Japanese novel translation: “The Rainlands” by Haruka Asahi [Translator’s Afterward]

By | September 15, 2017

While I have translated many chapters from a variety of works, its pretty rare that I translate a series to the end. This can be due to its length, a lack of reader interest, or I may have just intended to do a single chapter as an experiment.

The fantasy story  “The Rainlands” (雨の国) by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) is one of the few series I have translated in its entirety, so I would like to write an afterward in the hopes that some readers will find it interesting. Please note that there will be some spoilers here, so if you haven’t read the story yet please consider checking it out here.

I originally picked up this story because, frankily, I thought the idea of a country that rained all the time was a unique, albeit simplistic, setting. I also liked the element of a traveling narrator and found the Japanese expressive without being overly hard to parse, nor was there a need to look up too many unfamiliar words. The author responding positively about her work being translated was another plus, as was the stories reasonable length: long, but not too long–although I admit once or twice I stumbled partway through, wondering if I should keep translating or move onto something else.

On the surface, it is a simple tale of a man who decides to venture to a land of incessant rain because he wonders how anyone could survive in such a place. Once he arrives there, he discovers they have a strict fasting custom, presumably required for boys of a certain age. Disgusted by this, he interferes by offering food to one of the boys who is fasting, and the boy who has received the aid is, in effect, kicked out of the cave village after the period of fasting ends and his health returns.

The story is quite slow paced, and there is little in terms of real action, with the narrative punctuated by key scenes like when there is a rare clear day outside and the entire village runs out to celebrate, or when there is a terrible storm.

But what I feel really makes this story great is its depiction of a foreign culture and the main character’s responses to encountering it. It gave me much to think about. In the end, did the main character really do the ‘right’ thing? Did Yakt actually benefit from the MC’s actions, or was he hurt by them? It also made me wonder if in ancient Japan similar rituals were ever carried out.

I felt the slow pacing and sense of calm which permeates the story was another strong point. The be honest, the author’s style did start to repeat after reading a few pages, but in the end I felt this style was a actually a contributor to the sense of calmness. The author’s thoughts were interspersed with descriptions about the surroundings and provided a good counterpoint.

When I posted the final chapter I emailed the author to notify her, and asked if she had a message for the readers (a good number, at least judging from the page hit stats). She responded she would be glad to. Here is her message, in full, followed by my translation of it. (Note: for those of you comparing between the two, I aimed for natural English so the translation is somewhat non-literal)

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 朝陽遥と申します。「雨の国(The Rainlands)」を読んでいただけたこと、とても嬉しく思っています。
 The Rainlandsには、ほかの土地とほとんど断絶された場所で、独自の文化を持って暮らす人々が登場します。そこに異なる文化圏で育った旅人が訪れて、自分の価値観では非合理的で残酷と思える因習を目撃し、「自分が正義だと思っていることが、その土地では通用しない」という現実に出会います。
 そういう「異文化との交流」について描いた物語を、まさしく異なる言語であるところの英語に翻訳していただいて、わたしの力だけでは本来出会うことができなかったはずの方々に読んでいただけたことを、とても嬉しく思っています。
 翻訳していただいたLocksleyu様と読んでくださった皆様方に、心から感謝しています。ありがとうございました!
 
Hello, this is Haruka Asahi. I’m very glad that you were able to read my story “The Rainlands”.
 
In “The Rainlands”, we see a group of people with a unique culture living in a place almost completely separated from other regions. A traveller from another culture visits this place and witnesses an ancient custom which, when judged by his own value system, seems irrational and cruel, and he comes to realize that what he once thought was right doesn’t apply there.
 
I’m so happy that this story, written about “exchange with a foreign culture”, has been translated into the English language–itself part of a different culture–and has been read by people whom I would otherwise not have been able to connect with.
 
I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Locksleyu for translating this, as well as all of you that have read this story. Thank you very much!
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If you want to read a few more comments by the author about this story’s translation, you can see this announcement she has made on her blog (in Japanese).
This project helped me grow as a translator in several areas, like maintaining the tone of the original work and also learning how to translate certain types of descriptions (especially things like facial expressions) better in English. I was able to make a major increase in translation efficiency partway through this project as I got used to the author’s style and how to express it in English.
As a writer, I can appreciate how this story skillfully weaves together elements of nature, culture, and morality into a story that has a tight focus without getting too sidetracked. Despite whatever books tend to be popular at bookstores these days, it doesn’t always take a great deal of action to make a good story. Another uncommon things about this tale is how little dialogue there is.
For those that enjoyed The Rainlands, there is another story by the same author where Yakt recounts a tale of traveling to another foreign country. It is titled 「鳥たちの楽園」 (tentative title: “The Bird’s Paradise”). While I have not read it, the author told me it addresses some similar topics including conflict with a foreign culture.  There is another story, 「死者の沼」(tentative title: “Swamp of the Dead”) which she says is in the same world, but not as directly connected. That one seems a little darker and more interesting to me. I’m considering translating one of these eventually, but will need to prioritize against other projects I have recently started. If you are interested in reading this story in English, please let me know.
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5 thoughts on “Japanese novel translation: “The Rainlands” by Haruka Asahi [Translator’s Afterward]

  1. Kiyo

    Finally caught up with this one.

    Wow, I did not expect the ending to have a positive vibe. Honestly, I expected something dark or negative since the MC broke the law, but it is a good thing that the author has managed to create a good ending without leaving something depressing for the readers.

    I do wish that my knowledge in Japanese is already at a good level to express my gratitude both to you and the author.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks for reading! If you still want to try and write something in Japanese to the author, I can help correct it and send it to her if you like.

      Reply
  2. Faurphen

    Thank you so much for translating this novel!

    It was such a beautiful read. Solemn and thought-provoking, ‘The Rainlands’ profoundly explores an issue about cultural differences which is seldom tackled in fiction.

    I wish more people would read this. And I would not have been able to read this story if you didn’t translate it.

    My sincerest gratitude and appreciation to you and the author!

    Reply
    1. locksleyu Post author

      Faurphen,

      Thanks very much for the kind words for me and the translator. I’m glad my translation was able to allow you to experience the author’s writing and the themes presented.

      I will send your message to the author as I am sure she will enjoy it as well.

      If you want more people to read this, feel free to tell your friends or casually advertise it via any other method you feel is appropriate.

      Or maybe you can leave a review on Novel Updates: http://www.novelupdates.com/series/the-rainlands/

      Thanks again!

      Reply

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