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More on Permissions, Rights, and Translations – Japan Writers’ Association

Japan Writers’ Association 日本文芸家協会 is listed on several of the publisher home pages as handling rights for many of their authors.

On their page for Copyright Clearance there is a great deal of important information for you. To the right there is a list (choice of excel or html) of the authors they represent. When you open the list you will see if they have full or partial representation for each author. Below that are excel spreadsheet files for newly added authors, authors who have canceled their contracts, and authors they used to represent who are out of copyright from 2010 on. A careful look at these pages will save you a lot of time.

Once you have determined that the author you are interested in is represented by the JWACC, you need to check and see which request form 申請フォーム (shinsei fōm) you should fill out. Most of the forms about about broadcasting, putting images or excerpts on the web, using paragraphs in exams, requests for reprints, games, etc. But no.17 is the one that you need. 許諾申請についての相談用フォーム (kyodaku shinsei ni tsuite no sōdan fōm). On this form, you designate whether you are checking about an author that they have partial representation for or something else. This is the form that I think should be used to check and see if the rights are available to translate a particular book or story of an author they represent. If anyone knows for sure, I would be very grateful for confirmation.

Just a reminder that Japanese copyright rules are 70 years after the death of the author (and not 70s after publication of the work) so any of the stories by someone like Yoshiya Nobuko who published stories in the 1920s but lived until 1973 are protected by copyright. And, yes, 吉屋信子 is represented by JWACC.

The JWACC has a pdf dated 2016 著作権Q&A 翻訳権 is covered under article 27 of the copyright law.

A translation is considered a derivative work (in Japanese 二次的使用) along with adaptation (like creating a manga based on a novel). 二次使用 and 二次的使用 are different. Niji shiyo is a reuse (publishing it in an anthology for example) but without any changes. Nijiteki shiyo is an adaptation. Good and easy explanation <a href="http://jibunkyo.main.jp/index.php/guide3" here="" at the Nihon Jido bungakusha kyokai copyright guide.

Permissions, Rights, and Translations

This is a huge topic and yet a relatively simple one. It wasn’t really a problem in the old paper-based world because if you translated something that you loved, it was a private affair. You might share it with your friends or turn it in as an assignment, but it wasn’t public or published. Now that so many people are posting things to the Internet and they are being made widely available, it is critical that people understand rights and permissions so that they don’t get into trouble.

I have to admit that it is taking me a long time to really understand the process – both theoretical and practical – since I am not a translator myself. But I have been on a quest this summer to get a better handle on it so that I can advise people more accurately about their options. And this has meant talking with published translators about their experiences and their advice. Almost everyone has at least one or more bad experiences that they don’t necessarily want to share, and I don’t blame them, but if we can sluice their experiences we can get the nuggets of gold out and that would be an excellent thing.

I started out by thinking that translators needed to contact the copyright holder for permission, and so I was always careful to show people colophons and how to read them. But as one translator pointed out to me, that is really more about legalities of royalties than permissions, and the publisher is usually the gateway to permissions.

So how do you track down the right department in a publishing company and how do you make contact? On a website, you need to look for either the foreign rights department or the rights department.

Here is an example:
Kodansha 講談社
Look for the about page – in Japanese 会社情報
Then you will see a section called 版権・著作権・出版物.
The contact information is divided up by the kinds of rights/license requests.
Foreign rights falls here:
海外における小社刊行物の映像化・商品化などについて
国際ライツ事業部
TEL: 03-5395-3576 / FAX:03-5395-7058

Notice that this is no form or email contact information provided for overseas users. The English link on Kodansha’s home page takes you to a brochure, but at least that provides some information. Kodansha USA – should be a good source, but at the moment (August 2020) its website only contains audio files for its Japanese language textbooks.

Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店
Iwanami makes it really easy. Click on the English page and right there is an email address for its Foreign Rights and Permissions Department. Thanks Iwanami!

Bungei Shunjusha 文藝春秋社
At the bottom of the main page is a link for all kinds of inquiries:) Scroll down until you find the section on copyright and permissions 著作権に関するお問い合わせ. Partway down you will see an email address for the Rights Business Division ライツビジネス部 mail : rights-g@bunshun.co.jp. I heard from a friend, that it may take a few weeks to process requests because of the volume they receive, but they will respond.

Shinchosha 新潮社
In the case of Shinchosha, the 会社情報 page just gives the basic facts about the company. Instead you have to look at the very bottom of the page for the お問い合わせ page. There is a list of headings for inquiries, but nothing about overseas.
転載、教育利用などにおける小社刊行物の利用について is the section you want. It says that almost all rights are handled by these two organizations.
日本文藝家協会 http://www.bungeika.or.jp/
日本ビジュアル著作権協会 https://www.jvca.gr.jp/
And for the ones not covered by these two, there is a form you can fill out to ask.

What to Read?

One of the questions I frequently get from students who are thinking about becoming literary translators is what they should read. That is a question that every librarian loves to hear. “Oh let’s talk books!” But this is no easy task. There is so much good literature being published that it is impossible to stay on top of the totality of it. Why not let others take the first swipe.

Contemporary Japanese Literature is a website maintained by Kathryn Hemmann. The site includes a lot of book reviews, recommended reading lists, and essays.

The Japan Foundation published a newsletter for many years called Japanese Book News. It looks like it hasn’t been published for a few years though. I am leaving it here because there is a lot of good information in its back issues, but I am sad that it isn’t being maintained.

A few sources that I am taken with include:
Monkey Business magazine is such a fabulous magazine for anyone interested in Japanese literature in translation. One of the fascinating things (to me) is that it is not just contemporary literature being translated here. Lots of really fabulous translators get published in Monkey Business and are able to build a solid portfolio of translations before tackling full length works.

Words Without Borders. Really nice translations of Japanese literature and take a look at the Educators’ section for ways to use the stories in class.

Wasafiri magazine is a British-based magazine of international creative writing. It often includes English translations of Japanese literature and occasional special issues on Japanese literature like this one Issue 102: Japan: Literatures of Remembering

Granta is a publisher based in Great Britain that includes a number of translations of Japanese literature, art & photography, and essays. Lovely stuff and such a pleasant way to keep up with new publications.

Asymptote presents work in translation alongside the original texts, as well as audio recordings of those original texts whenever possible. You can search by author, translator, language of the original or click on the map.


Literary Hub is an amazing site full of good writing, information about publishing trends, and often includes book reviews, interviews, and lists of books that should be translated. Use the search box to find the articles related to Japan.

This is a blog post in process. I will continue to add to it and edit it as I find links.

Figuring Out What Has Been Published in Translation

Student assignments, and even individuals interested in doing JE translation usually start from the proviso – select a story that hasn’t yet been published in English.

The standby source used to be the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Literature in Translation database. It doesn’t provide full coverage – you will find some translations missing – but it is pretty darn good.

Allison Markin Powell maintains a database called Japanese Literature in English. It is definitely worth your time to check both the Japan Foundation database as well as Powell’s.

David Boyd pointed me to the 3% Database, which used to be housed at the University of Rochester and maintained by Chad Post is now available through Publishers Weekly. Translation Database . One unique feature of this database is that you can search by the gender of both the author and the translator.

For the purposes of aspiring translators, rather than student assignments, David Boyd kindly pointed out another excellent source of information from Japan Foundation – an annual list of which books were awarded translation and/or publication funding support. I hadn’t realized that this source of information was so useful, but it really is and it is worth checking all the regions because some really good English translations are coming out from all kinds of countries. Support Program for Translation and Publication on Japan

JE Literary Translators on Twitter

I am currently working on a library guide for Japanese language learners who are interested in becoming translators. There is so much information out there in interviews, podcasts, tweets, and articles that it can be overwhelming. But the more I read and talk with people earning a living as translators, there are certain patterns that begin to emerge and that makes it easier to compile a library guide to help them get started.

My interest in this area is natural as a librarian. People want to read Japanese literature in translation and if they are also learning Japanese some will want to try their own hand at translation. Most Japanese language and literature programs include courses on translation theory and in the upper level language courses students are given the opportunity/assignment to try their own hand at translation. Some programs even include practicums where students have the opportunity to really work on their translations and receive feedback and mentoring.

But one of the areas that I didn’t see being covered in detail in these courses was about the business end of translating. Do you start with a full translation and then approach publishers? Can you submit a CV to a publisher and get freelance translation jobs? How does one get permission to translate a particular text, how do you contact the copyright holder or publisher and what kinds of language do you use to make a good impression and accomplish your task. How does one become a professional translator?

I was not prepared to answer any of these questions. I’m a librarian and a reader, not a translator nor a publisher. My initial concerns were about copyright and not violating copyright by naive and overenthusiastic translators. And so, I knew just enough to let people know that they can’t “publish” translations without permissions, but I didn’t know enough how to guide them through the process of actually getting permission and seeing their translation in print. Questions from students about how to become professional translators was even further from my wheelhouse, but I could at least point them in the direction of professional translators if I could find a way to do it without inconveniencing the professionals. And that is how this journey started.

I started out by following a number of active translators on Twitter. This was fabulous for me, and I highly recommend it for interested students as well. So easy to follow, pick up information, and not inconvenience anyone. Here is a brief list of some of the translators I have been following:

  • Emily Balistieri @tiger
  • Jocelyne Allen @brainsvbook
  • Polly Barton @pollyfmbarton
  • Louise Heal Kawai @quietmoonwave17
  • Morgan Giles @wrongsreversed
  • Lucy North @japanonmymind
  • Alison Watts @sashikolady
  • Takami Nieda @TNieda
  • Avery Udegawa @AveryUdegawa
  • Kathryn Hemmann @kathrynthehuman
By following these translators, as well as seeing who they follow, I can learn more about talks, competitions, and upcoming publications.

Chrome extension for Netflix!

This may be a game changer for a number of people who want to learn more Japanese through anime and film.

Scott Wilson, a UMass Amherst alum who majored in Japanese, reported on the new extension in an article in Sora News 24. He walked through the process of setting up the options and provided screen shots. Being able to read Japanese closed caption with romaji or furigana, option of dictionary lookups, and ability to turn on and off translation is amazing. Scott is right, it is almost too easy:) https://soranews24.com/2020/01/12/free-language-learning-with-netflix-extension-makes-studying-japanese-almost-too-easy

His article is really making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, garnering all kinds of excitement. Some people just want to watch Terrace House, while others are thinking about the Japanese films that they can watch/read. Keep in mind that there are errors. I was watching one where the text said 酒 and the reading provided for it was shu but the actor said “sake”. Since you can read, listen, and watch all at the same time, if something weird pops up you can pause the video and double-check. I can’t think of a better way for language learners to add in L2 reading during down time.

Once you download the free extension for Chrome (Language Learning with Netflix) you can also click the link to see recommended programs for your target language (in this case Japanese) and your country of residence (in this case United States). There are 82 listed for me, including a number of series/movies that I have watched in the past. A good mix between anime, series, and movies. Plenty to keep me busy and it is nice to have a quick list to look at rather than browsing all the possibilities (although I will do that as well).

The catalog currently includes 82 titles for Japanese drama/anime/movies that work well with LLN, but there are many more than that in Netflix. For the LLN extension to work correctly (for Japanese language learning), Japanese subtitles need to be an option in Netflix for that title. For example, I checked a Japanese anime A Silent Voice. It has the option of English or Japanese audio, and a number of different languages for subtitles but Japanese is not one of them. So, the first thing you need to check is the Netflix audio/subtitle options.

Giri/Haji is an example where the audio is English (original) but a number of the conversations are in Japanese. Set the subtitles to Japanese on the Netflix side. That will give you the Japanese text (with lookup info). But even if you turn on the Translation language and Display Human translation on the LLN side, it doesn’t work. This would be why this title doesn’t come up on the recommended Japanese list in the catalog. But, it does work for my purposes.

As I play with it, I am coming across things I think I should document so I can save time recreating my steps later. If it is a Netflix Japanese original film and the subtitle option is Japanese (cc) sometimes you will need to turn off the LLN option or nothing appears. That means that you won’t get furigana or the pop-up dictionary options. Other times it works – like Terrace House.

One of the tweaks that I made to my own setup for Japanese is that I chose hiragana rather than romaji for furigana and I turned off the English “human translation” so that I wasn’t tempted to cheat and read the English. Depending on the video, I can easily turn it back on.

ムック mooks

A mook is a morph of a magazine+book. Mooks get ISBN but they also sometimes get ISSN as well. It gives librarians the opportunity to add them to their collections as a magazine or do subject analysis on each one like a book.

For readers interested in science, a well known publisher/title is Newton. In addition to Newton magazines, it also publishes a kind of kind of mook, also called a bessatsu 別冊. These have ISBNs, generally around 170 pages and are on particular topics. Within this category is Newton Light Newton ライト.

Newtonライト2.0 is the most recent version – less text, and more images intended to appeal to people who want to spend less time reading but still get the content. There is no furigana included in the text, so readers would need to be reading at a Japanese high school level to read comfortably.

According to Wikipedia in Japan there is a whole category of (ブランドブック) brand mook. Indeed when I did a search I came up with all kinds of them, particularly for fashion brands. These are not cheap but they could be used by someone doing research on a particular company. Not what I would necessarily buy for my collection or recommend to students, except when I have students working on a particular band, comic book or video game. These are often called “fan books” and can be a very useful source of information for a student wanting to do an undergraduate paper on the topic.

I have also added mook that were from food/cooking magazines, not so much for the reading content but who doesn’t love to see pretty pictures of ramen or Japanese pickles. And learning how to make them from the recipes is a bonus.

If you are looking for more literary mooks, Bungei Shunju, Taiyō, NHK all have them and I have used a number of them. Again, most come from a magazine and are issued as an extra editon or supplement. Probably the best known is 別冊太陽 Bessatsu Taiyō, which has been published since 1973 as a deluxe version of the Taiyo issues. These really are fabulous for senior theses on a range of topics, from Chibi Maruko-chan to Hiroshige.

Another interesting variation I have seen is from Kadokawa. Kadokawa has lots of brand mook, but there are also tanka nenkan and haiku nenkan. Kwai magazine also publishes mook for special issues of the magazine 怪 (rendered kwai) like this one of interviews.

別冊文藝春秋 Bessatsu Bungei Shunjū is itself a magazine, so it is a bit misleading. Instead the label is 文春ムック bunshun mukku.These mook tend to come from Bunshun magazine rather than Bungei Shunju. Red herring altogether. Never mind.

新書 Shinsho and their value to L2 readers

Shinsho 新書 are an amazing resource for people who are looking to gain a generalist’s knowledge of a particular topic. The regular shinsho are written at a level that a high school graduate can read and understand. The prices of shinsho are entirely reasonable (currently 600-900 yen) and pocket-sized so they are light and convenient to carry around and read at opportune moments. They tend to be about 200 pages long, so while it is a significant commitment of time, it is not overwhelming.

I love shinsho and would highly recommend that grad students look for a shinsho or a nyūmonsho 入門書 on their topic before they turn to scholarly writings. When I visited Japanese university libraries, most had collections of shinsho shelved by their labels (publishers and series) on open browsing shelves. I have always wanted to do the same, but instead I have been carefully choosing shinsho on the topics covered by our faculty and hope that they don’t get lost in the stacks.

Now though, there are junior shinsho ジュニア新書 that are aimed at middle school and high school students. These are really perfect for students who are working towards N2 or building up vocabulary and fluency for N1. I will be adding a number of these to my READ Japanese collection. I just need to do a little more work to figure out what level (in my collection, it would likely be level 6 or 7)

Last summer I visited a special exhibit on shinsho for kids held at the Chiyoda Library. The list of titles exhibited was long and substantial, and I felt like my interest in shinsho was validated.

Here are possibly the two best labels for junior/senior high school shinsho:

岩波ジュニア新書
Iwanami’s Junior shinsho was probably the first one to appear on the market, starting in 1979. There are now about a thousand volumes, so plenty to choose from to build a small collection of reading materials for upper level Japanese readers who aren’t quite ready for the regular research collection.

ちくまプリマー新書
Purimā shinsho is a much much newer series, but I saw a lot of titles that I thought would be appealing to students (and myself). In particular, I see books in this series by Yoshimoto Banana and Ogawa Yōko.

This article provides a good overview of why Japanese middle/high school students should try reading shinsho.

Kindle Unlimited’s options for reading Japanese

Once I started on my quest for combining audio with text, I also started to explore Kindle to see if there was much there that would be useful to me or others trying to gain fluency in Japanese.

In a perfect world I would have access to the Kindle Japan store, but I don’t have the Japanese address to allow that. So I am limited to the American Kindle. I found some stuff that I enjoyed reading, and was interested to see how many of the simple books were written either as bilingual books or written in Japanese by non-Japanese. In either case the sentence patterns are simple and straight forward, which makes for easy reading.

I think my favorite is はらまきぱんだ。It is very similar to ゆうたくんちのいばりいぬ。Very simple illustrations (comic-like) and one sentence per page. There is considerable repetition as well, so super easy for a beginning reader to follow. It seems to be a Line Stamp character. I found 2 volumes available through Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed them.

I also read そふとそぼ, which is a comic about a grandfather and grandmother. It is basically a 4-panel comic with a lot of old people humor. Because it is a comic, it has handwriting rather than type font, but still pretty easy to read.

If you are looking for a thoughtful essay, 読書する人生 was about 40 pages. It is written in clear Japanese and would be good for someone who is reading about an N2 level. I used the lookup feature to checking the readings of kanji that I recognized but forgot how to read.

Using the search function is really hit or miss – mostly miss. But if you click on Categories and then Foreign Languages, you can drill down to Japanese. There is a lot of porn. But there is also a list of categories you can select from within the Japanese language. 8749 titles in the Childrens ebooks category, including Japanese translations of Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland and other well known stories. You will also find porn here (someone has tagged photographic collections of girls as children’s ebooks) as well as all kinds of weird stuff. Be aware, books are clearly not identified the way I would like them.

Having said that, I found a lot of books I would enjoy reading. I have started adding them to my list (Kindle Unlimited allows up to 10 books at a time).

Informational picture books

I feel like the genre of informational picture books deserves a great deal more attention. When the Japanese educational system finally started supporting independent research projects as opposed to making students regurgitate facts learned in school textbooks, a new genre developed called 総合学習図書(そうごうがくしゅうとしょ), 調べ学習図書(しらべがくしゅうとしょ),学習絵本(がくしゅうえほん)or even 知識の本(ちしきのほん). The beauty of these books is that they are short like picture books (generally 40-60 pages), fully annotated with furigana, and include photographs or images of primary source materials. I have had a lot of luck recommending them to students working on senior theses or independent projects. Many of them are listed as appropriate for mid-elementary school or higher.

I have collected a number of series that can be used to either supplement readings in Tobira or at a higher level. We have also used them in Japanese literature in translation classes to give students visuals to accompany their readings.

絵で読む日本の古典(全5巻) is leveled at 小学高学年 and includes Taketori monogatari, Genji monogatari, Heike monogatari, Makura no soshi, Tsurezuregusa, and Oku no hosomichi.

調べ学習日本の歴史 is published by Poplar. There are at least 14 volumes in this set. Another set that gets used is

調べ学習に役立つ図解日本の歴史 is an older series published by Akane Shobo that is very useful for providing students with the vocabulary, maps, and images used in Japanese. As I look at the offerings at Akane Shobo, I see that many of the newer titles now have 写真で読み解く(しゃしんでよみとく I see some really good ones including language studies, social conditions, history, etc.

What I am differentiating between is お話絵本 and 知識絵本. Here are some examples of informational picture books that I think could easily be incorporated into 3rd or 4th year classes or independent reading. A number of them are reference books and not something that most people would read like a comic, but for students who are building their vocabulary in a particular field, super effective.

福音館書店 Fukuinkan Shoten published a soft-cover monthly book/magazine called 月間たくさんのふしぎ Gekkan Takusan no fushigi that is science-oriented or nonfiction. The monthly publication doesn’t have an ISBN. Many of the titles are also published in hardcover if they are popular under the series たくさんのふしぎ傑作集 Takusan no fushigi kessakushū. The reading level is listed as 小学中学年 and up, so it really is a perfect reading level for students interesting in reading nonfiction. The category listed is: かがく絵本・図鑑 (science picture books, zukan)

Examples of titles that I have purchased for my collection include: わたしが外人だったころ Watashi ga gaijin datta koro, which is the autobiography of the famous Japanese historian and philosopher Tsurumi Shunsuke, graduate of Harvard who was deported from the United States in 1942 along with a number of other Japanese nationals living in the US at the time.

和菓子のほん Wagashi no hon is a zukan. That means that there can be a lot of informational text to accompany the images. A student could, of course, just look at the pictures, but most are also interested in the text. In the beginning I gave these lower reading levels, but students asked me to reassess and so I have.