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.