Monday, March 29, 2010

On Summer

I've just about finished my first week in Japan. Classes still don't start until next week, and I've had mostly just orientation stuff. I've moved into my new place, and I celebrated by going to a bunch of places this weekend, such as the Tokyo International Anime Fair and the Zoujouji Temple, both of which I'll hopefully be talking about soon.

I also went to my first Book Off, which is a used book store chain in Japan. They are awesome. Paperbacks aren't too expensive to begin with in Japan, but here most of the books are only a hundred yen (1 dollar). That's amazing. Can you imagine something like that in the states? On this sort of national level?

Of course, I stocked up on a bunch of Haruki Murakami that I know will never be translated. I only recently sort of realized the extent of Murakami's output in Japan. He's got essays upon essays, travel guides, picture books... it's unbelievable. I never realized how much more Murakami I'll be able to enjoy in my life once I know Japanese (I mean, sure, I can and do enjoy it now but it's a lot of work). Because there's no market for this kind of stuff in America. I'm sure 1Q84 will do just great compared to how most translated fiction sells in the states, but I don't think the majority of Americans pick up a collection of two page non-fiction miscellanies by their favorite novelists, domestic or international.

So for me, it's heaven, and I'd like to share with you a tiny little sliver of that heaven. I bought six Murakami books this weekend. One of them is called "村上朝日堂" (Murakami Asahidou). It's got illustrations by Anzai Mizumaru (like Yoru No Kumozaru), and is just a bunch of little essays about this and that. The following is a translation of one of them, called "On Summer":

On Summer

I love summer. In summer afternoons with the sun blazing down, wearing a pair of shorts and drinking a beer while listening to rock and roll, I think to myself how lucky I am.

The end of summer, after those three months or so, is truly precious. If it were possible, I would want it to go on for half a year.

Recently I read a sci-fi novel called "Planet of Exile" by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's a story about a planet really far away, where it takes sixty years to go through one year on earth. In other words, spring is 15 years long, summer is 15 years long, autumn is 15 years long, and winter is 15 years long. That's awesome.

Therefore, on this planet there's a saying that goes, "It's a blessing to be able to see spring twice." In other words, it's lucky to have such a long life.

However, with such a life, living through winter twice would be horrible, because the winters on this planet are dark and terribly severe.

If I were living on that planet, I think having summer be first would be nice. I'd spend my childhood running around under the hot sun, spend puberty and young adulthood gracefully in autumn, spend my prime and middle age in the harsh coldness, become an old man when the spring comes.

I can't say if I'd be able to live long enough to reach summer one more time. But I think it would be nice if I could die with the feeling, "Oh, I can hear the Beach Boys playing somewhere..."

There's an old Sinatra ballad called "September Song".

It goes something like: "It's a long time from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn't got time for the waiting game. The days dwindle down to a precious few."

When l listen to it like that... I mean it's a really great song, but... It makes me depressed. I guess I just want to spend my days thinking that my time to die will be the summer.

For comparison, you can actually find another translation by a certain Christopher Allison here. Just to point out, I didn't find this link until after I was done with my own, so I was no way affected by his translation. The only thing I don't like about his is that he didn't look up the name of the Le Guin story, or the Sinatra song. I decided to use the actual lyrics of the Sinatra song, since Murakami obviously was doing a quickie translation into Japanese in the first place. I don't know, that just made more sense to me.


  1. Nice post. Always good to read about untranslated Murakami, especially with translations.

    Th masses of untranslated books are one of my motivations to become fluent in Japanese.

  2. Book Off is great,good to hear it's going ok,
    those illustrated Murakami's are great too!

  3. Glad to see you're back in the translation racket.

  4. They couldn't keep me away forever. Should be lots more coming too.