A quick photo from California

We went back to the ancestral homeland (well, mine, anyway) for about 10 days of fun, burritos, and respite from Tokyo’s summer weather. Great times. Here’s the girl at China Camp, on the bay in Marin County. (Click through to see it on Flickr.)

Seaside shack at China Camp, closed on Tuesdays

Wanna Translate a Book?

The money involved in this project is not at all in line with the effort it will involve, but there might be someone out there who wants to get his or her name on a published translation and has the free time to make it happen. Forwarded from the JAT mailing list:

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A book project, Easy Subjects, seeks a native American-English translator for a Japanese novel, Hishoku by Sawako Ariyoshi. This position is ideal for translators who are in the beginning stage of their career and wish to publish his/her own work. Graduate students are also considered.

The novel Hishoku was published in Japan in 1967. Ideally the translator would be able to convey the defiant voice of the protagonist who is keenly and theoretically critical of the US racial hierarchy in the 1950s, and also be able to delineate the different voices of the characters who are from multiple class, racial, and cultural groups in New York City. Finally the translator must be able to convey the literary voice and craft of Sawako Ariyoshi in this particular novel. The translation of this novel will be included in a book entitled Easy Subjects. This book deploys postcolonial gender studies and cultural studies to critique the US academia’s attachment to female minority subjects. The copyright of the book has already been secured.

The translation will be published by an academic press as part of the book. The novel translation will be one of the chapters. If the translator wishes, the book can also include the translator’s note or comments following the novel.

The translator is rewarded with a total stipend of US $2,000. The translator will receive $1,000 at the time of completion and submission of the translation manuscript, and $1,000 at the time of the book publication.

Timeline: The manuscript must be completed by the winter of 2014. Selection of the translator will be made by May 2014.

Selection process: Send your CV and contact information with a short sample of your work (no longer than 5 pages, preferably with the original Japanese manuscript) if you have any, to Dr. Yurika Tamura via email: yurika.tamura@rice.edu by April 10, 2014. The detail of the project and publication with a sample page of the novel (2–3 pages) will then be sent to suitable candidates. After a review of the sample work, selected candidates will be contacted for a Skype interview and notified of the result of selection.

Should you have any inquiry, contact Dr. Tamura (yurika.tamura@rice.edu) via email.

Random Wednesday Journalism Rant

I’m fascinated by the disappearance of the Malaysian airplane. All this communications technology onboard the thing, and nobody has been able to use that to pinpoint the place where we can find it now. So strange. Such fertile ground for talk of terror, or war, or other exciting reasons for 200+ people to vanish from the sky in their flying metal tube.

This was refreshing to read, though. From “Cutting Through the Bullshit Surrounding Flight MH370”:

Sprawling news organizations struggle to feed 24-hour news channels and constantly updated blogs with the meager rations available—each morsel is sniffed and inspected and toyed with hour after hour until every last drop of flavor has been extracted. And when the facts run out, you can always rely on the efforts of experts cum storytellers, who will be happy to spin yarns from the thinnest and most fragile of threads in exchange for a bit of exposure.

Such a great quote. A solid article, too, and worth reading in its whole. But it’s a shame that it had to come from a publication that not even a week ago also published this account of a visit to the town of Tomioka, six kilometers south of Fukushima Daiichi. Matsumura Naoto, one of the very few people still in the town, talks about the ongoing operation to remove fuel rods from a storage pool at the stricken nuclear plant:

“If they screw up, we’re all in big trouble. I imagine they’ll put the fuel in containers inside the pool and then pull those out. If they drop one of those and there’s a leak, then everyone here’ll be dead from radiation exposure”

Everyone. Dead. Now this is just a quote from a justifiable angry local resident, so I cannot come down hard on this guy for what he has to say. But Vice, on the other hand, lets us know where the death could come from: “One of the dangers of a broken fuel rod at this point would be a very sudden release of krypton-85, a cancer-causing isotope in the local vicinity.” 85Kr is a beta emitter with a half-life of about 10.8 years. Scary stuff to be sure, but the article doesn’t provide the details of how it is going to travel the six kilometers to Tomioka to kill all the residents.

Or, for that matter, the details on how they have managed to survive so far. Numbers listed in this Wikipedia article state that 180 PBq of 85Kr made its way into the global atmosphere from warhead tests last century, and another 180 PBq or so from Chernobyl. Totally vaporizing every single fuel rod at Fukushima Daiichi and blowing that into the air would probably add a similar amount once again. This is not the likely outcome of “a broken fuel rod,” though.

Tomioka lost 256 residents to the quake and tsunami—1.6% of the town’s population. No word yet on how many Tomioka people have succumbed to radiation poisoning. But I don’t think Vice will be reporting on that anytime soon.

Ise Shrine, Racism, and Reporting

The former president of Akafuku, a traditional Japanese confectioner that sells its goods in the Okage Yokochō shopping area adjacent to Ise Shrine, apparently doesn’t seem to want foreigners coming around the place. According to this article, Hamada Masutane stated at a November 26 forum held in the city of Tsu: 

“I don’t want to see foreigners coming into Okage Yokochō. It’d be strange to see them there, don’t you think? I’m aware that we can’t come out and say ‘don’t come here,’ but we shouldn’t be posting signs in English and the like to make things more welcoming for them.” 

When interviewed by the Mainichi Shimbun and asked to clarify his remarks, he said: 

“Ise is the spiritual homeland of the Japanese people, and I want to make it a place pleasing to the people of Japan—this is what I was saying. It wasn’t discrimination against foreigners.” 

Hamada headed Akafuku until October 2007, when he stepped down as chairman following a food labeling scandal. (In local media reports soon after that he was quoted as saying that this was a temporary state of affairs: that he intended to keep his grip on power behind the scenes, set up lots of subsidiaries, and make his way back to the top office eventually.) He’s now president of a smaller company affiliated with Akafuku, and he has given the post of “special worshipper”—the 特別奉拝者 (tokubetsu hōhaisha) invited by the shrine authorities to take part in the Shikinen Sengū ceremony held every 20 years—to his son Noriyasu, currently president of Akafuku. 

So far the Western media coverage of Hamada’s statement has been kicked off by Martin Fackler’s tweet here:


He got the “no foreigners” part right, but it wasn’t the shrine that said it, and dogs don’t appear anywhere in the story he links to. But maybe 33% accuracy is the best we can ask for from him. 

The best we can ask for from Hamada, meanwhile, is to just go away already. It was his idea to build Okage Yokochō in the first place, and under his direction Akafuku invested some ¥14 billion to purchase the land and set up the shopping area in 1993, just in time for the last Shikinen Sengū event. (I’m assuming it was not under his direction that the company prepared an English-language website for all us non-Japanese folks.) The guy seems to see all this as a reason for him to offer iffy input on how the district should be managed today. Let’s hope the district ignores him and continues welcoming all visitors to one of the country’s most important shrines.