Japanese Literature Translation Sample: The Introduction of「蜜蜂と遠雷」(Honey Bees and Distant Thunder) by 「恩田 陸」 (Riku Onda)

By | August 14, 2017

Recently I reviewed the Japanese novel “Honey Bees and Distant Thunder” (蜜蜂と遠雷) by Riku Onda (恩田 陸). In this post I decided to translate the short intro of the book as an exercise to improve my translation skills.

This excerpt has some really good imagery and translating it was both a joy and a challenge.

Please note this translation is completely unofficial, and is not endorsed in any way by the author or publisher.

If you want to read the original Japanese text you can see it on Booklive’s sample here.



I can’t tell you exactly when it happened.

But I’m sure I was still very young, having just taken my first steps.

There was a light shining down.

The light had a certain nobility to it, casting its rays down calmly–yet generously and impartially–from somewhere high up in the distance. The world was luminous, extending forever in all directions, but felt like a terrible, awe-inspiring place in a constant state of change and flux.

There was a faintly sweet scent. Underfoot and all around hung a smoky odor and a pungent, raw smell characteristic of the natural world. Even so, the sweet, aromatic scent that mingled together with these was impossible to miss.

A wind was blowing.

My body was caressed by a rustling sound, soft and refreshing. At the time, I didn’t yet know it was the sound of leaves from many treetops brushing together.

But there was more.

The ever-changing air was laden with numerous things rich and fresh, of various sizes.

How could I possibly put it into words?

Even though I could barely even say my parents’ names, it was as if I’d already began searching for the right way to express this new discovery.

The answer was on the tip of my tongue. In fact, I’m sure in just another moment I would have found the perfect way to express it.

Yet before I was able to, a new sound emerged overhead and immediately drew away my attention.

Indeed, it erupted from the sky like a sudden shower.

The world trembled from its tone, brilliant and reassuring.

Something, both wave and vibration, resounded throughout the universe.

As I listened intently to this sound, I had the sensation of my existence being wholly enveloped, and I felt my mind calm.

If I were to witness that same sight once more, perhaps I would describe it like this:

Swarming amongst golden mountains and plains, the countless honey bees are the notes of a melody that glorifies our world.

Furthermore, I might add:

The world is bursting at the seams with the most beautiful music.

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3 thoughts on “Japanese Literature Translation Sample: The Introduction of「蜜蜂と遠雷」(Honey Bees and Distant Thunder) by 「恩田 陸」 (Riku Onda)

  1. ananimeadventure

    This is so beautifully written – thank you so much for taking the time to translate it. I read your review on the book – it sounds like an interesting read, especially in regards to the way music is described. I really enjoyed reading this extract and I wish the book was translated into English – maybe I’ll have to finally try to learn Japanese.

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks so much for the kind comment.

      If you ever need help learning of Japanese or with translating something, let me know (:

  2. locksleyu Post author

    This is a comment from Yeti. He had an issue posting this so he forwarded it to me via email:

    You beat me to it! I have been reading this one as well, and it’s great to see your thoughts on it. I read Onda Riku’s 夜のピクニック, which is about a high school taking an epic walk through the night, and noticed that the eloquent, creative descriptions you mention appear in that book as well. It’s amazing that she can write for page after page about piano music or about walking and still be able to keep the descriptions fresh and interesting.

    I don’t have a background in classical music, so I’m not familiar with the songs. I have had to do some listening on Youtube. It’s hard for me to imagine that knowing the contestants’ programs ahead of time would be a spoiler, but I look forward to finding out why.


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