New Book Highlight: Science – Hopes & Fears – Selected Stories by Unno Juza

Unno Juza, known in Japan as the father of Japanese science fiction, has never been translated into English until now. Thanks to the creator of Self Taught Japanese, English speakers now have access to some of his work.  This E-book, available on Amazon, contains several intriguing and shocking short stories. I helped with some of the editing as a volunteer, and I’m excited to share some thoughts about the final product in this post.

If you are fascinated by how the the future has been imagined historically, then these stories will be perfect for you. They were written in the 1930s and 1940s and touch on many scientific fields. One example is the mention of electricity. I like to see electricity in classic fiction and try to understand the image of the technology held by people of the time period and how they envisioned it progressing.

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Japanese Short Story Translation: “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” by Kisaragi Shinichi [Chapter 3]

This is the third chapter of “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” (大泥棒に5分は長い), a short story by Kisaragi Shinichi 1(如月新一). I have permission from the author to translate this work, and I plan to release the complete story in six chapters.

Thanks to Locksleyu from Self Taught Japanese, both for inspiration to start this project and for help with verifying the translation and editing.

Chapter 3: Why a Book About Kyoto?

On the right was a Japanese style room with a tatami floor, and the room on the left was set up like a bedroom.

I went to the bedroom on the left, Abiko took the Japanese style room, and after ten minutes of rummaging we met up in the living room to compare our findings. Abiko was carrying a Kyoto travel guide, and I was holding a watch and a ring.

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Japanese Short Story Translation: “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” by Kisaragi Shinichi [Chapter 2]

This is the second chapter of “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” (大泥棒に5分は長い), a short story by Kisaragi Shinichi 1(如月新一). I have permission from the author to translate this work, and I plan to release the complete story in six chapters.

Thanks to Locksleyu from Self Taught Japanese, both for inspiration to start this project and for help with verifying the translation and editing.

Chapter 2: My Eyes Have Been Failing Me

In elementary school, being the kid that wins races is a big deal. Things were simple back then. However, when you get to middle and high school, running fast is no big deal—it won’t make you popular. No one pays attention unless you have outstanding looks or you’re involved in some kind of activity.

I’m still in my early twenties, so Abiko, in his mid-forties, says, “I don’t want to hear you say, ‘When I was young…’ ” and Aoi says, “If you were so fast, you should’ve just joined the track team.”

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Japanese Short Story Translation: “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” by Kisaragi Shinichi [Chapter 1]

This is the first chapter of “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” (大泥棒に5分は長い), a short story by Kisaragi Shinichi 1(如月新一). I have permission from the author to translate this work, and I plan to release the complete story in six chapters.

Thanks to Locksleyu from Self Taught Japanese, both for inspiration to start this project and for help with verifying the translation and editing.

Chapter 1: Five Minutes Is Just Too Long

“I thought it was usually three minutes. Only three. Five minutes is just too long.”

“Too long for what?”

“Look—Ultraman finishes off giant monsters in three minutes. What could possibly take five whole minutes?”

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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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