねこ” (猫)means “cat” and ”あつめる” (集める) is a verb which means to collect, so strictly speaking the title would translate to “Cat collection”, though “Kitty collector” sounds much better. This is one of the many cases where a literal translation of a title isn’t the best translation (see my article related to this topic here).

In this game, you manage a small space outside of your house where cats can hang out. Fundamentally, the gameplay is about buying things like food and cat items (there is a large amount of variety for both), laying these out in a few predefined spaces, and then waiting for cats to come to eat and play. This isn’t one of those games where you stare at the screen at hours without blinking, but instead involves closing, or at least bringing the app to the background, and checking back at a later point.

When you check back, there is a chance that one or more cute cats have come to play, and then eventually you will start getting gifts from them. Of course you’ll want to use this money to buy more food and cat items, lay them out, and hope more cats come back. If you save up enough money you can even buy the ultimate “expansion” (拡張) item which give you a bigger space to work with.

There isn’t much more to the basic gameplay, although there is a bit of trial-and-error to figure out how to get each of the 40+ cats to come and play in your backyard. Each time a cat comes you can take a screenshot to show your friends, and also there is a “Catbook” which saves the cat’s faces, names, and dates of arrival(?) in something like a scrapbook.

This app is good for beginners learning Japanese because much of the UI is rendered with hiragana (ex: かいもの) or katakana (ex: グッズ) words, though many of the items use Kanji (ex: 高級かりかり). It’s good because even if you don’t know what the words mean, you can generally understand what is going on just from the pictures.

Another advantage of this app is that the version available on the regular U.S. Apple app store supports both English and Japanese, and can be set independently of whatever your OS is set to (you are prompted when you first start the game, and can change the language later in the settings/せってい screen later). Other games may require you to set your OS to Japanese, or even change to the Japanese app store which can be pain because you’ll have to create a separate account.

You can see the app on the Apple app store here. There is also an Android version here, though I haven’t tried it personally.

The game is free on both app stores. While the game does have in-app purchases (the only ones seem to be buying groups of in-game cash in different increments), it doesn’t seem to force you to use these. While I have only used this game a little myself personally, I think with a little time and experimentation, you can gather up a good amount of money and enjoy some happy time with your cats without spending a cent of real money. Just a warning–I have seen people become quickly addicted to this game regardless of (perhaps because of) its simplicity.

I just found out about Kitty Collector recently, but it seems it has been around for a few years now. Ironically, the first place I heard about this game was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore where they had a section of plush animals from the game.

If you are into “collection” games (the similarity to Pokemon is no accident), cats, or just want to practice your basic Japanese reading skills, I definitely recommend trying this out. If you do it for Japanese, just be aware that some of the words which are expressed in Hiragana (ex: せってい) are more commonly expressed in Kanji in everyday Japanese (ex: 設定).

Interview with pro literature translator Tyran Grillo (Japanese to English)

Recently when I was browsing through articles on with the keyword “Japan”, I came upon a post by Tyran Grillo about the book “Mr. Turtle”, an award-winning science fiction novel by Yusaku Kitano which Tyran himself translated from Japanese to English.

Having been interested in translation personally for some time now, especially that of fiction literature, I couldn’t help but send him a message and see if he was interested in an interview for my blog. To my delight, he almost immediately responded that he was interested in participating.
According to his bio on Kurodahan Press’s website, Tyran has translated nine books and many short stories, and is pursuing a Ph.D at Cornell University with a focus on animals in contemporary Japanese fiction and film.
Q: Your biography is pretty impressive, with translations from popular authors such as Koji Suzuki (creator of the famous “Ring” series). What got you into translation and how long have you been doing paid translation work?
What got me intro translation was the first novel that I translated (Hideaki Sena’s Parasite Eve) and published through Vertical in 2005. My best friend in high school, an exchange student from Tokyo, regaled me with his summary of the story (I was also familiar with the popular Playstation video game it inspired), and I vowed to learn Japanese well enough to translate it. He gave me his personal copy of the book right then and there, and I obviously stayed true to my word. Once finished with a draft, I pitched it blindly to Vertical, who had by that point already contracted two other translators to render the novel into English, with apparently less-than-ideal results, and were steeling themselves for a massive editorial headache by smushing both translations into something coherent, when here I came out of the blue with a singular solution. None of this is meant to suggest that my translation was better. Being my first (I was still an undergrad with only a few years of Japanese under my belt at the time), it contained many errors that had to be fixed in the proofing stage, and I benefitted greatly from my editor and the author himself, who as a working scientist was fluent enough in English to kindly read and comment on the entire manuscript. I can only explain my unbelievable luck by the mere fact that I had been motivated by a genuine desire to (re)tell its story to a new readership, whereas the other translators who’d previously worked on it might very well not have chosen it had they not been contracted. Passion counts for everything in literary translation, and thankfully over time my technical skills in that regard have risen to near-equal levels.
Q: While I haven’t read “Mr. Turtle” yet, it sounds like a very unique work that would be great fun to translate. While reading a review of it in The Japan Times, I came across the curious phrase “frustratingly simple sentences” used to describe part of the book. What sorts of things made this project difficult or memorable?
Precisely that. Mr. Turtle consists of very short paragraphs, most of which are only a sentence or two long, lending it a staccato feel. Just as it seems to have jarred reviewers, Mr. Kitano’s structure posed fresh challenges to me as a translator. I had to remain faithful to that structure, while also bringing out the underlying flow as I saw it operating throughout the text. The book’s surreal edge also made it a particularly brain-busting project, as certain cultural references that would make no sense to non-Japanese readers begged reformulation and, in some cases, outright substitution. The author’s penchant for wordplay and portmanteaus was cause for further consideration, but freed rather than hindered me to flex my creativity in response to their whimsy. Despite, if not because of, its difficulties, Mr. Turtle was by far the most enjoyable translation I’ve done.
Q: I’ve only dabbled in translation myself, but it seems like searching for work may take up a significant amount of time of a pro translator. How do you find work and what do you think the best way to break into this field is for those who think they have the potential, but little or no published work yet? Did you do unpaid translations before you made it big and do you think that helped you land jobs?
As Parasite Eve was my first translation, I never preceded it with unpaid work. I’ve since, however, built up a small backlog of translations (four novels and a smattering of short stories and academic articles) for my own pleasure and/or edification. Most will likely never see the light of day in print for a variety of reasons. Primary among those reasons relates to my biggest advice to those wanting to break into the professional translation game: if there is a text you are intent on publishing, make sure you secure the translation rights before you translate a single word. This protects you if and when you decide to pitch your translation to a publisher, who may not even look at it without those rights in place beforehand. Nothing is more deflating that finding out, for example, that an entire book into which you’ve poured months of work has already been contracted to someone else. I know this from personal experience, and it was heartbreaking. Lesson learned, but one I would never wish upon anyone. Thankfully, securing rights is relatively easy, unless I’ve just been fortunate in that regard, and may entail nothing more than emailing the author or the author’s publisher directly for written permission. For those translators working, like me, from Japanese to English, I am always willing to share my rights-seeking letter, a template of which I’ve perfected over years of refinement.
Q: What sorts of translation tools do you use, if any, and what key feature(s) do they have that helps you work faster or better?
My go-to dictionary has, and always will be, Jim Breen’s fantastic WWWJDIC. Its comprehensive and contains many great example sentences to see how words are used in context. And for difficult kanji lookup, my app of choice is Midori (available in the iOS App Store), which allows me to write a kanji directly on my screen. Google Japan also helps for obscure and unfamiliar terms. None of these resources is dispensable.
Q: The capabilities of automated translation systems seem to have advanced rapidly in the last few years, though the Japanese/English language pair is apparently lagging behind others (like Spanish/English). What are your thoughts on how automated or partially-automated programs are changing the field now and will change it in the next few years?
This question reminds me that I forgot to include one vital resource to the above list: native Japanese speakers. Whenever dictionaries and my own intellect fail, I rely on native speakers to help me through the most vexing linguistic conundrums. Without them my work would suffer, and I imagine even the most experienced translators would readily admit the same. I don’t think automated translation will ever fully replace its human counterpart, but it does have an undeniable functional value and has allowed people to communicate across a wider range of cultures (especially on ubiquitous platforms such as Facebook) in ways impossible without it. There is, for example, another iOS app called Yomiwa, which brings up definitions of any Japanese text fed through your phone’s camera. While still buggy and not something I would use myself, I can see it being of great help to travelers who want to know the gist of something in a flash.
Q: Besides things like reading a lot of works in both languages, is there anything else you do, or have done, to actively improve your translation skills?
Traveling to Japan as much as possible (though I’ve certainly been there far less often than I would like), crosschecking existing translations with their source texts to see their own practices and idiosyncrasies in action, and keeping up with the work of translation theory scholars (I studied translation theory intensely for three years as a master’s student). Most recently, I was honored to be asked to serve as a judge for Kurodahan Press’s annual translation contest, for which I had to read nearly 90 anonymized translations of the same short story. It was an eye-opening and educational experience.
Q: There seems to be a different skill set for translation and editing, since someone who can make good translations may still be prone to mistakes. Do you actively work to polish your editing skills? On the paid projects you have worked on, is there often someone involved who just focuses on editing, or is it all up to you personally?
I typically copyedit a translation, even of novel length, at least 10 times before calling it drafted. In all the work I’ve published, I’ve had the fortune of working with skilled editors across the board. Translators, like all published writers, would fall short of their full potential without one.
Q: Do you have any plans or ideas for after you graduate that you would mind sharing with us?
As I am currently finishing up my Ph.D. in Japanese Literature at Cornell, I am looking to stay on in the academic sector as a professor in Asian Studies. Because my work also intersects with Animal Studies (including Posthumanism), Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature, I hope to remain active in those fields as I continue to strengthen my profile as an interdisciplinary thinker. I also pursue a side career as a music critic, having written nearly one million words on my blog, and write frequently for major magazines (both online and in print) on jazz, classical music, and film. I will continue to do this as long as there is music to listen to.
Q: Do you have any final words for budding tamago translators?
Translate what you love; love what you translate.
Thanks very much Tyran! Best of luck on your future endeavors.

Japanese web novel translation: “Japan: A New Age” by Tasogarenin (黄昏人) [Chapter 5: Junpei Transfers]

This is the 5th chapter of a Japanese Science Fiction web novel about a genius boy who helps develop amazing technologies that change Japan’s society drastically, eventually resulting in the colonization of outer space.

You can find the original text for this chapter here.

You can see the table of contents for the translated chapters here which includes a synopsis.

If you want to see more chapters of this work translated, please consider voting for it on this survey where I ask what I should translate more of.

UPDATE: Uploaded a new version of the chapter which fixes the issue with spaces after apostrophes.



Sorry, but (Japanese) translation A.I. is still asleep

Recently someone told me of an article in the New York Times titled “The Great A.I. Awakening”, which talks about how Google Translate has switched over to using an A.I. based system, and the supposed improvements.

The beginning of the article talks about Japanese to English translation, and includes several English translations of a passage from Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” created by feeding in a Japanese translation (of the original text) by professor Jun Rekimoto. While there is one obvious grammatical error in the “new A.I.” version, the claim is that the translation is much better than the old system.

But, after skimming this article (it was extremely long and I didn’t read the entire thing), I was doubtful how good the A.I. really was, since I had done an experiment before of using Google Translate to convert Japanese to English, and that was a real train wreck.

So I decided to do another quick experiment, using just a single sentence from a novel I am currently translating (first sentence of Chapter 5 of “Japan: A New Age”, which I am in the final editing stages of and will be releasing soon.)


Original sentence:


Google’s Translate’s translation:

One day from that dinner, Yamado and Makiyama contacted Yokohe ‘s mother Yoko, and visited the Yoshikawa family at 19 pm by saying that her father’ s young woman could come home early and meet.

My translation:

Two days after their dinner meeting, Dr. Yamato and Dr. Makimura visited Junpei’s home at 7 pm, having previously contacted his mother Yoko to make plans for his father Yohei to come home early that day for the meeting.


A good translation requires a good mix of semantic correctness and style to give a certain mood. I’m not going to focus on style too much, since I am still working on that myself (and there is a subjective element to it), and will instead keep to verifying whether the meaning and basic grammar of Google Translate’s result is correct.

Here is a list of semantic problems with Google’s translation:

  1. The expression “から1日おいて is incorrectly translated as “one day (later)” instead of “two days (later)”. I double-checked and technically speaking, this expression can be interpreted as “one day later” by some people, but the consensus seems to be “two days” is correct. I also verified this with the author of the novel.
  2. Several names are spelled wrong (ex: 順平 should be Junpei, but it is rendered as Yokohe by Google). Japanese names written in Kanji typically can have more than one reading, so this has a subjective element to it. In my case, I verified with the author, though some of these names have a dominant reading. It is interesting to note here is Google actually translated  牧山 correctly as “Makiyama” that tipped me off to this typo by the author. When reading it originally, I just assumed it was the correct 牧村 and translated that as “Makimura”.
  3. Google translated 午後19時に as “19 pm” which is actually technically correct in a sense, however apart from the fact whether the author used a technically incorrect expression (I’ve seen other people use this as well), it is clear that “7 pm” is the natural way to translate this.
  4. Google put a mysterious space within “Yokohe ‘s”. This is an obvious grammatical error, not sure how this got through.
  5. For some reason 父の洋平 is translated as “her father’ s young woman” instead of “his father Yohei”. I can see how this is tricky because whose 父 (father) it is isn’t specified, a trend commonly seen in Japanese.
  6. The “〜帰って会えるこということで〜” is translated as “~by saying that…could come home early and meet~”. While the “こということで” doesn’t really have a direct parallel in English, it’s meaning is roughly parallel to “~with the thing~”. I used “having previously contacted” to represent this (and the “contacted” part is literally there early the sentence), which I think works well. But it is clear Google’s rendering is confusing. While the verb いう originally comes from 言う which means “to say”, in many cases this meaning is lost partially if not completely.

This isn’t a cherry picked example–it is the first thing I tried after hearing about Google Translate’s improved A.I. While I don’t doubt things are better than before, this is clearly not close to being at a stage where it can replace professional (or even amateur) translators. And I haven’t really started to look into stylistic things, where emotions can be invoked by subtle change in wording. This isn’t a good passage to discuss that anyway.

Some of these things, like checking with the author or even discovering mistakes in the original text, I think will be extremely difficult for computers to handle, even with enhanced A.I. In all fairness, some of the differences between my translation and Google’s rely on previous information (like how I used “Dr.” for two of the characters), though I don’t any of the ones I pointed out above fall into this category.

This is not to say this technology is useless, of course there are a great variety of uses, and in most cases I think having this would be much better than having nothing.

My personal opinion is that we won’t have real human-level translation (at least for relatively distant language pairs like Japanese and English) until we have human-level A.I., which can do nearly anything else a human can do. When that happens, I think we will have much bigger problems than worry about translators losing their jobs (:

Japanese web novel translation: “Japan: A New Age” by Tasogarenin (黄昏人) [Chapter 4: Development Begins]

This is the 4th chapter of a Japanese Science Fiction web novel I am translating about a genius boy who develops amazing technology that changes Japan’s society drastically, eventually resulting in the colonization of outer space.

You can find the original text for this chapter here.

You can see the table of contents for the translated chapters here which includes a synopsis.

As with all other chapters I’ve done so far, I have been in tight communication with the author Tasogarenin, having him review each chapter and provide comments before I post it. In some cases he has suggested minor changes which are not reflective of the original text, so if you happen to be comparing the two keep this in mind.

Note: Feel free to link to this translation, but please do not copy any of the content. If I find that is being done, I will either pursue the site(s) to remove it and/or stop posting this story’s translation to a public location. Thank you.


“Japan: A New Age”  by Tasogarenin (黄昏人)

Translated by: Locksleyu (

Copyright © 2016 SELFTAUGHTJAPANESE.COM. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 4: Development Begins

Office of the METI (*) Minister, afternoon that same day

(* METI: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

  General Director Tanaka was in the midst of a discussion with Minister Shintarou Nakane and Vice-Minister Shingo Yamamoto. Minister Nakane was one of the main members of the cabinet, said to be the right-hand man of Prime Minister Ayama, and at 52, he was relatively young for his position. Vice-Minister Yamamoto’s tendency to avoid conflict at all costs made him in some ways like a typical politician, but Director Tanaka judged Mr. Yamamoto’s intellect worthy of his high position.

   “I showed Professor Yamanaka of Mizuho Industrial College the research paper, and he seemed very excited about it,” said Director Tanaka. “Apparently he had trouble believing something like this could come from within Japan, and was questioning where the paper had actually originated, but I told him we would discuss that in due time. Judging from his reaction, this is a pretty impressive discovery and has a good chance of becoming reality.”  

   “Hmm…but this whole thing just seems too good to be true, “ Mr. Nakane interjected. “However, I’ve been getting a bad feeling about the situation in the Middle East, and the price of crude oil has clearly been on the rise lately. For our country, which only has five active nuclear reactors, this does not forebode well. I truly hope that somehow this discovery turns out to be the real thing. By the way, would you mind telling me how you predict this to pan out, given what you know now? I’d like to tell the Prime Minister about this.”

   “Of course. I’ll tell you what I can infer at this point, based on what I was told by Dr. Yamato and Dr. Makimura, and the conclusions of a ve

ring held after that.

To begin with, this goes against accepted scientific theories, and while it is being called ‘cold fusion’, it actually works using magnetic fields and pressure, causing a fusion chain reaction by exciting magnetic fields under a special set of conditions. The reaction occurs around 500°C, which is considered ‘room temperature’ compared to a plasma state, which is in the order of several tens of million degrees.
   In addition to the relatively low temperature, there are two other things that are unbelievably convenient about this reaction.  First, for fuel it does not rely on a hydrogen isotope such as Deuterium or Tritium, but instead leverages simple hydrogen as used in conventional hydrogen vehicles. Furthermore, regarding the energy that is produced, the output of a traditional nuclear generator is heat that needs to be converted to electricity, however in this new reaction electrical power is directly generated. Because of that, fundamentally there are no turbines or other moving parts, and as mentioned previously there is very little heat produced, resulting in an extremely durable system.
   The device itself is very simple and compact, leading to low construction costs, and according to Dr. Yamato the smallest unit will generate 100 megawatts with its prototype costing between $10 million to $20 million. Of course, if mass-produced this would likely drop below $10 million. For comparison, nowadays a thermal power generator generating 100 megawatts is said to cost around $80 million. On top of that, fuel for this cold fusion reaction will be only about one gram of hydrogen per hour, versus eight kiloliters of heavy oil for a thermal generator–a drastic reduction.

The current cost of generating power is approximately 6 cents per kilowatt for nuclear, not taking into account disposal of radioactive waste, 6.4 cents for liquefied natural gas, 10 cents for oil, and 6.5 for coal. This new approach works out to below 1 cent per kilowatt. It also has the advantage that we will never run out of fuel.
Indeed, this all sounds too good to be true. But if such a technology were to become a reality, the industrial structure of the world would radically change. It would bring the collapse of the current power industry as we know it.”

  At this point, Minister Nakane’s growing excitement had become very apparent.

“This is a once-in-a-millennia chance for our country. I’d like everyone to assume this technology will be realized, and do everything in your power to make that happen.
Also, because of the aforementioned uncertainty about the future of crude oil, I’d like to expedite this project as much as possible. I’ll speak to the Prime Minister and have the government help as much as I can. By the way, is everyone in agreement with making Konan College the central point of this project?”

    Mr. Tanaka responded to the Minister’s question. “Yes, as the key person is a child living in Konan City, I think it will be a bit difficult to bring him to somewhere like Tokyo on short notice. Also, while ultimately unable to complete the research on his own, Dr. Makimura of Konan College was the originator of the idea that starting everything.
   Moreover, it seems that Dr. Yamato is already in negotiations with him, but the renowned Industrial Engineering Professor Masahiko Yamamura is also working at Konan College. I would feel much better if we can get the supervision of Dr. Yamamura, who has worked on a wide variety of development projects with Yotusbishi Industries–that just happens to have a major factory located in Konan city.”

   “Agreed,” said the Minister. “After all, that’s the path of least resistance. By the way, how are things going with our boy genius?”

“Publicly, our goal is to make it appear as if he is simply transferring into the elementary school associated with Konan College,” Mr. Tanaka responded. “But in reality he will begin visiting several of the laboratories there. Vice-Minister Yamamoto in currently in discussions with MEXT (*) regarding this matter.”

(* MEXT = Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

   Vice-Minister Yamamoto nodded and went on to explain. “We have already spoken with Vice-Minister Kamimoto and reached an agreement with him. However, we would like Minister Nakane to have a discussion about this with MEXT Minister Shirota.

In addition, regarding the financial backing of this project, because of the available subsidies for the development of new technology in the private sector, we should be able to acquire at least $20 million easily. If things work out, spending the money won’t be a problem, and even if things don’t go as planned, since we have the approval of the influential people in academia, we’ll be able to make any problems disappear.”

“Understood. For funding please do as needed. I will speak with Mr. Shirota at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting. I’m really hoping things work out. Maybe we can all have a toast today. Mr. Yamamoto, Mr. Tanaka, what do you think?” asked the Minister.

“Of course, we would be honored to accompany you,” said the Vice-Minister and General Director.

A little before 5pm in the evening that day, Dr. Makimura received a call from Mrs. Hidaka on his cell phone while he was in the research lab.

“Sir, I have made dinner preparations for tonight. What did Dr. Yamato say?”

“It seems like he will be able to make it,” said Dr. Makimura. “I apologize for the last minute addition, but I also invited Industrial Engineering Professor Yamamura from our college’s Engineering Department.”

“It would be great to have Dr. Yamamura join us. Of course he is welcome to come.
I hope you don’t mind that I invited Mr. Yoshitake, Section Chief from our Konan office.

The location is a place called Yuraku in Konohana City. Are you familiar with it?” asked Mrs. Hidaka.

“Yes, I am. So we are good for 6 pm, right?” Dr. Makimura confirmed.

“Yes, I’ll see you then.”

On a few occasions Dr. Makimura had been to Yuraku, a long-established Japanese restaurant. Professor Yamato and Dr. Makimura met up on campus, boarded a taxi waiting for them and then headed to the bustling streets of Konohana City. When they arrived at Yuraku, they were lead by the restaurant’s host Mr. Nakai into a tatami reception room deep in the building. When they opened the sliding doors, they were greeted by Mrs. Hidaka and a man wearing a grey suit who looked around 40.

   “We have been expecting you,” said the man. “Please have a seat.” Dr. Yamato and Dr. Makimura did as requested and sat comfortably, after which the man introduced himself.
   “Nice to meet you. I am Junya Yoshitake from METI’s Konan office. I think in the coming months we will be spending a great deal of time together, and I look forward to working with everyone.”

   “Hello, I’m Naomi Hidaka and am honored to have been assigned to work at Konan College. Dr. Yamato and Dr. Yamamura, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Hi, I’m Yamato. I’m really looking forward to working on what we guess we can call a ‘project’.”

(If you are reading this on a site besides, it has been illegally copied!)

“Hi, I am Yamamura from the Industrial Engineering department. Until I joined academia, I was the lead of various development projects, but this is the first time I have been involved in one this important. I’d like to work together closely with everyone, and if possible have a great time doing it.”

“I’m Makimura. My field of expertise is theoretical science and I have no experience with developing hardware, but I’ll try to avoid getting in everyone’s way. I’m looking forward to working with you all.”

After a few minutes of beer and small talk, Dr. Yamato addressed the group. “For the project proposal, I’d like Mrs. Hidaka to lead the effort and work together with Dr. Makimura to draft it up quickly. Is everyone in agreement?”

“Yes sir, I will do my best under Dr. Makimura’s guidance,” Mrs. Hidaka answered.

Dr. Yamato chimed in next. “In parallel with the proposal we’ll have to work on the system design. For the time being, I’d like Dr. Yamamura to lead the conceptual and core design work on our college campus. However, since a portion of the work involves CAD, if possible I’d prefer to enlist an expert CAD engineer from your ministry. I’d be glad to search for this person myself if we have the requisite financial backing.”  

   “Yes, we have actually already begun to reach out to private companies in search of a specialist,” said Mrs. Hidaka. “However, in terms of convenience, if it is not a problem I would feel much better if you coordinated that. Regarding funding, I’ve heard that things have been arranged with our Vice-Minister’s agreement.”

“Alright,” said Dr. Yamato. “In that case we will begin preparations for the design work tomorrow. By the way, I was hoping that I could meet with the boy’s family soon and get him enrolled in the college in some form or another.”

“Yes, we are already in talks with MEXT on that matter as well. I think it should be safe to proceed on your end,” answered Mrs. Hidaka.

“I also had a talk with the General Director on this matter,” Section Chief Yoshitake added to the discussion. “He expressed that the Minister had high expectations for this project, and that the Prime Minister himself would be informed soon.
As you all know, there is much concern for the sudden jump in energy prices, such as crude oil, that have been seen recently, and since our country has not made much progress with bringing our nuclear reactors back online, this is very disturbing news.”

Dr. Yamamura spoke with a hint of sarcasm. “You know, once things get started, shit is really going to hit the fan. To begin with, the nuclear plants are nothing but piles of scrap metal. Also, business for the current generator manufacturers is horrible, and there are many coal or crude oil related companies which are virtually bankrupt.”

   “I am fully aware of that,” said Mr. Yoshitake. “The repayment of the nuclear reactor loans is a serious concern, but because the facility costs for this new system will be less than 20% of the current facilities, there will be little direct effect on the GDP. Furthermore, since the generation process uses only hydrogen, we can simply supply water as an input and decompose that into hydrogen internally. Essentially, the burden–or shall I say cost–on society for power generation will be drastically lowered.
However, because of the many advantages compared to traditional power generation, rather than a gradual ramp-up I wouldn’t be surprised if the transition to this new power source happened at an unprecedented pace. We can also expect a similarly large demand for this system.

   Just considering power generation, assuming our country can currently provide 200 million gigawatts and the new system will cost at least $200 per kilowatt, a demand in the order of $40 billion will quickly emerge. Also, from what I have heard, by making a minor change to the system which extracts power from the generator, a compressed, portable form of electrical energy can be created, which will likely translate to inexpensive electric cars in the near future.
   In addition, because the cost of electricity will be one fifth of the current rate, manufacturing facilities such as factories will undergo large scale retooling. New industries which leverage this inexpensive power will also begin cropping up very quickly. Fortunately, many of the people of our country have a good amount of disposable income, thus there isn’t much need to borrow from banks, preventing us from escaping deflation. In such a climate, a situation will emerge where investment in power generation facilities is guaranteed to return a nice profit.
Without a doubt, this will result in a major economic boom.
Compared to this, I feel that the loss from the defaulted nuclear loans will be insignificant.”

Dr. Yamamura turned to Mr. Yoshitake. “I see METI has also done its homework. I completely agree with your conclusions. I’ll do everything I can to make this happen as soon as possible,” Dr. Yamamura said and shook Mr. Yoshitake’s hand.

“By the way, maybe it’s about time to stop calling this technology using vague terms and think of a proper name for it,” said Dr. Yamato.

“I think ‘fusion reactor’ has a nice ring to it,” said Mrs. Hidaka.

“I think we should respect the lady’s opinion. That name is fine with me,” said Dr. Yamato. The rest of the group agreed. “Alright, it’s final!”

“So the project name will be ‘Fusion Reactor Development Project’. Publicly, we can just call it ‘The FR Project’ ,” Dr. Yamato concluded.

Copyright © 2016 SELFTAUGHTJAPANESE.COM. All Rights Reserved.


** What should I translate?

There is always so many things to translate, and so little time.

The purpose of this poll is so I can learn more what people are interested in reading.

Note: I have added entries to this poll after it was initially created, so the numbers have to be understood in the context of this. Don’t refrain from voting on something just because it has few votes.

Dr. “Birigirl” Tsubota’s personality test

The film “Flying Colors” (ビリギャル), released last year (2015), is about a girl who originally has no friends and horrible grades, but works hard and drastically improves her grades. The film is based on a true story, which is captured in the novel “学年ビリのギャルが1年で偏差値を40上げて慶應大学に現役合格した話” (rough translation: “The story of a last-place girl who raises her grades by 40 points and gets accepted into Keio College”) by Dr. Nobutaka Tsubota (坪田信貴).

While this movie seems like it might be fun, I haven’t actually seen it so I won’t be commenting on it. Instead, this post is about an online personality test designed by the author of that story, Dr. Tsubota.

The test is called “人間は9タイプ・判定アプリ”  (~ “People come in 9 types – evaluation app”) and is comprised of 36 multiple choice questions.

If you are into personality tests it is a lot of fun, and even if you aren’t it is a unique way to practice your Japanese reading skills and learn new words.

The questions are generally very short and the answer choices are the same each time. I’ll go over the first question, and add my translation to give you a head start.

Q1:「おせっかいだ」と言われることがある。 (“People sometimes call you ‘nosy’)

1.すごく当てはまる (“Applies to me to a large extent”)

2.当てはまる (“Applies to me”)

3.どちらでもない (“Neither applies nor doesn’t apply to me”)

4.まったく当てはまらない (“Doesn’t apply to me at all”)

Notice that, as typical in Japanese, even though the word “you” is not listed even a single time, both the question and answers all indirectly refer to “you”.

If you aren’t sure what a few questions mean, just put “どちらでもない” for those.

When you are done, the results are summed up across different personality types, and you are given one or more personality types that match your answers.

I was given 楽天的 (Optimistic) as my closest match, and 研究者 (Researcher) as the second. “Optimistic Researcher” has a pretty nice ring to it, and I can’t say I disagree (:

Here is the test. If you take it, let me know what the result was!


Japanese Magazine Review: Lighthouse Seattle & Portland

Several months ago in a post I talked about how one of the main reasons I moved to Oregon was because of the prominent Japanese culture and people there (at least more so than South Florida). It’s been about half a year and I’m planning on writing on article about Portland and Japanese culture again to talk about what I’ve learned so far. But before that, I wanted to introduce a related magazine.

The magazine is called “Lighthouse: Seattle & Portland”. Let’s see what the magazine says about itself on the front cover:

シアトル / ポートランドの生活情報誌

(with my rough, non-literal translation)

Lifestyle Information Magazine for Seattle and Portland
Our goal is to be a guiding light for those who are living in America or considering doing so. That’s why we chose to call our magazine “Lighthouse”.


Lighthouse has all sorts of useful information about America for Japanese people. For example, there is information about restaurants, schools, insurance, doctors, flights, pretty much anything a Japanese person might be interested in. In nearly all these cases, the business or establishment is managed/owned by Japanese people, or at least has Japanese speaking staff. For example if you live in Seattle or Portland and want to find  a Japanese accountant, realtor, or doctor, this is the perfect place to look.

There are articles which are about Japanese famous people, such as a famous actor or golfer. But rather than those I tend to enjoy the more information-rich articles about living in America. Two examples in the issue I have in front of me (Dec 2016) are “貯め方:老後に向けて準備、お金の貯め方” (about saving money for retirement) and “バイリンガル子育ての秘訣” (secrets to raising a bilingual child).

One of the things that makes learning a foreign language extra difficult is you are learning the grammar and words along with the culture of that country (this is also the fun part, though!). However, this magazine gives you the experience of seeing Japanese used to describe many of the things you experience every day (assuming you live in America), such as restaurants or hotels, or even politics and laws.

If you are like me, and serious about trying to use Japanese in your daily life in America, this is a great resource. While understanding this magazine completely requires a pretty high level of Japanese (including good knowledge of Kanji since there isn’t much Furigana), even if you just know Katakana and Hiragana you can pick out some words and have fun doing it.

You can also learn some pretty cool things about culture, for example in another article from the same issue they compare living costs of America vs. Japan (for the purpose of deciding where is a better place to retire to), and come to this conclusion:

アメリカと日本の月々の差額は$1,900!    (Difference in monthly expenses in Japan vs America: $1,900!)

Now, I know I’m quoting this out of context and I’m not guaranteeing it’s accurate, but the words used to describe these things are very useful and nice to add to your personal lexicon.

You can pick up Lighthouse in many locations in Seattle or Portland (I’ve got mine at Uwajimaya or Koji Osaka), and you can see the detailed list of distribution sites here.

The magazine is free, and of course in order to pay for printing and distribution costs, a huge percent of it is advertisements (you know the type). However, of all the add-ridden magazines and newspapers, this is one of my favorite because it’s so packed with Japanese words and expressions to learn in a context you are familiar with.

So next time you are looking for a dentist, maybe you can use this to find one who speaks Japanese. Just don’t forget to learn the word “Itai!” (Ouch!) as it might come in handy (:

As I was just about to finish writing this article, I discovered they actually have an online version (電子版)! You can see the Dec 2016 version here, where you can browse the entire magazine in your browser. I had some problems loading it in Safari, so try it in Chrome or another browser if you have issues. If you live nearby one of these cities, I still recommend getting the physical version, since working at a computer makes it very easy to get distracted and loose focus.