The first English translations of these giants of Japanese literature | Culture

For the first time in history, we are pleased to share translations of some of Japan’s greatest literary works. Finally entering English media, we have compiled plays written by renowned Japanese authors with original aptitude in their writing.

Kenji Miyazawa
Kenji Miyazawa was a writer of fairy tales infusing mystery and magic into almost all of his writing. Overall though, the “fairy tale” tag doesn’t quite reflect her work. One of Miyazawa’s famous works, “Zashiki Bokko no Hanashi” (Tales of the Zashiki Children) published in 1926 is now translated here. “Zashiki Bokko no Hanashi” is a collection of short vignettes that transform local lore about Zashiki Warashi, or “guest room children,” into a series of precise and disturbing incidents. Miyazawa is precise in the lyrical composition of whimsical, fantastical and frightening children’s stories which occupy a unique position among the worlds of children’s literature, fable and fairy tale. Sometimes there is a clear moral. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes it becomes lyrical and poetic. Other times he describes simple mishaps and misunderstandings. And despite how steeped Miyazawa was in the settings and traditions of northern Japan, his stories also transcend the label of “local” or “Japanese.”

Read the very first English translation of “Zashiki Bokko no Hanashi” here

Osamu Dazai
Osamu Dazai (1909-1948) is one of the most famous authors of Japanese literature. Dazai had a troubled life and struggled to gain an audience, but his writing is defined as relentless self-examination and constant estrangement. “A, Autumn” translated hereis a remarkable and poetic short story about autumn, written in 1939 where readers get to see Dazai’s poetic process up close as feelings and thoughts about autumn inspire random, almost absurd and overwhelmingly dark poetic riffs Dazai ponders and then ruminates on. Translated here

Read the very first English translation of “A, Autumn”, here

Kanoko Okamoto
Kanoko Okamoto (1889-1939) caused a sensation in his time. From joining Japan’s most elite avant-garde literary circle to becoming a feminist writer, Okamoto has been recognized as a leading scholar. As a writer of lavish poetic talent and bold reputation, Okamoto was unmatched by few other authors of the Taisho and Showa eras. His work May morning flowers captures its romanticism and lush poetic flair; and A twisted postureis an astute self-reflection on his own romanticism, set against the backdrop of a rapidly modernizing Japanese society of the 1920s and 1930s.

Read the very first English translation of “May Morning Flowers” and “A Crooked Posture” here

Kafu Nagai
Kafu Nagai is one of the great chroniclers of life in Tokyo at the start of the 20th century, but very few of his works have been translated into English. Translated here, the 1922 short story “Rainy Spring Night” merges the restrained minimalism of Ernest Hemingway and the family drama of Raymond Carver. The silence says a lot about this lonely spring night. Many traditional Japanese poems associate spring with rebirth, awakening, clarity, calm. Nagai disrupts tradition. Flowers may bloom just outside the rain-shuttered doors of the lonely mansion, but the old couple inside cannot escape the death and loss that surrounds them, confronting a rapidly changing society. As Nagai does throughout his larger catalog, he shines a light on those left behind.

Read the very first English translation of “Rainy Spring Night” here