Monthly Archives: February 2017

The (hobby) translator’s dilemma – project selection

It’s been a little over a year since I started doing Japanese to English translations and posting them on this blog (I started around December 2015). Initially it was just an experiment, but I ended up translating a little bit of a bunch of works (and a larger portion of a few works) in order to improve my skills as a translator. I’ve covered over 15 different works, and over 30 chapters in total so far.

I think I’ve done a reasonable job of making progress on my goal to improve my translation abilities, and though I cannot really say how close I am to something like ‘professional’ level, I have gotten some good feedback on several of my translations, in some cases from people who whose opinions I really respect. I’ve also optimized my translation process somewhat and plan on continuing to do so into the future.

But in the last few months, I’ve come across a new problem, which is how to select which works to translate and how much of them to do. Generally speaking, I have tried to only touch works which I enjoy reading myself, but this still leaves a great deal of options. Had I been doing this for money I think selection would be much easier, since for the most part I could choose work that pays better. But without that restriction, my domain of things to translate is nearly infinite.

Also, as some of my translations have gained a little popularity (with the help of sites like novelupdates.com), now I have the additional goal of translating for an audience. However, this can sometimes conflict with my original goal of gaining a wide breadth of translation experience, since after I have translated a few chapters, there is diminishing returns on what I learn. Of course there is a certain amount of efficiency speedup, but even if my 6th chapter is two or three times faster than my 1st chapter, this can still be 5-10 hours per chapter, if not more (including proofreading and editing which usually take up at a good portion of the total time). With some works having over 50 chapters, because I am doing this in my free time it’s very hard to make a commitment to translate a work that will take up months, if not a year of my free time.

While there is definitely something to be said for finishing a translation project to completion (and it was very satisfying to do that here), I need to balance that with my other goals.  Also, when doing the translation for an audience (as opposed to for my own education or enjoyment) I find myself more likely to rush things–since after all the fans are waiting–and more likely to burn out.

At several occasions I have begun translation on a work which was unfinished, and then the author just happened to slow down the pace of writing future chapters, or stopped completely. But that is always going to be a risk for translating unfinished stories, and even if the author continues at a predictable pace, when it will end is usually not predictable.

Another tradeoff is that if I want to focus entirely on translation, I tend to avoid reading the entire work (despite the fact I’ve recommended that in the past) and just start translating after I’ve read only one or two chapters. But this means that the work may be not quite what I envisioned when starting it, and this can become another reason to drop the project partway.

One solution to all this is to find works that complete and short enough for me to finish in a few weeks (say 5-10 chapters). But if I keep the restriction that I prefer to do works published on sites like syosetsu.com and get the blessing of the author (as opposed to unofficial translations of physically published works), it actually becomes somewhat time-consuming to find something that fits all my requirements, especially if it has to be something I really enjoy reading myself. But I am still in search of such works. When I contact an author to get permission to translate and publish it on my blog, I have been saying that initially I will promise to only do a single chapter, and may continue depending on how things go. That way, I avoid creating expectations that I may not be able to live up later.

If and when I do start doing translation jobs for pay, I am sure my attitude towards all this will change greatly and things will never be the same. But I am hoping to enjoy the freedom to translate what I like, as long as I have that freedom, while keeping the readers happy whenever possible.

One interesting side effect of this selection process is that I get many opportunities to consider what will be appreciated by an English-speaking audience (and possibly sell) and what won’t. This gets me thinking about trends in both the Japanese- and English-speaking worlds, and what could be enjoyed by both audiences. I’ve even found myself debating if any why a certain work would actually sell in an English-speaking market.

These sort of skills, while related to translation, I think are a little closer to that of an (international) literary agent, which is another profession I have been researching. Not sure if it is something I would want to do full time, but it is still fun to think about. Ultimately, I think these people help create jobs for translators and hence are an important part of the overall process of translation.

As a final note, I’d like to thank all those people who have answered my survey about what I should translate (I got over 200 responses so far), and I encourage those who haven’t yet to check it out.

 

Japanese novel translation: “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” Chapter 5: Lonesome Pop Star (Part 3)

This is Chapter 5 of the novel “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” by Yama Yamasaki (山崎山). I’ve talked to the author and gotten his permission to translate and put it on my blog.

The story’s original table of contents and summary can be seen in Japanese here. You can see the original Chapter 5 in Japanese here.

I’ve been debating about whether I should continue translating this story or shelve it for some time. If you like this story, please consider voting for it here.

Thanks to Nijima Melodiam proofreading this chapter.

(Note: you can see a link to this story’s table of contents which contains links to other chapters and the summary here)


Welcome to the Raindance Cafe 

by  Yama Yamasaki

Chapter 5: Lonesome Pop Star (Part 3)

 

To be completely honest, I’m a pretty social guy.

When I’m out somewhere and I see someone I know, I always say hello–It’s only common sense. Even if I just met someone, I have confidence I’ll be able to get along with them to a certain degree both now, and in the future. Without getting too much into the details, it is clear that the cafe’s manager, Rei, and Mekuru Kira are all sociable in their own way. Otherwise, they would never be able to work in the service or entertainment industries.

But the issue here is not about being sociable with other people.

Rather, it’s when a person comes across someone they are extremely close to, and yet they pretend to not notice that person, or conceal themselves to avoid being seen. In my experience, when that happens it is sometimes the case–or almost always the case–that there is a completely inexplicable reason involved, and such reasons are by and large quite troublesome. Even a dubious reason that, from an outsider’s point of view, makes you wonder why they are making such a big deal out of things can be a very delicate matter to the person involved.

“……Why is Miyako……?”

Mekuru Kira looked at the woman at the counter with an expression far from what would expect from someone whose career is practically founded on smiling.

I knew very little about Mekuru Kira, but I knew that back when she had taken the world by storm she never looked like that. Concerned I was seeing things, I consciously blinked several times, but I soon realized that there was nothing wrong with my eyes.

“T–that person is your manager? She is an extremely attractive woman.”

Scared of how she would react, I just barely managed to get these words out, but Mekuru Kira showed no signs of hearing me. I doubted my voice had even reached her.

Just then I remembered Rei. She’d banged her knee really bad so I couldn’t ask her to handle this new customer now. Or at least that’s what I tried to tell myself. I had to get away from Mekuru Kira as fast as humanly possible. Something gave me a bad feeling about all this.

“Excuse me, but I need to go take care of something.”

However, when I gave a quick apology and tried to step away from her table, she yelled out.

“Wait!”

The sensation of my shirt being tugged from behind coincided with the roar of plates toppling over.

The woman who was supposedly Mekuru Kira’s manager turned around in response to the loud sound echoing throughout the cafe. I too turned around to face the source of the sound.

Mekuru Kira’s upper body hovered motionless above the table, dishes scattered chaotically as she held onto the edge of my shirt. I was deeply disturbed to see her clinging to me so desperately. However, rather than why she would do such a thing, I was more curious how someone so aloof only moments ago could change this drastically, as if she was a different person.

I apologized again and bowed politely.

“I will stay here for the time being, so could you please be quiet? Also, you’ll wrinkle my shirt, so please let me go.”

Hearing this, Mekuru Kira reluctantly released my shirt and obediently returned to her seat. Her head remained drooped, staring down at the table.

Having realized she would not let me go no matter what I said, I breathed a small sigh of resignation, sat down, and began to reorganize the plates on the table. Apparently Rei had recovered sufficiently because I heard her taking the customer’s order. After all this, my reason for escaping from this table no longer applied.

“……I’m really sorry to interfere with your work.”

Mekuru Kira, face still hidden in shadow, muttered this in an uncharacteristically quiet voice.

“It’s all right because I think being here is part of my job. Although it’s only as long as I feel it’s necessary.”

“Yeah…”

“Shouldn’t you say hello to your manager? I think it’s so amazing that she just happened to coincidentally come to the same cafe as you. And here, of all places. “

“No, I won’t…I mean, I can’t.”

Cognizant of the dangers, I tried to probe her a little more, but she quickly put a stop to that. I did succeed in getting her to raise her head, only to be greeted with a face like she just ate something terribly bitter.

At this rate, I’ll suffocate from this awkward atmosphere. So I tried to push her a little further.

“You can’t talk to her? Did you guys get in a fight or something?”

Mekuru Kira shot me a quick glance, then diffused my attack as she struggled to maintain composure.

“It’s nothing that you need to hear.”

“But you just stopped me from leaving, right?”

“That was, you know……just using you to hide myself.”

I’d never have guessed she’d use me as a sacrifice.

Actually, maybe there was a hint of this intention in how she acted. And yet, If she was just trying to keep from being recognized, using the mask and sunglasses would have solved that, just like when she entered the cafe. There had to be some other reason she needed me here. The problem was that I had a certain degree of confidence that, for her, this was a truly delicate matter, and I honestly didn’t know if it was a good idea to proceed further. I’m sure Rei would be much more well-suited to this type of thing. I considered trying to somehow get her to switch places with me, but when I saw Mekuru Kira’s downcast face I totally lost motivation to go through the trouble.

“If you don’t mind, let’s talk about it.”

I plowed ahead with this futile proposal, but Mekuru Kira completely ignored me. Not even a single eyebrow twitch.

“Uh……”

Failing terribly to get any response from her, I began to feel guilty for my half-assed effort to explore this topic. What was the real reason she had kept me here? I’d made the assumption that she was asking me to help with something, but perhaps I’d misunderstood.

I looked once again at her unmoving form and realized how truly stupid I had been. I should have probably phrased things in a more considerate way. Come to think of it, who in their right mind talks about their personal problems with someone they’ve just met the day before? By broaching this topic, I may have caused her undue suffering.

But as I watched Mekuru Kira now, I realized how idiotic it was for her to be on bad terms with her manager for some unpleasant reason. Moreover, for a celebrity who had participated in renowned stage performances, the reason must be so terrible that a normal person like me couldn’t even conceive of it. Maybe she is aware of this and isn’t talking to me simply because it will clearly serve no purpose. However even if that were so, something tells me she’d be better off losing that painful expression. Mekuru Kira was well known for her terrible acting abilities which upset the audience on at least one occasion, but I’d never imagined they would be this bad.

Stuck in limbo where I could neither advance nor retreat, I decided to do as I was told by the customer before me and sat at her table for a while to prevent her from being seen. Rei seems to have fully recovered; I could hear her cheerful voice clearly from here.

Fifteen minutes later, Mekuru Kira’s cafe au lait ran dry.

Actually, It’s surprising she polished off that much food with only a single cafe au lait. The instant this thought came to mind, Mekuru Kira sucked out air noisily through her straw as she glared at the woman at the counter, trying to drink from a completely empty glass.

“Ma’am, I think that isn’t very appropriate……and the noise will call attention to yourself.”

“Huh? Oh, sorry.”

Upon hearing my warning, Mekuru Kira withdrew the straw from her lips. She let out a weak sigh of disappointment, apparently realizing that the glass was empty.

Upon the table she placed her glass, now containing only ice, propped up her chin with an elbow on the table as if pouting, and stared at the counter again. My position was just right to allow Mekuru Kira a good view of Rei talking happily with the woman, with the ex-pop star’s hard stare boring deep into the woman’s back. I was nothing but a wall.

Her palms pushed deeply into the flesh of her cheeks, resulting in a face that was by no way fit for public radio waves; she didn’t seem to care about this in the least. Presumably this signified how delicate, how hopelessly difficult the problem with her manager was. All more of the reason for me to not butt my head into her business. Like she had just said, from the beginning this was nothing that I needed to hear. No matter how much you talk to a wall, you’ll never get an answer to your problem.

“You know what?”

Just as I was lamenting how much longer I’d have to be her wall, she broke the silence with a soft voice, as if talking to herself.

“Yes?”

“You know, lately I’ve had something on my mind.”

“What is it, all of a sudden?”

“……”

She brings this up, and when I answer she’s all quiet again. Figures. This girl’s intentions are veiled in mist and becoming progressively harder to see.

After a few more moments, she glanced at me once more, but this time only moved her eyes. Before I could do anything, she frowned as if displeased with something and returned her gaze to the counter.

I hadn’t said even a word. Why did she keep me here if I gave her such a negative vibe? But the moment I thought this, a dull pain ran through both my knees. Yes, I’d been kicked–with the tip of her shoe.

I writhed in agony from a combination of an unexpectedly excruciating pain that refused to go away and the absurdity of having no idea why I’d been kicked.

“Hey kid, so what do you think of me?”

“Huh?”

She flung this rigged question at me with a decidedly un-popstar face.

“I don’t mind if you tell me the truth.”

A request so simple, yet so unimaginably difficult. Clueless about what she actually wanted from me, I answered honestly.

“What do I think of you? I think you are like…wow!”

“Your vocabulary is pretty poor. Read any books lately?”

Why is it OK for her to say something blatantly rude like this?

“But yeah, maybe you are right. I guess I’d get a similar answer whomever I asked.”

I really pity this girl’s fans.

At least her question didn’t seem come from self-conceitedness. A resigned tone and undisputably melancholy expression testified to that.

“But isn’t it awesome if everyone says that about you?”

Unable to find the right thing to say, I resorted to this pitiful compromise of a line. While I knew it wasn’t what she was looking for, I didn’t know her well enough to say what she wanted to hear, and had no confidence I could even come close.

Mekuru Kira stared me down, her frown darkening even further.

“Boy, you are totally clueless and unbelievably stupid, aren’t you?”

“…”

This unadulterated fastball of an insult flew my way. At this point, anything I said would without a doubt be turned against me, leaving her unscathed.

“From the day you enter this world, you’re alone.”

Mekuru Kira’s cold voice put a halt to my self-victimizing thoughts.

“Alone?”

“That’s right, alone. It’s a lonesome, solitary battle. A long, perilous one that leaves no room for error.”

Mekuru Kira mumbled, or should I say spit out these words as if in great pain. Then she openly averted her eyes from me. At first, I thought this sudden remark was quite extreme, but after seeing how she acted, I began to feel there was some sort of undeniable truth here.

“In other words, we live in a fickle, dog-eat-dog world. Friend one day, enemy the next. It was only natural for me to get out of it sooner or later, and once you’re out, there’s almost never a second chance. There are risks around every corner.”

As she rattled this off, Mekuru Kira’s voice was more than just cold, it possessed a terrible sense of weight.

“That’s why everyone works so desperately, knocking down others on the way to the top. It’s the only way to survive, and even if you make it to the top, you can’t let your guard down for even a moment. You have to keep working to stay there. Of course, things were no different for me. For the same reason, I neglected my friends and acquaintances. Being a solo act made that even more so.”

She switched the arm she was propping up her chin with and sighed resignedly.

“And so, I obtained fame and made it to the very top, sacrificing many colleagues to get there. But that was where I went wrong. They too were doing this as a career, trying to make enough money to survive, and nobody enjoys seeing another person make it big. At that point, I didn’t have a single person who I could call a friend. But I continued working hard. I didn’t want to give up the ultimate position I’d attained. However, something forced me to give it up.”

“What was it?”

“In this world, one’s generation only lasts so long.”

Hearing this made me remember something.

Right around the time Mekuru Kira began to disappear from TV, there was another pop star who started to appear, filling the hole that Mekuru Kira left.

“It was at that time when I realized how all the other girls had felt about me. Before my very eyes, I saw fame slip through my fingers, and all of a sudden that girl had stolen the place that had been mine. Oh, it was way more than just a place. It was all of the fans that had supported me. Everything I had. After that, I became truly alone.”

I was speechless. Utterly shocked to discover she had her own life, hidden from all of us fans, I had no idea what to say. It was too much for me, just an everyday Joe, to imagine her walking a path so dangerous it was uncomparable to our risk-averse lives.

“No matter what industry you are in, there is always the pressure of the younger generation, right? But for us, the young destroy our lives. I guess you could say it’s obvious, but I thought that if I did my best I could beat the odds. I thought that I alone would always be able to see the view from the top. But that’s not how things work. It wasn’t some probability I could overcome with effort. I guess you can call it an inescapable fate. I was helpless to change things.”

Mekuru Kira sighed and flashed me a strained smile.

I had been so out of touch from reality. The woman who sat before my very eyes had borne a massive weight on her shoulders–infinitely heavier than anything I’d experienced in my entire life. Furthermore, the smile we all watched on TV had served as a mask to hide her gut-wrenching efforts. I felt the image of everything she was to me begin to deteriorate.

Feelings of guilt creeped in, growing at an alarming pace.

“……I’m really sorry. I didn’t know what was going on in your life and said so many inappropriate things……”

“No big deal. Rei knows the situation with me and still acts like that, and I wasn’t looking for sympathy when I told you about my manager.”

Mekuru Kira stated this with a mean look, but afterwards her expression softened ever so slightly.

“But Miyako was different than the others.”

She gazed calmly at the woman at the counter.

“Miyako was the only one who encouraged me to keep trying. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have ever been recognized. I would have never seen the view from the top. I was really glad to have left my career in her hands……or so I had thought.”

I kept quiet, waiting for her to continue.

She slowly lowered her eyes before she spoke.

“While acting as my manager, Miyako had also secretly worked with the bitch who pulled me down from my rightful place.”

“……Wow, now I can……”

Understand your feelings, I thought.

I could just imagine how easily their relationship would crumble when Mekuru Kira found out the truth. It would be impossible to escape from the resulting rubble, like being stuck in a labyrinth with no way out.

“To be totally honest, at the time I felt betrayed. And I still feel that way. She had given up on me and quickly diverted her energies to the new girl. Nowadays, I only need to meet with her once a week, but I guess that’s only natural since I have practically no work and that girl has loads of it.”

As she disdainfully listed her grievances, Mekuru Kira’s expression gradually worsened.

“That’s why I want to stay away from that woman as much as possible. With no work, I have no reason to see her anymore, which is some form of consolation. But I never thought I’d be seeing her here.”

When I heard this last part, I broke out into a cold sweat.

“W–wait a minute. You don’t mean to say that you’re never coming back…”

“As long as Rei is here, I’ll keep coming back. But let me think about when would be best time for me to return.”

Mekuru Kira dispelled my worries in an instant. But then she looked at me with that miserable expression and said something completely unexpected.

“Give me your contact info.”

“What did you say?”

“I said give me your contact info. I haven’t told Rei about what happened with Miyako, and I don’t intend to tell her ever. Since I don’t think any of us would be happy if I never came back, I’ll call you if I am thinking of stopping by. That way you can tell me if Miyako is here or not.”

Mekuru Kira took a memo pad and pen out of her purse and placed them in front of me.

“Yeah, but you know I won’t be here every day, right?”

“Even I don’t have enough time on my hands to come consistently every day. Just days when you work is fine.”

Mekuru Kira crossed her arms above the table and her legs below it.

Put simply, this was an order for me to help her coordinate things so she’d never bump into her manager here. This wouldn’t really interfere with my job, but the reason for doing all this was nearly too painful for me to bear.

As I debated whether to accept the proposal at hand, I felt her penetrating stare like a hawk hunting prey. This was a forceful request for personal information.

I grabbed the pen reluctantly while considering whether I really had anything to gain from this. Of course I didn’t, and instead I felt an odd guilt tightening my chest as I realized we couldn’t afford to lose a loyal customer. So I wrote my cell phone number and email address on the pad and returned it to her along with the pen.

Mekuru Kira narrowed her eyes and reviewed my contact information, then closed the memo pad and jammed it, and the pen, violently into her bag.

“Thanks. I’ll be heading home now.”

“Oh, Ok.”

Before I had a chance to respond, she covered her face with mask and sunglasses and left three $10 bills on the table.

“Keep the change.”

“Sure, but……”

“This is what I always do. You can just return it to me when I come back.”

With these words, she tried to quickly escape from the cafe. I guess she really didn’t want to be seen by that woman.

She opened the cafe door, but I followed close behind.

“Excuse me…”

Mekuru Kira, legs surprisingly fast given her short stature, was already on her way to the station.

She halted and turned around, her expression oozing annoyance. But to be honest, I don’t know why I had called out to her. There was definitely something bothering me, but being this impulsive was unlike me.

I made an attempt to say something, but at this critical moment no sound came out. It was clear that Mekuru Kira was getting extremely frustrated.

Without thinking, I had withdrawn the $30 in bills and balled them tightly in my first. My words finally came out.

“I won’t let you get away with this.”

Mekuru Kira opened her eyes wide from behind her sunglass lenses. I couldn’t actually see them, but I got that feeling.

“Nowadays acting all cool like that just doesn’t fly. I will return your change, no matter what.”

My last words ushered in a deafening silence.

I couldn’t read Mekuru Kira’s expression. At first I thought that maybe I’d upset her once again, but that didn’t seem to be the case. She lowered her sunglasses and stared at me with narrowed eyes.

“……Humph.”

But her sneer didn’t seem to be mocking me. I got the feeling she was thinking about something. But as long as her face–which revealed her real intentions–was covered, I had no clue what those intentions were.

Mekuru Kira turned away.

“I can’t afford to give you my small change anyway.”

Then she set off towards the station again with large steps.

I breathed a deep sigh while watching her go.

At any rate, I seriously doubt she’ll stop coming here. I don’t know exactly what happened, but she seemed really good friends with Rei, and despite the fact she was on bad terms with her manager, I felt she was the type of person to keep these things separate in her mind. Mekuru Kira was so open about her feelings it was refreshing.

But that was how she dealt with things, and after hearing about what happened to her something kept nagging at me. It was because of my deteriorating image of Mekuru Kira, and because I myself had become involved with the all-too-real Mekura Kira and her manager. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know anything, and since Mekuru Kira had taken the initiative of becoming my customer, I had no choice but to support her.

It was for that very reason that I couldn’t let this go.

After watching Mekuru Kira’s form shrink to the size of a spec of dust, I leisurely returned to the cafe.

A discussion about the origin of Japan’s name (日本, nihon / nippon)

It’s amazing how you can study a foreign language for so long, yet somehow overlook what seem like basic things.

The other day I was reading a book about Japan written for elementary school children which talked about Japan’s history and culture. On one of the first few pages, it said that the Japanese call their country Nihon, which means “the source of the sun”.

At the time, something just felt wrong about that, but when I checked the facts it seems it was partially right. And yet, it wasn’t the whole story.

The name for country of Japan is written in Japanese as 日本, which can be pronounced as both nihon and nippon. Apparently the government recognizes both ways as valid, though the former is more common, especially among the younger generation.

The first character 日 means “sun” or “day”, and is generally read as “hi” or “nichi“.

The second character 本 has many meanings including “book”, “main”, and “origin”, and can be read as “hon” or “moto“. (ref)

So, putting these together, “日本” can be said to *literally* mean “the source of the sun”. In fact, another way to say this country’s name is “日の本” (hi no moto) which makes this meaning more explicit.

But my problem with saying “source of the sun” is that it is over-literal and doesn’t really convey the implied meaning. Looking at a dictionary for 日の本, we see this explanation:

  1. 日が昇る本の意》日本の異称。日の本の国。「日の本一の山」

The part in bold says (roughly) “the meaning of ‘the origin from where the sun rises’ You could translate this a little more naturally (but less literally) as “The place where the sun rises from”.

I like these definition much more than simply saying “the source from the sun”, since the latter sounds to me like we are talking about the big bang or some other lofty cosmological topic.

In all fairness, the same book did say “Japan is also called ‘The land of the rising sun’ “. However, while I had heard this expression before, until now I didn’t know it actually came from the meaning of the country’s name itself. It sounded to me like it was just some arbitrary artistic name somebody made up. Now I understand it’s actually a pretty good translation (with a little artistic flair) of 日本.

Some of you may still be confused what “the origin from where the sun rises” actually means, and to be honest, so was I. I did some research using both Japanese and English Wikipedia, and it turns out that this name was apparently given because the sun rose over Japan from the point of view of China, which lies to the west of Japan. At least that is what the running theory is.

There is much more history here if you are interested in that kind of stuff, and though I don’t intend to cover all this in detail, here are a few quick facts:

  1. Japan was once called 大和 (yamato)
  2. 倭国 (wakoku) was one of the names for Japan called by the Chinese.
  3. 日本国 (nihonkoku, literally “The country of Japan”) is another name for Japan that is used in some official places, like the Japanese Industrial Standard.
  4. The origin of the English word “Japan” (which sounds almost nothing like nihon) apparently came from the word Cipangu, which is how Marco Polo recorded an Early Mandarin (or Wu) Chinese word for Japan.

 

 

Koipun.com interviews me

Gabriel from Koipun.com has come to me with an interview request which I gladly agreed to do. He asked a good set of questions that touched on many important areas for people learning Japanese.

While a fraction of the stuff I talk about has been mentioned on this blog in some form or another, I think there is some new content as well. And for those who haven’t read all my articles (pretty hard, since there is over 400+) it’s a good summary of some of my experiences and ideas.

https://www.koipun.com/blog/how-i-learned-japanese-locksleyu-from-self-taught-japanese

Koipun seems an interesting site about “learning Japanese through literature”, though I haven’t been able to look at it enough detail to do a review of it yet.

Japanese Study Resource List

“I am” (A linguistic essay)

I am formidable.
Perhaps one of the toughest of my kind.
Expect years, a decade, or longer.
Come, live in my land, and you may learn my ways.
But there are no guarantees.

I am kind.
Less sound, less tense.
Less picky about pitch than some others.
Just watch for tiny, flying particles.

I am characters.
Thousands, nearly uncountable.
Pictographic, enigmatic.
Alphabets? I got a few, including this one.

I am history.
Relive centuries through me.
But beware–
I am not the same as I once was.

I am expression.
Be a woman, man, boy, or girl.
Be rude, be polite.
Be casual, be formal.
Be yourself.

I am flexible.
Shave the unneeded–
Subject, object, verb.
Tone can speak louder than words.

I am your doorway to culture.
Maid cafes, walking bots.
Space probes, cool cartoons.
Plumber and the princess.
The choice is yours.

I require effort.
I’ll return what you give, manyfold.
If you become weary, rest as long as you wish.
But I will always be waiting.

I am changing.
Words die, are born.
In the end, the young will have their way.
But please never forget the past.

I am a language, in wait of you.
Just be prepared–
To persevere, or quit.
Those who stay the course will be rewarded abundantly.

I am Japanese.

Translation Piracy: goes with the territory

Several months ago,  a reader of my blog was nice enough to take a few of my translations and post them to the site Novel Updates. Overall, it’s been a good thing for my blog, getting me more readers, more feedback, and helped me meet a few new people.

But one day when I was looking through my referrer statistics, I saw a site name I didn’t recognize, and when I checked out the site I discovered they had basically cut and paste several chapters of one of the stories I was translating. To make matters worse, both my name and the name of the original author were omitted, and when I sent an email requesting they link to my site instead of cutting and pasting, there was no response. Ironically, at the end of each chapter was a link to my original article, but after reading the entire thing why would anyone want to click on that anyway? (Well, at least a few people did, which is how I discovered the site in my referrers.)

Of course, the reason the site and others like it are doing this are to make money from ads on their sites, and putting a link instead of the entire content would drastically reduce the time spent on their site, therefore the amount of people who click on adds and their income. Why would they not list the original author and translator, but still put a link to the original site? This does seem strange, it may be either simply a lack of thought, or some mechanism used to counter claims that credit wasn’t given.

So far I’ve been focusing mostly on a specific site, but there are others which may give less or more credit, and I found at least one that gives no link at all back to my site.

Interestingly, this phenomenon doesn’t seem to occur for all my stories. The odds of it getting pirated seem related to how popular the story is, or potentially how ‘good’ the pirate thinks it is, such that it has the potential to keep users reading, and hence keep clicking on ads.

I’ll admit when I first discovered one of my translated works was being pirated I got pretty upset, and did some research and experimentation about how to prevent it. I found a mechanism which seemed to work pretty well, though it caused me a little extra work and also there was at least one user who had a usability issue with it. I also think that some of the mechanisms used to reduce piracy may reduce the searchability of the works.

By the way, as part of my research effort, I tried to simply add a copyright in several places throughout the text. But of course the person who copied it managed to read through the whole thing, removing all the copyright statements. Somehow this actually made me feel a little better to know someone was reading through the entire thing, as opposed to just a script cutting and pasting it.

It isn’t my intention to go over the techniques I’ve researched and tried myself, as that might actually help them out. But, it seems that the more work you require for them to pirate something, the less likely it will be pirated. Surely, with a little extra work they could find ways around many of the tricks out there. I’ve read about some other techniques that are more advanced and would cause the pirate even more woes, and while they are technically interesting I’ve decided to not escalate things to that level, at least for now.

After calming down for a few weeks, now I see the whole piracy thing as actually a compliment, that I was able to do a good enough translation of good enough works so it catches their attention. By no means am I saying it is OK, and it still upsets me to no end that they would purposefully remove a copyright, and give little to no credit. But the works involved here are actually available totally free in their original Japanese, and someone could copy those if they wanted as well.

While I have had ads on my blog before and have considered putting them back someday, even if I do that the amount of money I would expect to get is pretty small. Even if a work were to be pirated, while that would frustratingly allow someone to make money for the work of the original author and myself, at the same time it doesn’t directly take any users or money from my pockets. It also increases the readership of my translations, though if my name is not quoted the effect is much less. But if a user liked one of the works enough, he or she could easily find my blog out.

In summary, while I fully understand the feelings of other translators (or authors) who take active measures to prevent piracy, for the time being I’ll probably be less aggressive on this front. I may do it on some of my selected stories, but I surely will not do it on all of them.

A final way to reduce piracy would be to stop allowing my posts to be linked on friendly sites like Novel Updates, since I have a feeling this is where the pirates do some of their fishing. But then I would loose the extra traffic and readership gained, something I am not willing to give up now.

Japanese novel translation: “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” Chapter 4: Lonesome Pop Star (Part 2)

This is Chapter 4 of the novel “Welcome to the Raindance Cafe” by Yama Yamasaki (山崎山). I’ve talked to the author and gotten his permission to translate and put it on my blog.

The story’s original table of contents and summary can be seen in Japanese here. You can see the original Chapter 4 in Japanese here.

As usual, if you like this story please like and/or comment on this post to help me decide whether to translate more of this or to move on. You can also see this survey where you can vote for this story, or others for me translate.

Thanks to Nijima Melodiam for helping to proofread this chapter.

There is a translator’s note at the end of the chapter, check it out if you are interested.

UPDATE: originally the chapter was posted as one big quote, which rendered it in italics. This has been fixed. Sorry for the inconvenience.

(Note: you can see a link to this story’s table of contents which contains links to other chapters and the summary here)


Welcome to the Raindance Cafe

by  Yama Yamasaki

Chapter 4: Lonesome Pop Star (Part 2)

A celebrity was, in short, someone who appeared on TV and in magazines, a fantasy being that existed in a completely different dimension. At least that was my preconceived notion about them.

But now I’d actually encountered someone outside of my dimension. Of course, all this is nothing more than the subjective impression of an everyday guy. However, it was clear enough that this encounter was going to be nothing at all like meeting with a close friend, and this was enough to convince me that my impression was correct.

“Haven’t seen you in a while! How long has it been?”

“Some time in April. After that, I finally got another big job and haven’t been able to stop by
since.”

“So, I guess that’s finished with, right?”

“Yeah. Today I had something smaller going on nearby, so I dropped by on my way home.”

“Uh, excuse me…”

Before I knew it, I had interrupted the two girls’ casual conversation–I’d been pretty much ignored–as if two old friends were catching up after a long time apart.

“You are…Mekuru Kira, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow Jun, I’m surprised you actually know about Momoko since she’s been out of the limelight for so long.”

“Well, wasn’t that an unnecessary detail? And stop calling me by my real name!”

“Of course I know about her! Mekuru Kira…She was such a celebrity back then–there was practically never a day she wasn’t on TV. Any album she released always jumped to the top of the charts. I even owned a few myself.”

“Oh really…”

When I started getting a little over-enthusiastic about Mekuru Kira, she looked at me with an expression that was not altogether displeased.

To tell the truth, I’m one of those guys who’s totally obsessed with pop stars. Having a celebrity like this suddenly appear before me–especially one who had been so famous–made me restless with excitement. I was having a hard time comprehending that the girl across from me had once taken the entire country by storm.

Mekuru Kira looked up at me proudly.

“You know boy, you got some potential. So I guess you’re one of my fans, right?”

“Um, I guess you could say that, but I’m actually–”

“Sure, just be honest with me. While it’s true that I’m not as big as I used to be, I think I’ve built up a pretty good track record since then.”

“I’m actually not a fan.”

“Do you have to be so direct? You’re a real asshole, you know!”

This is what I get right after she tells me to be honest.

But I was indeed having trouble expressing myself properly. I had no choice but to blurt out whatever came to mind without carefully considering things first.

“Ok now, let’s just take a deep breath. Jun isn’t saying he dislikes you.”

With an awkward expression that was somehow both angry and sad, Rei tried to stop Mekuru Kira’s verbal attack on me. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect lifeboat coming to my rescue. May it always be there for me.

Mekuru Kira laughed at me scornfully; Rei’s attempt to placate her had apparently worked.

“Oh…I get it. You’re one of those guys who is obsessed with all celebrity girls, regardless of who they are.”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly put it that way…”

“But I’m right, you agree?”

“I guess so…”

She was completely right. I doled my love out little by little, spread it far and wide. My shock upon seeing her was only because of her celebrity past.

For an instant, a concern flashed through my mind. Even in this day and age of dog-eat-dog and global culture, those addicted to celebrities were easy targets of persecution. I can’t tell you how many “Top turnoffs for girls” articles I saw where “obsession with celebrities” was in the top ranks. If Rei found out I was one of those guys, our already stagnating relationship would definitely take a turn for the worse.

“Oh, you’re into celebrities, Jun?”

“Huh? Uh, yeah. I guess. It’s nothing serious though…”

But when I heard Rei’s question, I’d realized my fears were all for nothing. Not only did she not show any signs of disapproval, she even seemed strangely interested. I had been on the verge of becoming discouraged, but on second thought her close friend was a celebrity, so there was probably no reason for me to be worried about her having any biases or dislike of them.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of people like you in your generation. Totally different than mine, though.”

“Are you trying to insult yourself?”

“I can see how it would sound like I am, but by no means was that my intention.”

Seeing Rei make a merciless stab at the arrogant Mekuru Kira–a real rarity for her–made me smile.

There was something strangely thought-provoking about Rei playing the opposite of her usual role, plus the fact she was interacting with someone like Mekuru Kira who was clearly above my level. As I watched all this take place I felt my world shift drastically. The sight of someone I knew chatting casually with a person from another dimension invoked feelings of elation in me. I think when humanity makes first contact with an alien species, this is exactly how we will feel.

“Would I be right in assuming that Mekuru Kira is a frequent customer of this cafe?”

In my excitement, I posed this question to the girls.

“Rather than a frequent customer, I’d say she’s practically an employee. Back in the day, she used to often find time in her busy schedule to come and see me.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, this place doesn’t have too many customers, and it felt good to visit a friend like Rei. I definitely know more about this place than a newbie like you.”

“Hold on, did you just slip in jabs at both me and this cafe?”

“I think you’re getting off topic here.”

Mekuru Kira slowly slipped her cafe au lait through a straw.

“Anyway…”

She cleared her throat loudly and crossed her arms with an arrogance at odds with her cute face.

“Anyway, you better keep quiet about me visiting this place. I’m here incognito, OK? Since you’re an employee here, it’s your responsibility to hide my identity.”

Her amber eyes stared me down coldly.

Compelled by the force of her stare, I nodded in agreement. Actually, hold on a minute. Even though I felt this girl was being a bit overly self-conscious in her attempt to act like a big shot, if we play our cards right we can use her to take this cafe out of the red and into major profitability. But I quickly realized this crude, self-serving idea was the wrong way to go. Slow, deep breaths. I’m not so attached to money that I’d sacrifice someone’s personal life just for a quick buck, and even if I was, I don’t think Rei and the manager would appreciate me doing this sort of thing. So nobody would benefit. I now realized that my impulsive nod was for the best.

“Hey Jun, let’s get back to work.”

Urged on by Rei, I bowed politely to Mekuru Kira who had already begun to eat and followed after the waitress. Mekuru Kira raised her hand briefly in acknowledgement.

However, without any other customers around, I couldn’t think of anything particular that needed to be done at the moment. So I called out to Rei, already at the counter.

“What kind of relationship do you have with Mekuru Kira?”

“Hmm…I could say we’ve been friends for a long time, or maybe more than friends.”

Rei answered without skipping a beat as she began to clean the dishes. I went behind the counter and took a pile of dishes from her. While Rei’s answer was frustratingly vague, it seemed like the truth. After seeing them so chummy, there was no denying they were friends.

“Does ‘more than friends’ mean you’ve known her from childhood?”

“Well…You’re not wrong about that.”

“Wow! That’s amazing! I’m kind of jealous of you, being so close with a celebrity and all.”

“Yeah, Momoko is pretty awesome.”

Rei grinned at me as she wiped the counter. The slight vibe of indifference I was getting from her was probably because I was only speaking generally, and because she was describing her own personal relationship without giving much thought to it.

When I happened to glance at Mekuru Kira, I noticed she was wolfing down her food just like Rei does. In my mind, I could visualize their images overlapping. Suddenly, something clicked and I understood how deeply these girls were connected–to the point that I suspected even their blood type was the same. They were sisters, Rei probably the older of the two.

“But more importantly, I had no idea that you were into pop stars!”

From behind the counter, Rei suddenly leaned towards me with glittering eyes.

To me, this was by no means “more important” than what we were just talking about.

“I just follow them in the news and such. I’m not one of those people who spends every cent of income on celebrity goods.”

“I agree, money isn’t what’s important. It’s just about having fun! By the way, it’s not a serious hobby to me either.”

“Um, yeah…”

“Take these clothes for example. I thought it would be nice to try wearing a maid outfit like some of the popular girls do, so I made a few outfits myself–five, to be exact!”

“Five!?”

Rei bragged about her costumes while fingering the frilly lace of her apron.

She was more into this stuff than I had imagined. I felt more and more like an idiot for being worried about my own obsession. Rei’s passion burned much hotter than mine; it might even burn itself out.

“So Jun, who do you like? By the way, I’m into some of the niche cult stuff! I even have a few magazine subscriptions.”

“Uh…It’s kind of embarrassing, but what Mekuru Kira said was true. I like pretty much everyone…”

“Oh, so I guess that means you aren’t picky. Although Mekuru Kira didn’t seem to be happy about that, I’m actually the same as you. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. It’s actually better this way. You know, people like us help expand the market’s diversity. Isn’t that awesome!”

As I watched Rei get more and more excited, I realized she was acting totally different compared to when we spoke yesterday. I felt a spark of jealousy ignite within me, but who was I jealous of? It took me a few seconds to realize I was the target of my own jealousy. Still new to thing called love, what had I really learned about Rei in these two weeks?

But what was important was not the past, but the fact that at this moment, I had discovered something Rei liked. Not matter what anyone said, this was a part of her. And yet, she had been able to act normally around Mekuru Kira–surely the celebrity she was on closest terms with. Regardless of whether this was due to Rei’s usual professional attitude towards her job, or because she was simply used to interacting with this celebrity, thanks to Mekuru Kira I learned something important today.

This was a great stroke of luck. Quite fortunate. But for some reason, something felt wrong.

Rei was quickly becoming the central point of my life. Neither myself nor, of course ,anyone else. Just Rei.

My love for Rei had begun to consume me. And boy did it feel great.

 

Mekuru Kira stopped by Raindance cafe again the next day.

Right around the time of the cafe’s early afternoon lull, she sat in the same seat as yesterday and ordered the same amount of food, along with the cafe au lait. But there was a change in her attire. She had a fur jacket instead of the white coat and gray shorts, although the mask and sunglasses which covered her face and her light brown pigtails were still there. I felt that her pigtails seemed hopelessly out of place, but since she had the same hairstyle as when she was popular a few years ago, I decided to avoid going through the trouble of pointing this out to her.

I wiped the counter while Rei organized things around the cafe. Right now she was checking the state of the remaining supplies underneath the counter. I was still no match for Rei, so out of necessity she had a much larger share of the work. I was incredibly eager to bid my amateur days goodbye and reach her level. That would make her life much easier, and we could use the extra time for getting to know each other better–a win-win situation. Part of me called into question whether it was OK to act on such an impure motive, but I rationalized this away with the corrupt doctrine that ends justify the means. Nothing wrong going on here. It wasn’t like I was directly causing anyone trouble anyway.

I looked over at Mekura Kira. She seemed like the type of person to keep secrets to protect her personal interests. Even I, a person with no connections to the world of show business, knew that it was no bed of roses. There, appearance was everything, and there was no telling what happened behind closed doors. And yet–though this was nothing but another unfounded impression–I somehow felt that she prefered to stay out of that type of trouble. As a pop star, she may have had a defensive instinct to keep me from learning the truth about her and becoming disillusioned. Or perhaps she had simply made up her mind that me being a friend of Rei’s made everything OK. Even so, I couldn’t help feeling that, at heart, she was a forgiving person who wasn’t driven by personal interest. Even favoritism has its limits.

“Rei! Reeeiii!”

Her voice reverberated clearly throughout the cafe, easily reaching where I stood. While it was true that there was no other customers around, this girl had a serious lack of common sense.

“Hey Rei, she’s calling you…Rei?”

I turned towards the counter, only to find Rei–who had been working busily until just a moment ago–had disappeared without a trace. Also, it might just be my imagination, but I thought I heard a dull pounding sound.

When I looked behind the counter, I saw Rei sitting there, hugging her knees tightly.

“Are–are you alright?”

“…Jun…it’s…all over for me…please finish my…”

“I really don’t think it’s that heavy…”

Voice and body trembling, Rei was all bruised up, her face wet with tears and sweat.

Behind the counter was a glass shelf. It was sticking out slightly, as if from a slipshod install job, and I deduced that in haste she’d banged her knee against it. But my deduction didn’t do her a bit of good, so I hurriedly took some ice from a small refrigerator next to the drink machine, put it in a plastic bag, then wrapped it in a towel and placed it gently on her knee.

“Th–thank you so much…”

“No big deal. Just don’t move and it’ll feel better soon.”

For a few moments, I calmed Rei–thanking me on the verge of tears–and then returned to Mekuru Kira’s table as requested. Of course, by no means did I abandon Rei. I wanted nothing more than to stay with her until the pain subsided, but I had to attend to Mekuru Kira. I hope Rei would be strong in my absence.

Mekuru Kira looked terribly confused when she realized the person coming to help her didn’t match her expectations.

“Where is Rei?”

“While her heart isn’t broken, she is hurt, so please give her a break.”

“What in the world happened…well, whatever. I just happen to have some business with you anyway.”

“With me?”

“That’s right. Take a seat there.”

Mekuru Kira sipped her cafe au lait from a straw as she pointed to the chair at the front of the table. I quickly stole a glance at the counter and then sat down as indicated.

The massive amount of food that had been served to her was nowhere to be found and the empty plates lay in a pile before her. It was insane for someone to finish that much food, that quickly, but suddenly Rei came to mind and for some reason things made sense. These girls could probably become competitive eaters.

Mekuru Kira placed her cafe au lait on the table and looked at me with a frown.

“Hey kid, your last name was ‘momo’ something or other, right?”

“It’s Jun Momose.”

“It sounds a lot like my name. That’s been bugging me since yesterday.”

“What’s wrong with ‘Mekuru Kira’? I think it’s a great name.”

“That’s only my stage name, it’s not the real me. Anyway, if you call me that in public things would get pretty crazy.”

“Maybe that might have been the case three years ago.”

“…I guess you’re one of those people that never learned tact.”

“But I thought you told Rei to not use your real name.”

“That was, you know, because you were there and knew who I was, and that information was never released to the public. Rei isn’t the smartest girl anyway.”

Mekura Kira gave a deep sigh which might have signalled defeat. I decided to not spend any time thinking about what had put one of her breaths to waste like that, but it seemed clear that she didn’t altogether dislike her real name.

“Whatever. How long have you been working here?”

“Around two weeks.”

“Only half a month?!”

“Yeah, Rei is such a great teacher…”

“No, that wasn’t a compliment. If nothing else, you do seem a bit more able than her when she first started…But I guess there’s not much reason comparing you to her…”

Rather than being upset about how her every word was a dagger, I was more curious to see how bad Rei had been back then, having left such an impression on not only the manager but even Mekuru Kira.

“Guess what?”

“What?”

Mekuru Kira flashed me an evil smile.

“I know you like her…”

“Huh?”

Out of nowhere came this devastatingly large bomb.

“No matter what you say, I know you like her.”

“You don’t have to repeat yourself…But, um, why do you think so?”

“It’s just so obvious.”

“Obv…”

“Since yesterday, you’ve been constantly giving her these looks. What? Am I wrong?”

With her large, sparkling brown eyes, Mekuru Kira stared at me, hoping I would confess.

“…No–no, that’s not true. I don’t feel that way at all about…”

“Oh really…”

The instant I heard her words, I realized how the massive gap between reality and what I’d said.

Oddly enough, my denial had slipped out before I could stop it. My face was starting to burn. This response to her comment that had come out reflexively, before I had a chance to think, seemed to be completely opposite to my real feelings. Or maybe there was some logic behind it? Could some part of me be saying that I didn’t want anyone to discover my feelings for Rei?

As I struggled with how to respond, Mekuru Kira glared at me disapprovingly.

“Oh well, I guess I was wrong. I get it. Not much I can do about it. Had I been right, I would have helped you and Rei become a little closer [*1]. But if I’m wrong, I’ll just have to forget about it.”

“Wh–what exactly does that mean?”

“Exactly what it sounds like. I think she treats you more like an employee than a friend, so I thought I would help change that. But since I’m wrong about you liking her, scratch this plan. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Mekuru Kira laughed a cute little ‘tee hee’, as if she’d just won a game between us.

I’d made the completely wrong decision. Had I answered honestly, I might have been one step closer to achieving success.

“Anyway, I guess no matter how you feel about her, it has nothing to do with me.”

Then why did she even ask me to begin with?

But before I had a chance to voice this, I detected a glimmer of sorrow in Mekuru Kira’s eyes. She began to stir her cafe au lait with a straw as to ward off the silence that had just descended on us. The sound of the ice cubes clanking against one another was absorbed by the cafe’s red curtains. Mekuru Kira was used to being on TV and interacting with her fans, so I assumed she’d be more skilled at hiding her emotions, but what I just saw now was anything but hidden. Her sudden change in mood signalled something important.

“So, how much has the manager told you about Rei?”

“Not much.”

“…Looks like that macho guy is at it again.”

She frowned and quietly clicked her tongue, as if something unpleasant had just happened.

It was true that the manager hadn’t told me a single thing about Rei’s personal life. After all, there was no reason for him to.

“Is there…something I should know about Rei?”

Since Mekuru Kira, who is clearly close with Rei, had asked me about her with such a grave expression, I couldn’t help but return the question.

“If you promise not to quit, I’ll tell you.”

“I promise not to quit until I graduate college.”

My response was immediate, without even a moment’s hesitation.

“…I mentioned it before around here so I know what will happen, and even though the manager didn’t tell you, he’s being careful to avoid it too. Rei is very sensitive about a certain word and anything related to it. I’d like you to avoid using this word, at least anywhere within earshot of her.”

“Sensitive?”

This was quite an unexpected turn in the conversation. Strictly speaking, I was totally clueless to begin with, unable to have anything lofty like an expectation. But nevertheless, this development was not a possibility I could ever have conceivably thought of.

To imagine there was some taboo word for Rei, a girl so bursting with life…It would be blunt to say I knew nothing about the real Rei, but who would have ever guessed there was a forbidden word lurking behind that bright smile?

Mekuru Kira started to say something, but hesitated. She put her cafe au lait on the table, flashed a look at the kitchen counter then once more at me.

“ ‘Family.’ ”

“What?”

“ ‘Family’, and anything related to it.”

When she finished speaking, her gaze was directed not at me but on the middle of the table. Her voice was indifferent now, despite her initial hesitation. It was almost as if it was safe to speak this taboo word just this once.

I was stupefied–not only was it such an unbelievably familiar word, but for whatever reason this word was incompatible with her bright smile.

“B–but why…?”

“It’s because–”

Just as Mekuru Kira began to answer my candid question, a high-pitched noise sounded from the entrance of the cafe.

“W……Welcome to Raindance…”

Despite nearly fainting from agony, Rei gave her best effort to greet the newly arrived customer. I followed her example by standing up and heading to the entrance.

“Welcome to Raindance Cafe!”

It was a woman. She was wearing the suit of a businesswoman with long, slender legs. Her youth was balanced by a dignified atmosphere, with black-rimmed glasses that gave the impression she was no dummy.

The woman approached the counter without hesitation and sat at the same place where Rei had eaten lunch yesterday.

“I’m sorry, but can we continue this conversation tomorrow…?”

With Rei out of commission, I had to do something. I turned to face Mekuru Kira and confirm she was in agreement with this, but when I saw an expression completely different from just a moment ago the words didn’t come out well.

Mekuru Kira, her sweaty face plastered with a look of wonder, stared fixedly at the new customer who was sitting with her back to us.

“What’s wrong?”

“……That’s Miyako……”

“Huh?”

“Miyako…It’s Miyako. That customer’s name.”

“Who is that? A friend of yours?”

I’d never heard of a celebrity with that name, which means maybe it’s just a friend after all.

Mekuru Kira swallowed hard and exhaled a dry breath from her parted lips.

“…She’s my manager.”

Her words, hushed into barely a whisper by some strong emotion, seeped out from between thin lips in place of a sigh.

For some reason, I felt like I was suffocating. Something was painfully constricting my chest.

I was not the only one here being drawn into a whirlpool of probability; these things always seem to come when you least expect them. By the time you realize what is happening, it’s already too late. I got the feeling that the result of a life’s worth of uncountable, irreversible choices would be played out in this cafe soon enough.

 

Translator’s Notes:

[*1] In the part where Mekuru Kira says “I would have helped you and Rei become a little closer”, the actual literal translation there is something like “I would have tried to get her to call you by your first name”. The reason I didn’t use this is because in the entire story I have the characters call each other by first names as would be appropriate in these situations in English, whereas in Japan it would be more common to call them by their last names. (In Mekuru Kira’s case there is no change since as a celebrity, both her first name and last name are used.)

Mekuru Kira’s (supposed) reason to get Rei to call Jun by his first name is because, as discussed earlier in this chapter, Jun’s last name (Momose) is very similar to Mekuru Kira’s real first name (Momoko). Since Rei is on good terms with Mekuru she calls her sometimes by her (real) first name.

While the specific lines of dialog are a little different, I feel the resultant meaning in both the original Japanese and my English translation is the same: Because of Jun’s choices he has lost another opportunity to get closer to Rei.

Another way for me to have handled this section is to have translated the relevant dialogue lines more literally, however the disadvantage of that is that readers who do not read this note would probably be confused, whereas for the translation I decided on, they don’t have to read the note.

Japanese drama review “心がポキっとね” (“Crazy for me”)

As I have discussed before, I’ve seen so many Japanese anime and TV drama series that I’ve learned many of the stereotypes, and as a result it’s pretty easy for me to get bored and give up after an episode or two, despite the extra vocabulary and listening practice opportunity it offers.

The drama “心がポキっとね” (English title “Crazy for me”) is one of the few I’ve seen in the last few years that was very entertaining and I was actually able to watch it to the end. While the first few episodes were better in my opinion, there was some good moments even in the last episode worth watching.

Before I go on, I wanted to mention that the English title isn’t quite a literal translation, or even the best translation of the Japanese title. The original title is pronounced “kokoro ga pokitto ne” and literally means something like “my heart/mind goes *snap*”, where “snap” is the sound of something breaking, and the indication is that someone is or will be going insane.

“Crazy for me” is not a horrible translation, since it captures both the “insane” part as well as the love nuance which is a key part of the story (hence the ‘heart’), but to me the overall nuance is quite different. One title that I feel may be a little more appropriate is “Insanity is Catching”.

Anyway, this drama is about a handful of people who are connected various ways (lovers, a divorced couple, etc.) and end up living and/or working together under the same roof. It’s a pretty cheesy, unrealistic premise, but for a love comedy I am not really looking for realism.

Each of the characters has either gone crazy or at least has some mental issues. Most of the characters attend the same psychotherapist, which leads to funny monologues where the characters express their woes until their allotted time runs out. While it is basically a comedy, there are some deep issues touched on like over-attachment, anger (or the lack of), and the real reason you are with someone.

Besides alot of really witty dialogue, I really loved the cast, and three of the main characters I had seen in one or more dramas before. In particular, Tomoko Yamaguchi was one of the main characters of one of my favorite classic dramas Long Vacation (she stars with Kimutaku). For better or worse, the character that she plays in “Crazy for me”, and even parts of the story itself are similar to Long Vacation, but for me this was actually a good thing. She had a few good monologues where she goes crazy, and overall I just felt her role would have been really fun to do.

Language wise, though some of the characters speak pretty fast, there was almost no dialect exposure, and many of the words and phrases could be useful for people learning to converse in Japanese. There wasn’t many technical terms, like you would hear in medical dramas.

Overall, for a love comedy this was really well done, and I highly recommend watching it. You can see the full series on CrunchyRoll (I think you have to be member though) here.

 

 

How does Godzilla unpeel a banana in Japan?

Language and Culture are inextricably connected, and to master a language of any country surely requires a strong grasp of its traditions, manners, beliefs, and other aspects of culture.

Getting a proper fill of culture is one of the most difficult things about studying a foreign language self-taught when not in a country where that language is primarily spoken. Fortunately, you can use study resources like books to help you get partway there.

“Culture” itself is such a vague topic without much of a clear definition, except it’s something that people of a country typically do (official definitions in the dictionary aside). Take, for example, the children’s joke “pull my finger”, which is probably familiar to most children of a certain generation in the U.S., and yet I doubt it gets too much exposure overseas. Of course, this isn’t a terribly meaningful tradition, but it is a part of history and culture nonetheless. If you talk to enough people from a certain country or culture, you can start to pick these up over time.

It can be fun to learn to learn the word games (another piece of culture) of children in other countries, and it’s even more educational if they have some connection to language. One example is saying “glove” backwards in Japanese, which I wrote on sometime back.

In this post I wanted to discuss a random children’s saying I learned recently, which is how to describe who someone is based on how they peel a banana, specifically how many pieces the skin opens up into (like the opening of a flower).

Here is the list I was told:

  • Two pieces:  a person
  • Three pieces:  a monkey
  • Four pieces:  a dead person
  • Five pieces:  Godzilla

Despite how they may look at first, these are not randomly assigned. The connections to each number are conveyed at all in English. Here is it in Japanese with comments on each

  • Two pieces: 人間 (ningen):  a person   [ningen, the ‘ni’ is from the number two (ni)]
  • Three pieces: お猿 (osaru): a monkey [osaru, the ‘sa’ comes from number three (san)]
  • Four pieces: 死んだ人: a dead person [The number four is ‘shi’, which also means death (死)]
  • Five pieces: ゴジラ: Godzilla                [Godzilla, the ‘go’ comes from the number five (go)]

So you may be wondering what is the point of all this? I think the idea is that when you open a banana, you are not planning on how many flaps it will open up into, so there is an element of luck. So when your friend opens up a banana and it happens to split into three, you can say “ha ha, you’re a monkey!”.

Keep in mind this is just an anecdote I heard, and I can’t say whether it was shared by just a handful of people, or an entire generation.

There may be more after the ones I listed, if you know what six is let me know (: