Wednesday, October 28, 2009

call for readers

I am seeking readers for my un-published translation of Bitou (tail lights), one of the short stories in the collection titled Dokumugi no Toki (season of the tares). Bitou is about a man in retirement, and explores how retirement, among other factors, brings about a change in the way his family and former subordinates relate to him. It is only about ten pages long. If you are a native English speaker, avid reader, and interested in this subject, you maybe able to help me by giving me feedback on whether or not you feel Westerners would find the story interesting, and what you think Miura was trying to convey. Interested readers may email me at miuraworld at mac dot com.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

deiryuu chitai

On May 24, 1926 (Taisho 15), the pioneer farming villages of Kami-Furano and Biei in central Hokkaido were nearly destroyed when Mt.Tokachi erupted, causing a river of boulders and melting snow to sweep through the valley and decimate nearly everything in its path-- including 144 lives.

Fifty years after the eruption, in 1975, Miura Ayako went to Kami-Furano to interview the survivors of the disaster and to hear of the incredible hardships they were forced to bear in order to rebuild their lives. In 1976, the Hokkaido Shinbun newspaper began to serialize Deiryuu Chitai (Mud flow zone), Miura's novel about the Mt.Tokachi disaster. It is one of her most powerful works, and I think I am more eager to see it get published in English translation than just about any of her other novels.

Starting this month, the tenth anniversary of Miura's death, and going till March 2010, the Miura Ayako Literature Museum in Asahikawa will be holding a Special Exhibit on "The Making of the Novel: Deiryuu Chitai." Miura's field notes and interview records will be on display, along with documents, news reports, and photographs related to the Mt. Tokachi eruption.

If you are fortunate enough to be in Asahikawa between now and next March, be sure to take in the Deiryuu Chitai exhibit. And if that is not possible, check out the Deiryuu Chitai summary and sample chapter that are posted on the World of Miura Ayako homepage.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

korean version of miura ayako's life and times

Kamui Mintara's special issue focusing on Miura Ayako's life and times, which I was asked to translate into English (introduced in earlier post), has now been translated into Korean. Copies are available free to visitors of the Miura Ayako Literature Museum in Asahikawa. You may also be able to get them in bulk by contacting the sponsoring organization, Rin'yu Kanko (contact information at the end of each language version of the special issue). Follow the links here to get to the original Japanese version, the English version, and the most recent Korean version.

Friday, September 11, 2009

miura documentary

This video clip is from an episode of Ano Hito ni Aitai (I wish I could meet that person once more) on Japan's public TV station NHK. It gives an overview of Miura Ayako's life and writing. I'm afraid it's in Japanese only, but you may find parts of it interesting even without the language. Read her profile on the World of Miura Ayako website first. It should help you follow the photos. The content of Miura's interview is the same as that of her autobiography Michi Ariki (The Wind is Howling). I was privileged to correspond with Ayako for over 20 years, and visited the Miuras in their Asahikawa home on several occasions. The footage of them in their living room and kitchen brings back so many memories...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

miura quotes

Have you ever looked at the quotes page on the World of Miura Ayako website? Whether from her works of fiction or non-fiction, Miura left behind numerous memorable quotes. Like this one from her autobiography The Wind is Howling:

Back in my room I thought hard. Although my spine was being eaten away by tuberculosis and I stumbled as I walked, we had been blind to its presence simply because it had not appeared on the X-ray. If this ignorance had continued, might not all my bones have been affected? I certainly would have died. And then I thought, "The same could be true of my soul." Maybe I did not realize my heart was being eaten away or how infected I was, simply because I was unaware of my sin. I found this thought very frightening.

--or this one from the as-yet-untranslated collection of essays, Kodoku no tonari (next door to loneliness):

Life is as full of material to learn from as a gravel road is full of stones. Not having gone to school is itself something to learn from. So is poverty, a weak constitution, failure, a broken heart, ignorance, prosperity, and adversity. If you have the will to learn from it, anything can be teaching material.

What passages from a Miura book have left a lasting impression on you? Please share them with us in the comments box below.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

for mystery lovers

Hiroki Meiro (working title of English translation: Endless Maze) is a fast-paced novella about corporate trickery, murder, and revenge set in the '70s, during the peak of Japan's economic boom years, just before the "bursting" of the economic bubble. If some of Miura's weightier novels (Freezing Point, Hidden Ranges) were to be compared to a seven-course meal, then Endless Maze would be a very satisfying afternoon snack. No matter how many times I've read it (even knowing how it ends), it still gives me goose bumps. It is highly entertaining, and thought-provoking without being preachy. And, as is typical of Miura's writing, it has no "happily-ever-after" ending.

Read the summary if you don't mind having the ending spoiled for you, or go to the sample chapter to get a feel for the characters and writing style. Does the sample chapter grab you, or not? Why? I'd appreciate your leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

shiokari pass museum

The Shiokari Pass Museum, established to commemorate one of Miura's most beloved novels, is located next to the Shiokari Toge train station on Hokkaido's Soya line, just north of Asahikawa. Shiokari Toge, the novel that made this section of the Soya line famous, is based on true events that took place there in 1909, when railway employee Masao Nagano threw himself in front of a runaway passenger train to prevent it from hurtling into the gorge.

The building itself is a restoration of the house Ayako and her husband Mitsuyo lived in during the early years of their marriage, and was moved here from its original location in Asahikawa. It was while living in this house that Miura wrote her debut novel Hyoten (Freezing Point) which became a social phenomenon. The museum reproduces the conditions of Miura's daily life during those years, including the small miscellaneous goods shop she managed from the front room of their home. Click here for photos.

The museum is open from the beginning of April to the end of November, every day of the week except Mondays, from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. The admission fee is 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for children. Phone 0165-32-4088 for further information (Japanese only).

Among English-speaking readers, Shiokari Pass is probably the best known and loved of Miura's works. For those who would like to learn more about this book, read the summary on the World of Miura Ayako homepage.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

book recommendation (spirit matters)

There are very few scholarly treatments of Miura's works available in English, and what few there are, are usually papers published in academic journals to which most Miura fans, and other readers (i.e. potential fans), do not have easy access. So I was very pleased when I discovered Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature by Philip Gabriel. Here is a review of the book which I posted on amazon:

A scholarly study of this quality and from this perspective was long overdue. I was especially captivated by the first half of the book, which discusses the works of two contemporary Japanese women authors, Miura Ayako and Sono Ayako. As a passionate fan of Miura Ayako's writing, I was thrilled to see her works taken seriously by a Western scholar, and I find it difficult to understand why it has taken so long for her to be noticed. Gabriel "gets the point" of the books he discusses, he grasps the nuances of the original Japanese, and his analysis is thoughtful, scholarly, and at the same time highly readable. I hope to see more studies of this nature in the near future.

See more reviews and book details here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

miura ayako book clubs

What is commonly referred to as the "Hyoten Boom" swept through Japan in the years following the publication of Miura Ayako's debut novel Hyoten (Freezing Point, Asahi Shimbunsha, 1964). For the next forty years, Hyoten and the Miura novels that followed it were enormously popular, and many were made into television dramas and films for the silver screen. It may be that Miura's works are not as widely read as they once were, but it is safe to say that there is always a Miura book club going on somewhere in Japan (and most likely Korea as well). In addition to the museum-sponsored book discussions held regularly at the Miura Ayako Literature Museum, the Miura Ayako Dokushokai (Miura Ayako Book-reading Society) organizes book clubs all over Japan. I myself participate in a book club that meets every other month in Sapporo. Our lecturer/discussion leader is Morishita Tatsue, former professor of Japanese literature at Fukuoka Women's University and current special researcher attached to the museum. The society also plans special lectures and tours to locations of significance to Miura Ayako's works. As far as I know, the society's book clubs are all conducted in Japanese. I started the English-language Miura Ayako Book Club group on Facebook a year ago, and strongly encourage English-speakers of any nationality to join us there. If anyone reading this blog knows of other Miura book clubs conducted in English, please post the information in the comments box below.

Friday, July 3, 2009

the wind is howling

The English version of Michi Ariki (Shufunotomo, 1969), the first in Miura's autobiographical series, was translated by Valerie Griffiths and published in the US by InterVarsity Press in 1977 under the title The Wind is Howling. I recently learned that it was republished by OMF (Singapore) in 1990. Anything that makes this book more accessible is welcome news, because it is an excellent introduction to this remarkable writer. Here is part of a review I posted on

Valerie Griffiths' excellent translation and abridgment of the first volume of Ayako Miura's autobiographical Michi Ariki series is a pleasure to read. Miura's unflinching honesty about herself and about the world comes through clearly. The book spans Miura's life from the end of WWII (after she lost faith in all forms of authority, in herself, and in the line that separates truth from falsehood), through long and life-threatening illness, till she finds faith in the God of the Bible and gets married to Mitsuyo Miura. The second (as yet untranslated) volume of the series covers the early years of their marriage and the start of her enormously successful career as a novelist. In the third volume (also untranslated) Miura writes about her Christian faith.

Check out the other reviews of The Wind is Howling on Amazon. It is absolutely worth taking the trouble to track down a copy of this book. A quick search on the internet uncovered many used copies for sale through various vendors. Or ask your local library to get hold of a copy through the library network. A lengthier summary of the book can be found on the Japan Christian Link website for those who are curious about the details.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

miura ayako literature museum

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Miura Ayako Literature Museum in Asahikawa, the author's birthplace and lifelong home. The attractive building that houses the exhibits, library, and meeting rooms is nestled in a corner of the actual forest that was the setting for Miura's best-selling debut novel Hyoten. The museum has a website (Japanese only) packed full of information ranging from descriptions of the author's works to museum-sponsored events. Of particular interest to fans and students of Mura's novels, are the lectures given by prominent scholars and literary critics on many of her works, including some of the lesser-known short stories. As the number of visitors from outside of Japan increases, so has the number of language support services offered by the museum. Besides being known as the "entrance" to Daisetsuzan National Park, the city of Asahikawa boasts the award-winning Asahiyama Zoo, the Snow Crystal Museum, the Yukara-ori Folk Craft Museum, and many other places that make Miura's hometown worth the detour on any trip to Hokkaido.

The address of the Miura Ayako Literature Museum is:
7-jo 8-chome, Kagura, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 070-8007
tel (o166)69-2626
fax (0166)69-2611

It is open everyday between June 1 to September 30, 2009. At other times of the year, it is closed on Mondays, and if Monday is a holiday, it is closed on the following Tuesday instead. The entrance fee for adult visitors is 500 yen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

kairei: book, film, and stage production

In December of 1832, a Japanese sailing vessel called the Hojunmaru set sail from the village of Onoura with a cargo of rice and a crew of 14. It was headed for Edo (present-day Tokyo), but was destined never to reach it. Crippled by storms, the ship drifted across the Pacific Ocean for fourteen months. Only three of the crew were left alive when the ship finally reached the northwest coast of North America. All this was merely the beginning of events that would throw the Edo government into turmoil and change the course of history in the Pacific region. In 1981, Asahi Shimbunsha published Miura Ayako's historical novel Kairei, which was about these very events. The novel was influential in raising interest in those long-forgotten castaways (a man and two boys) who had been at the center of them. In the summer of 1984, while I was visiting the Miura's home in Asahikawa, Ayako asked me to consider translating Kairei into English. A film version of Kairei (a joint effort by World Wide Pictures and Shochiku Co.) was scheduled to be released very shortly, and it seemed good sense to make the English translation of the novel available to the public as soon as possible. It didn't quite turn out that way. Background research alone took the better part of a year. I visited many of the locations mentioned in the book. I studied reduced-scale models of ships of the same type as the Hojunmaru. I met and interviewed the only living relative of Otokichi, the central character of the novel. It took two years to translate the book, and it was another seven years before it was published. In 1993, the same year my English translation of Kairei was published under the title Hidden Ranges, a Nagoya-based theater group produced Nippon Otokichi Monogatari (English title: Global Drifter Otokichi), a musical based on the life of Otokichi. They have performed it several times in Japan and certain overseas locations significant to the story.

Here are some more links for info on the events described in Kairei.
Otokichi:a life lost and found
The Otokichi Saga- A Postscript

Monday, June 8, 2009

hyoten drama

Last year I received an email from a college student in Brazil who professed to be swept away by the latest dramatization of Hyoten (Freezing Point). Curious about Miura Ayako, he had tracked me down through my book club on Orcut to find out more about her. Hyoten, the debut novel that made Miura's name a household word in Japan, has been dramatized on several occasions for both TV and the silver screen. The one that the student had seen (on Brazilian TV!) is the version we call Hyoten 2006. It was made to be shown on Japanese television in two parts, over two consecutive days, and actually covers not only Hyoten, but also its sequel, Zoku-Hyoten. In contrast to the previous version (Hyoten 2001), which dared to change the setting of the story to modern Japan, Hyoten 2006 was faithful to the post-war setting of the book, and the actors playing the central characters did a great job. The musical score is memorable as well, and was instrumental in attracting a great many young viewers who might not have bothered otherwise. For those who are interested in the making of Hyoten 2006, the names of the people involved can be found on DramaWiki, and video clips can be found on YouTube by searching "Hyoten fanvideo" and "Tegoshi's Drama." DramaWiki's summary of the plot is lifted straight off my website. If you would like to know more about Hyoten's plot, go to the World of Miura Ayako homepage.

Friday, June 5, 2009

internet links to miura mentions

The Japan Literature Home Page is a good resource for those interested in Japanese literature. Their blurb on Miura Ayako can be found by clicking here.

Word of Life Press has a Music Catalog that includes a description of the movie Kairei (Hidden Ranges) based on Miura's novel of that name.

Wikipedia has an entry on Ayako Miura (contributed by me, actually), but one of the cool things about it is that there are links to the Miura entries on the Korean and Chinese versions of Wikipedia on the left side of the page (under "languages")

Most sites that mention Miura Ayako have "borrowed" from my World of Miura homepage, or from the Wikipedia article. But if I find any more sites with original content, I'll keep adding them here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

tour company publishes special issue on miura's life & times

Kamui Mintara started out as a bi-monthly magazine published by the Hokkaido-based tour company Rinyu Corporation to introduce customers to the culture and customs of Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. Beginning with Issue 2:1 (121st issue) the magazine became available to the general public on the internet as Webmagazine Kamui Mintara. Rinyu Corporation's President Ueda has been a lifelong fan of Miura Ayako's works and a great supporter of The Miura Ayako Literature Museum in Asahikawa. In 1986, Ueda published a special issue of Kamui Mintara devoted to Miura's life and works. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Miura's death, Ueda arranged for this special issue to be translated into English. Paper versions of the English translation are already available free to visitors of the Miura Museum, or by writing to Rinyu Corporation. A Korean translation is currently in the works and should be available soon. You can get to the web version of the Miura special issue by going to the Kamui Mintara website and clicking on the banner that directs you (in English) to the page, or you can go directly to My Life and Times. Note: The phrase Kamui Mintara comes from the Ainu language (northern Japan's indigenous people), and can be translated as "playground of the gods," a reference to the high reaches of Hokkaido's Mt.Taisetsu National Park which is famous for its alpine flora.

brief intro to miura ayako

Hokkaido-based novelist Miura Ayako (1922-1999) took Japanese society by storm with her debut novel Hyoten (Freezing Point) in 1964, when it won the prestigious Ten Million Yen Award from the Asahi Newspaper and set off a Hyoten boom all over Japan. With this dramatic entrance into the literary world, Miura began to publish numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. Many became bestsellers and many were remade as feature-length films and television dramas. The aim of this blog is to introduce this amazing writer and her works to English-language readers. Please go to the World of Miura Ayako homepage to see a detailed profile, as well as summaries and sample translations of her works.

about this blog

Among other things, I am a professional translator of Japanese to English. It's true that being born and raised in Japan gave me an edge in the field, but what made me determined to pursue this career was a chance encounter with a book. A novel by Miura Ayako. I was back in Japan for the summer after my second year at an American college, and I was looking for something to read. Something that would refresh my Japanese, which had grown a bit rusty with disuse. I picked a book from my father's book case. The title Hitsujigaoka (sheep hill) intrigued me because I was familiar with the part of town it referred to. I became so gripped by the novel that for the next three days I could barely tear myself away even to eat or to sleep. By the time I finished it, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life gaining the skills and education necessary for me to introduce Miura's works to English readers.

That was almost 35 years ago. I did become a translator. In what bits of spare time I could find between the commercial translating jobs I took to help put food on the table, I lovingly labored over Miura's novels. Until she passed away in 1999, I corresponded with her regularly, and on several occasions met with her to discuss projects. This blog is intended to supplement the World of Miura Ayako website and the Miura Ayako Book Club on Facebook. I hope to use this as a forum to link readers and bloggers who are already fans of Miura, and post news and articles of interest to us all. Ultimately, though, my desire is to get more of Miura's works published in English for English readers all over the world. I hope to link up with people who can support and encourage this endeavor, as I intend to support and encourage the efforts of others who feel as I do.