Translating Japanese History

I have recently begun work on the English translation of Nakamura Takeo’s work Kyoto no Edo Jidai wo Aruku (Bunrikaku, 2008).  I really feel that this work will be of great benefit to both scholars and the general public abroad who are interested in learning more in depth about the history of Kyoto, as well as to foreign tourists who visit Kyoto and want to do more than just scratch the surface while they tour round the city. I feel it is a shame to limit the vast amount of information in the book to just Japanese language speakers.

I do of course also have to complete my doctoral thesis on Nakai Hiromu, but it is nice to have a break from that occasionally and to do some pure translation work.

Nakamura’s work presents a large section of information on Sakamoto Ryoma of course too, which will be very good for an English speaking audience since Ryoma is becoming ever more popular in a global context.

Speaking of translation work, I was also happy recently to receive a copy of the soon to be published Shinsengumi no Ronjikata ([Discussing the Shinsengumi] Matsuno Shoten, 2009) by Miyachi Masato, Ito Katsushi, Kobayashi Takehiro, Tada Toshikatsu and Miyakawa Teiichi.  It was my job to help out with the English translation of the contents page; however, as I read through the articles themselves I thought how nice it would be to present this work in full to an English speaking audience in the future.

There appears to be an ever-growing interest in Japanese history of all periods and this is evident from the ever-growing number of books in English in this field. Many of these books in English are written by western scholars who are specialists in the field of Japanese history, and of course there are many great works out there. However, it is also important to present the works of Japanese historians and give them a voice in the English speaking world to present their views of their own history. One example of this kind of work that I enjoyed particularly was Takii Kazuhiro’s The Meiji Constitution (I-House Press, 2007) translated by David Noble. I hope to be able to present much more about Japanese history to the English speaking world in future with both my own research and with translations of great works by Japanese authors.

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One thought on “Translating Japanese History

  1. Speaking of growing interest in Japanese history… this is an area that I’ve found myself being drawn into. I’ve been teaching it for a number of years at Cardiff and am getting more and more out of it. Of course there are certain bits which are more interesting than others… after all, I doubt that there are many that have an interest in all of Japanese history, we all have our favourite periods, events, people, I suspect.

    The one question that has been vexing me – in relation to teaching history and also my current research – is what is history? We tend to teach up to either the start of the Meiji Period or the end of WWII… but are these dates still sensible? When I asked my students last year how many of them remembered 9/11, only 1/3 did. They’ve never heard of Thatcher, Reagan or Nakasone (until my lectures!). May be it’s time to find a new cut-off date.

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