Bilingual Japanese Book Review: Powder Pursuit by Higashino Keigo

バイリンガル・レビュー: 雪煙チェース – 東野圭吾

Here is another entry in Higashino’s series about skiing and snowboarding. I also reviewed and posted a short translation of Hakugin Jack, from the same series. This novel features two of the same characters from Hakugin Jack, but it’s not necessary to read the previous novels before reading this one.

This is a murder mystery, but solving the murder is an afterthought to the story of Tatsumi, the prime suspect, fleeing the police as he tries to find the “goddess” who can confirm his alibi. It jumps back and forth from the perspectives of the fleeing second-rate college students to an underrated pawn in the police force and his partner in pursuit. It plays out as both a police procedural, complete with Metropolitan Police Department politics, and a fugitive story.

これは東野さんのスキーとスノーボードについてのシリーズの一冊になる小説です。このシリーズの作品の『白銀ジャック』もレビューしました。二人の登場人物は両方の小説に登場しますが、『雪煙チェース』を読む前に前の作品を読む必要がないと思います。

殺人ミステリーですが、竜実という主人公の逃亡で、アリバイを証明できる「女神」を探している筋書きは一番注目されています。二流大学生の逃亡の場面とポーンの警察と彼の相棒の追跡場面で交互に展開する物語です。警視庁の地位争いを含めた警察小説と逃亡者物語と同時に進んでいきます。

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Do I Need to Translate to Read Japanese Novels?

If you are learning Japanese, you may wonder what it takes to be able to read a book in Japanese. Since you’re reading this, you already know how to read English. It may seem like the quickest path to Japanese reading fluency would be to find the English equivalent for each word and expression, then let your brain process the English. Very straightforward.

I have seen a couple examples of this approach for learning a second language. When I was a college student, I had the opportunity to be a home tutor for a Japanese high school student, helping him with his English homework. I was surprised to see that one of his objectives was to precisely and rigorously translate English sentences into Japanese. The resulting Japanese was not natural, but he was being taught to use those sentences as an intermediary when trying to understand English. Although challenging, it didn’t seem to me like he would get very far if his objective was to truly understand English. Even if he could understand written English using this method, he would be left behind, brain filled with Japanese, in any kind of English conversation.

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Unofficial Translation of a Story From “Honey Bees and Distant Thunder” by Onda Riku

I posted a bilingual review of Honey Bees and Distant Thunder by Onda Riku here. To follow up, I’m posting a translation of a short story that is embedded into the novel as part of the description of one of the songs that a character performs in a piano contest. This short story is one of the many creative ways Onda Riku expresses music through words.

I decided to translate this because it was challenging for me to catch the details the first time I read through it. I realised that it was because I had trouble determining the subjects of some of the sentences and who some of the pronouns were referring to.

In my attempt at a translation into English I tried to clarify many of the subjects. English writing tends to use sentences with explicit subjects more frequently, while in Japanese, the subjects are often inferred from contextual clues.

I won’t give away who performs the song or what song this story is describing in case you plan on reading the book yourself.

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Bilingual Review: Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Onda Riku (蜜蜂と遠雷 恩田 陸)

Winning two major awards, the Naoki Prize for 2016 and the Booksellers’ Award for 2017, this book has been very popular in Japan. I don’t live in Japan but get a sense of popularity based on rankings from Bookmeter.com.

I decided to read this book because I knew I liked Onda Riku’s writing style from reading her novel Night Picnic. Night Picnic is about an entire school taking an annual epic walk through the night, so it is filled with descriptions of a monotonous activity: walking. In Honey Bees and Distant Thunder she describes song after song performed by a young person alone on a stage with a piano. In both of these novels she demonstrates her skill as an author by engaging the reader through vivid and creative descriptions of something that doesn’t seem like it could be so interesting on the surface. Each new song is a new experience, and I think I enjoy reading her descriptions more than I would be able to appreciate an actual piano contest. Although, after reading her novel, I do think I would be able to appreciate real piano music a bit more than before.

第156回直木賞と第14回本屋大賞を受賞して、日本では人気になった本です。日本に住んでいないですが、読書メーターのランキングを見て人気度を把握しています。

前に読んだ同作家が書いた『夜のピクニック』の文体が好きでしたから、この本を読もうと思いました。『夜のピクニック』は高校全生徒で毎年行われる一晩中の歩行についての物語なので、歩行という面白くなさそうな行為の描写に満ちています。同じように『蜜蜂と遠雷』では一人の舞台上の若者の演奏からまた次の一人の演奏を描写しています。双方の小説は面白くなくなる恐れがありそうなのに、鮮やかで想像力のある描写でできていますので恩田さんの作家としての才能がはっきり示されています。それぞれの歌は新しい経験になり、僕にとって実際のピアノコンクールを聴くより恩田さんの言葉の方が楽しめると思います。それにしても、この小説を読了して以来、実際のピアノの音楽が以前より楽しめるようになったと思います。

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Japanese Numbers Through “Energy” by Kuroki Ryo

Learning to understand numbers in Japanese intuitively has not been easy for me. The biggest challenge is that the groups of place values are handled differently when talking about large numbers. In English the place values are grouped in threes, while in Japanese the place values are grouped in fours. You can see what I’m talking about in the tables below.

English Number Arabic Numerals
One thousand 1,000
One million 1,000,000
One billion 1,000,000,000
Japanese Number Arabic Numerals
一万 (ichi man) 10,000
一億 (ichi oku) 100,000,000
一兆 (icchou) 1,000,000,000,000

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Japanese Short Story Review: Long Range by Isaka Kotaro

I’m usually reading one e-book and one paper book at any given time. Lately, I picked two long books, and I haven’t been able to get through either. I’ll be back to write about those later. In the future I’ll be careful to choose something easier to finish in one format or the other.

Since I have missed having something to write about, I tried browsing around on Amazon.co.jp for something shorter, and I found a new Kindle Single, by an author I enjoy, that came out on the 14th of this month. It’s called ロングレンジ by 伊坂幸太郎 (Long Range by Isaka Kotaro). I took the opportunity to grab something I could finish quickly and write about while it’s still current.

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Ten Japanese Four-Character Idioms in Context from “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl”

Four-character idioms are an interesting feature of the Japanese language. From here on I will call them yojijukugo, which is the romaniztion of 四字熟語. One example that a beginner may be familiar with is, “一生懸命いっしょうけんめい (is shou ken mei)”, which basically means to try hard. It’s often quite relevant for someone trying to learn Japanese.

I have been interested in yojijukugo since soon after I started learning Japanese. I bought a pocket size dictionary of yojijukugo, and I would highlight any as I came across them in real life. I mostly discover them in reading, but then I sometimes notice them in a podcast after I know what to listen for. I would be very unlikely to pick them up from context by listening, so I get a sense that reading is paying of for improving listening comprehension through re-discovering yojijukugo I have learned in podcasts, and that is very rewarding.

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl by Morimi Tomihiko (夜は短し歩けよ乙女 by 森見登美彦) is filled with interesting yojijukugo. As with any vocabulary, yojijukugo are hard to learn in isolation, so this novel provides a great opportunity to see many instances used in context by an expert. I will pull out my ten favorite and include the sentence they came from as well as the context.

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Translation of a scene from Morimi Tomihiko’s “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl”

夜は短し歩けよ乙女 by 森見登美彦 has been popular for a long time, and has recently gained in popularity as I watch it’s rankings in bookemeter.com. I think this is because an animated movie based on the book came out in theaters this month in Japan.

I have read a couple of novels from Morimi Tomihiko, and his writing style is my favorite I’ve encountered so far. The extensive and out of the ordinary vocabulary he uses, and his roundabout ways of expressing things makes his writing very interesting to read. His books are also a treasure trove of new (to me) and interesting, but not necessarily common, vocabulary to learn.

I haven’t been too drawn to the plots and settings of the Morimi books I have read so far. It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re just not quite my taste. I find that the writing style is so interesting, that I’m not too worried if the plot and setting are not my favorite and look forward to reading more of his books.

I will translate a strange scene from the middle of this novel. I’m not able to do the writing style justice in translation, but I try to get the meaning across. The section I translated was not actually too dense with challenging vocabulary.

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The Parable of the Prodigal Son – Japanese Language Walkthrough

In this post I will talk about the Japanese language used in the Parable of the Prodigal son, called 放蕩ほうとう息子むすこのたとえばなし in Japanese.

To make it easy for a beginner to read this passage in Japanese, I add furigana to all the kanji. Even if you are brand new to Japanese, you could learn hiragana in a week or two from lots of different apps or internet resources and be able to sound out the passage in Japanese. Each verse is shown from the ESV translation in English and the 新改訳 in Japanese. I’ll try to explain any of the aspects of the Japanese language that may be tricky or interesting.

There is a lot to say about this famous parable, and every time you read it, you can discover something new. One way to see it, is as a depiction of the two ways people react to knowing that they fall short of God’s glory. One reaction, represented by the prodigal son, is rebellion. The son that won’t come into the house during the celebration of the prodigal son’s return represents someone reacting by striving to be worthy of God’s glory through legalism. Outside of being under grace instead of the law, as described in Romans 6:14, people’s lives are comprised of a combination of these patterns.

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Translation of the Prologue of “The Wind Across Qinghai Lake?”

I’m still reading through Mori Hiroshi’s (森博嗣)W-series, and this is the third book, “風は青海を渡るのか? The Wind Across Qinghai Lake?”. This one is a bit more philosophical than the the previous book, but there is a bit of action as well. The main theme is the exploration of the difference between humans and a robots, and whether we will we get to a point where humans and robots are the same.

As someone that looks to the Bible as the foundation of truth, I believe that God made us as more than our physical bodies, so the non-physical part is something that humans would never be able to create.

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