TransLiterary Lab (#5): live analysis and translation of Japanese literary excerpts

By | January 6, 2020

I’ve running a new series called “TransLiterary Lab” (文学翻訳ラボ) where I do analysis and translation of short excerpts of Japanese literature. You can see more information about this series in this post.

In this fifth episode I will do a rough translation of a small excerpt of 木精 (kodama) by 森鴎外 (Mori Ogai), for which you can the full original text here.

As I recorded this (and future episodes I will publish in the coming weeks), I noticed I was making mistakes in terms of misunderstanding the text, wrong kanji readings, and so on. However, I decided to keep the videos mostly unedited. One reason is that frankly the editing process takes a lot of time, and editing each video to make it perfect means I have time to make less videos. But the other reason is that the whole point of this series of show the process of translation in its raw form, and mistakes are part of the process––it’s just that normally you don’t show them to someone else, only the final product. You can find a large number of high quality English translations and compare them with their original Japanese text. But I haven’t seen many places you can see all the nitty-gritty details getting there.

Having said that, I’m still hoping to produce a relatively correct and natural end result at the end of each episode, or in cases where I don’t in a single episode I will continue in a followup episode, as I have done for episodes 1/2 and 3/4.

If you have any suggested passages please feel free to let me know via a comment here or email to selftaughtjapanese (at)

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