Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Aozora Bunko English Translation Project

This just in from Sally Suzuki:


I'm currently lobbying several government ministries and private foundations in both the U.S. and Japan for a multi-million dollar grant to translate into English the copyright-expired works available on Aozora Bunko. As you know, Aozora Bunko has several thousand works by over 500 Japanese authors, so I need you to round up 15-20 (at least!) of the best translators/bungaku specialists you can find. This is an enormous project which will likely take several years to complete.

I also need you to write a letter explaining the project's importance—how the vast diffusion of knowledge is now possible through the internet; how the project will increase the world's awareness of Japanese culture, history, and literature; how we hope eventually to post the texts on Project Gutenberg; etc.

We have little time to waste. Get on this immediately. I beseech you.

-Sally Suzuki, Beholdmyswarthyface Media Director

And, for the blind:


Ian Hogarth said...

Quite a few of the works on Aozora Bunko have already been translated. Do you intend to retranslate those works?

Sally Suzuki said...

No. We will translate only those works which have not yet been translated. I should point out, however, that the vast majority (over 90%) of the Aozora texts have never been translated.

Marcel Chniest said...

Fat chance!

Eric said...

Wow! Good luck! There are almost no grants available in the U.S. for translation from Japanese, and when they are availble, the money is minimal. But who knows. It could be a first..

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Thanks! Yeah, I think our best bet is with Japanese ministries/foundations interested in cultural dissemination. But they're probably pretty low on funds now, too.

Eric said...

The only one I'm familiar with, and I forgot the name, has a pretty conventional list of what they want translated, and I don't know how much they pay.

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

OK. We'll do a little shopping around, and I'll keep you posted. Let me know if you think of any possible sponsors.

Sally Suzuki said...

Are you posting facebook comments again?

elipsett said...

I run Kurodahan Press (kurodahan.com), which is publishing a variety of Japanese works in English, some still under copyright and some now in the public domain. Our recent Kaiki book has both, for example, and we utilize Aozora as well.
The JLPP (http://www.jlpp.go.jp/) has been the major thrust for publishing "worthy" jlit in English until now, but they've been having some tough times, too. Toppan Printing recently bought into a piece of the action there, and it's unclear what may happen after they figure out what they want to do.
One sponsor already involved in this sort of thing, however, is the Japan Foundation (http://www.jpf.go.jp/j/index.html) under its 国際交流基金翻訳協力プログラム, and goodness knows they have enough spare cash.

Carl M. said...

I have translated several of the works by Watsuji Tetsurō listed on the site. If someone paid me, I'd love translate more and release them to the public domain, or whatever. Where do I send a letter?

tmkain said...

i offer my fullest support. write that letter.

Sally Suzuki said...


Thanks for the info! I've bookmarked Kurodan pressed. And glad to hear the Japan Foundation is still going strong. Our first letter is addressed to them.

Carl M.,

Thanks. I'll add you to the list of possible future translators.


I appreciate your support.

me. said...

Not sure if this helps?,might want to try -


although this is in UK!



(Pen Translation Fund)

I'll try and think of others..

elipsett said...

It probably wouldn't hurt to contact Tomita-san (富田 倫生), who I believe actually runs the Aozora initiative. I doubt he has any spare cash, but he might have some good ideas!
(I can provide his email offlist if you want it.)

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Me: Thanks for the links. I'll check them out.

Elipsett: That would be great. Please forward me his email address.

peony said...

I'm in.

Beholdmyswarthyface said...


Great! We're up to about 10 translators. Now we just need that $1,000,000 grant!

elipsett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elipsett said...

For about a year now I have been looking into the pros and cons of converting my Kurodahan Press (presently just a division of a for-profit Japanese corp named Intercon, Ltd) into an NPO.
Since it doesn't make money anyway, turning it into an NPO wouldn't cost me anything, but it would make it a lot easier for other people to get involved, and (possibly) for it to attract donations, etc, to support more Jlit in translation.
I'd be happy to discuss it in more detail with you all, individually or as a group, although I doubt the tail end of this blogpost is the best place to do it.

Edward Lipsett
elipsett at intercomltd.com

elipsett said...

Oops... the name of that company is Intercom, Ltd. Like in the email address I gave.

Edward Lipsett