This is a rather late announcement, but I'm happy to report that we have finally finished the translation of Hasegawa-san's memoir, and it is now available for purchase on Amazon (click here). I feel very honored to have been a part of this project, and my enduring hope is that Hasegawa's story, and his recording of his experience in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, will be compelling and useful in the ongoing conversations about nuclear power, environmental justice, and communication in times of crisis.
I'm excited about the International Japanese English Translation Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Should be fun!
To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that had such a profound effect on so many lives, both within and outside Japan, we would like to share the first chapter of Hasegawa-san's memoir with you (click here). His words are just as important today as they were when he wrote the book in 2012, perhaps even more so now, as the events of that day enter into the realm of history.
As we remember the events of this day, I am reminded by Hasegawa that it is not enough to simply remember. As Hasegawa describes how he and other Iitate residents struggled to find the way forward after March 11, 2011, he notes something important about regret.
Very little about what was really happening had been made clear to us, whether about contamination, the scale or the accident, or what had actually occurred at the time of the accident. At first everything was downplayed, and then, little by little, more was revealed.
In this situation, what were we—the ordinary citizens—to do? Whose words should we have trusted? What could we have done then, to not regret those choices in the future? After the accident had occurred, the choices that were made based on what the government or patronizing experts wanted us to believe, could not be unmade.
So let us, on this day, remember and consider. Remember March 11, 2011, and consider our world today. What kind of world do we want? What kind of world do we want to give to our children? What actions will we take today, in order to not regret tomorrow?
As we continue with the work of translating the entire book (which we hope to have done by the end of the year), we thank you again for your unwavering support of this project. We hope that Hasegawa's words will move you, that you will share his story with others, and encourage them to also support this project.
I recently came across a gem of passage by Professor Jay Rubin, whom many of you may know as a translator of Haruki Murakami's works. It's from a book Rubin wrote called Making Sense of Japanese: What the textbooks don't tell you and I wanted include it here in this inaugural blog post because it strongly resonates with me as well. It reflects my own experience of learning Japanese, and partially explains why the work of written translation is so meaningful to me.
"For the fact is that Japanese, especially for those of us who have learned to read it after childhood, never loses its exotic appeal; each page turned reveals to the eye a new spectacle of outlandish squiggles that momentarily takes the breath away. And written in those squiggles or spoken by the people who were raised in the language are equally outlandish syntactic structures - not only passives but causatives and passive-causatives and te-forms with oku's attached or morau's and itadaku's and zu's that make our minds work in ways that can never be conveyed to those who do not know the language. There is a thrill in realizing that you can process this stuff with your very own brain.
"I have long been convinced that, as we speak - but especially as we read this foreign tongue - just beneath the threshold of consciousness, a voice continually shouts, 'Look, Mom, I'm reading Japanese!'"
Rubin then goes on to say, however, that it is not just we foreigners who experience this thrill, but that the Japanese themselves read their language in the same way, because its complexities and abundance of Chinese characters are of course challenging for everyone.
Japanese never gets boring.