Translation: コスモス (Cosmos)

 A cosmos field I often biked pass in Japan.

A cosmos field I often biked pass in Japan.

Here’s a pretty piece of prosery from one of my Actual-Japanese Japanese Books, 鈴の鳴る道, by 星野富弘. It appears under a picture of cosmos, one of my favorite flowers. I love the way they look like a watercolor when growing altogether in a field.











I freaked a little when I rediscovered this a few months ago, because I knew almost every 漢字. This happens a little more each time I “study,” but it still feels like a big deal.  The only two characters I didn’t know, and had to look up, were 緑 and 過ぎ, and they weren’t necessary to get the basic gist. I like to translate this poem so:

We cannot see the wind itself

Even so, it blows through the trees

Becoming a green gale

It blows through the flowers

Becoming a wave of flowers

Now it is myself

Which the wind has passed through

What kind of wind

has it become?

Obviously, this is a pretty self-reflecting translation. But it’s how I read it, all by myself, ignoring the words “passed” and “green” out of illiteracy. The word wind – I just couldn’t bring myself to repeat it so many times. I stuck in some rather fanciful additions instead. Yes, they add variety, but more then that I think “green gail” more  clearly expresses the idea of all the leaves in motion than “green breeze.” After all, what we have is no longer a quiet, respectable tree, but a manifestation of the wild wind. I got to see this poem in action this morning. It snowed last night and then gusted all day long, sending swirls of sparkling pixie dust whirling through the sky. 雪に吹けば/雪の風になり. The world lends itself as a body to the invisible wind, and in return that wind teaches it to dance, showing how detailed and complex its world is. When the wind tugs at my skirt, or blows icily against my face, what kind of wind is it making of me?

There, that’s my defense of my artistic license. How would you translate this differently? Do you think I’ve missed the meaning?

Exercise in Translation – Miyazawa’s 注文の多い料理店

Obligatory Picture to tie-into the post.


Book: 注文の多い料理店 – The Restraunt of Many Orders ( It’s in the Japanese common domain, so this shouldn’t breaking any copyright laws)

Author: 宮沢 賢治 (Kenji Miyazawa )

Source: (and here’s where I learned how to put this document on my Kindle)


First Sentence:


Phrasal Breakdown (with Kanji reading):

二人の若い紳士が (ふたりわか.しんし): Two young gentlemen

すっかりイギリスの兵隊のかたちをして (へいたい): Completely English soldier form do

ぴかぴかする鉄砲をかついで (てっぽう): Shining gun shouldered

白熊のような犬を二疋つれて (しろくま/いぬ/にひき): Polar bear like dogs two led

だいぶ山奥の (やまおく): Great mountain recess’s

木の葉のかさかさしたとこを(): Tree leaves rustled when

こんなことを云いながら、あるいておりました。(いい): These things say while, walk descended

How is I think it would be said in English:

Two young gentlemen – the very visage of English soldiers: shinning guns shouldered, and leading two polar-bear like dogs – when the leaves on the trees were rustling, spoke these things as they  descended the great mountain recess.

How would you translate it differently? I haven’t looked at the (numerous) translations available online, but let me know if you can find a way to keep “great mountain recess” where it belongs in the middle of the passage. Are there any kanji you think I’ve read wrong? The book provides fuirgana for most of the kanji, so I’m pretty confident of my word choice here. You can see that I’m avoiding any notations on grammar. Sorry, I’m quite chicken and see no reason to so publicly expose myself. You’re happy to muse on the subject though.  Since I’m forced to find it interesting I may even venture a guess if prompted to.