It’s Women in Translation Month! This event, that began in 2014, spans the entirety of August. It brings awareness to the gender imbalance of writers from other languages that are translated into English. But I also saw someone say that it was about translators, editors, reviewers, bloggers, and others who are a part of the gender gap in translation.
Translators, especially, are the ones who interpret the writings of other cultures and it’s their words that you read in English. If you’ve ever read about Emily Wilson’s re-translation of The Odyssy or Maisy Hatchard’s re-translation of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi then you can see how a woman’s interpretation of a text can introduce novel approaches to introducing other cultures to the English speaking world. (Especially in novels written by women!)
Which is why I wanted to shed some light on some female translators and their works for Women in Translation Month. Specifically on the amazing female Japanese to English literary translators that are out there. (Update: increased to 11 translators because there are too many!)
(I actually have two groups I want to talk about, the first are Japanese to English literary translators and the next article will be on manga translators. Click here to read it!)
The following list of Japanese to English Literary Translators is in no particular order.
Ginny Tapley Takemori
Ginny is a British translator living in Japan who has been translating and editing Japanese to English fiction for about 15 years. Her works have been very popular in the West with The Secret of the Blue Glass that was nominated for the Marsh Award and Convenience Store Woman which has gained a lot of buzz this last year.
You can see an interview of her along with Polly Barton by the Japan Foundation, which you can watch here on YouTube.
She is also one of the people behind Strong Women, Soft Power. Lucy North, Allison Markin Powell and Ginny Tapley Takemori; three female Japanese to English literary translators who are pushing to bring awareness to Japanese female writers that have yet to be translated and published in English.
Here are some of her works you should check out:
The Little House by Kyoko Nakajima
The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Alison is an Australian-born translator who has lived in Japan for many, many years. Alison’s translation career began in commercial translation, but after a life-changing illness she decided to focus on what she loved and switched to literary translation in 2016. Her first novel translation was Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa.
Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
Spark by Naoki Matayoshi
The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda
Tao by Aya Goda
Molly is an American translator whose work mostly covers video game translation, including visual novels, but she also works on a number of light novels (which are young adult novels from Japan). Her experience translating video games dialogue means her novel translations (especially of dialogue) are particularly entertaining.
You can find out more about her views on translation and experience in her Interviews With Localizers.
Ride Your Wave by Masaaki Yuasa, Mika Toyoda, Reiko Yoshida
Kokoro Connect by Sadanatsu Anda
Adachi and Shimamura by Hitoma Iruma
Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out, So I Teamed Up With A Legendary Sorceress! by Ameko Kaeruda
Louise Heal Kawai
Louise is another British translator of literature who also teaches at the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo. After getting her MA in Translation from Sheffield University in the UK she moved to Texas, USA, then to Yokohama, Japan and has been translating for over 15 years.
I highly recommend this great podcast interview with the podcast In GAD We Trust, where she talks about some of her translation process!
Yakuza Moon: Confessions of a Gangster’s Daughter by Shoko Tendo
Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami
The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo
A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto
Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama
Allison Markin Powell
Allison is a literary translator and editor. Her translations have been nominated for numerous awards including Strange Weather in Tokyo (by Hiromi Kawakami) for the Independence Foreign Fiction Prize, and her translation of The Briefcase (by Hiromi Kawakami) was nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize.
Allison is also a publishing consulted and has noticed that in Japan almost half of the people published across all genres are women, but Japanese female authors only account for about 26% of authors translated into English from Japanese. (See this interview with Asian Books Blog.) This is one reason she’s a part of the Strong Women, Soft Power group along with Lucy North and Ginny Tapley Takemori.
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
The Ten Loves of Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami
The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
Parade: A Folktale by Hiromi Kawakami
Diana translates mostly light novels and manga but also writes, edits, and develops games on the side. She began translating light novels in 2017 after a few years working part-time as a freelance translator on a number of different subjects.
You can read more about her work as a translator here in her Interviews With Localizers.
At Night I Become a Monster by Yoru Sumino
I Had That Same Dream Again by Yoru Sumino
Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! by FUNA
Juliet Winters Carpenter
Juliet is an American translator who has been translating Japanese modern literature for over 40 years. She is also a professor at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto.
Her translation of Secret Rendezvous by Abe Kobo the 1980 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. And her translation of A True Novel by Minae Mizumura won the same award in 2014 and earned numerous other awards including the 2014 Lewis Galantiere Award of the American Translators Association.
There are 39 books that she’s worked on on Goodreads but here are a few of them:
Secret Rendezvous by Abe Kobo
A True Novel by Minae Mizumura
The Great Passage by Shion Miura
Masks by Fumiko Enchi
Polly is a British translator living in the UK who translates short stories and full-length novels (both fiction and non-fiction). She graduated with an MA in Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS and worked for Nintendo Europe before moving onto literary translation.
Polly was recently highlighted as one of the translators to watch for on the monkey business blog.
She was also interviewed along with Ginny Tapley Takemori by the Japan Foundation, which you can watch here on YouTube.
Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda
Friendship for Grown-ups by Naocola Yamazaki
Mikumari by Misumi Kubo
Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki
Lucy is a UK-based translator and editor with a PhD in modern Japanese literature from Harvard University. She lived in Japan for almost 14 years.
She is also, one of the lead drivers behind Strong Women, Soft Power, along with Allison Markin Powell and Ginny Tapley Takemori.
Lucy was interviewed in 2017 for Women in Translation month on Japanese female writers, which you can read the highlights of here. (Sadly the link to the full interview no longer works, but the snippets are really interesting!)
Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami
Toddler-Hunting & Other Stories by Taeko Kono
One Sunny Day by Yuichi Kimura
Rebecca is an American Japanese translator and Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at Washington University in St. Louis in the USA.
She is more of an academic and creative writer but her translation of The Goddess Chronicle by Kirino Natsuo won the PEN Translates Award in 2013 and the 2014-15 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature.
Groteque by Kirino Natsuo
The Goddess Chronicle by Kirino Natsuo
Deborah is an American translator living in Japan who has been translating for over 30 years! She runs her own company and has worked on a variety of texts, including literary translation, most notably on works by Miyuki Miyabe.
The Devil’s Whisper by Miyuki Miyabe
The Sleeping Dragon by Miyuki Miyabe
Beyond the Blossoming Fields by Jun’ichi Watanabe
Little Keys and the Red Piano by Hideko Ogawa (co-translated with Kazuko Enda)