Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aug. 20 weekend

The whole past week was kind of an up and down thing. Obon Matsuri (Summer vacation) ran from the 11th to the 17th, but I had to work on the 11th to make up for missed English classes due to the non-typhoon the week earlier. I had planned to do a variety of things during the remaining break, including some long walks and one or two photo sessions outside, but instead ended up stuck in the apartment most of the time. I still made use of the opportunity to read many of the books I received for my birthday, and writing up almost a month's worth of blog entries and reviews. Obon officially ended on last Thursday, but a lot of people took one-two extra days of vacation to travel longer. In my case, I had 3 classes in the afternoon on Friday, with nothing much else going on, and another three on Saturday. Saturday was a different case, in that a JAXA rocket launch that had been postponed a few days earlier was rescheduled for 2:29 PM. The downside was that I had a class from 2 to 2:50 PM. The upside was that the owner of the school was willing to let me continue the lesson outside at the top of the building's stairwell. The problem was that I'd thought that the owner and the other teacher were going to go up to the roof as well, and when the clock hit 2:30 and they hadn't said anything, me and my student went upstairs by ourselves, only to discover that we'd missed the launch by a couple minutes. There was just a smoke trail in the sky. But, this is the closest I've gotten to seeing a launch in the last 6 years and now I at least know what direction to face next time. Sigh.

The main event, though, was the big Kagoshima summer fireworks display down at Dolphin Port, Saturday evening from 7:30 to 8:45. This year I didn't have evening classes, and I could have an early dinner so I got out of the apartment to go down to the bay at 7:10. From past years, I knew that Dolphin Port would be packed, and that the top of the Shiroyama hill would be too far away to see the fireworks properly, so I was thinking that I'd try visiting what I considered to be a "secret" viewing area a few blocks north of the aquarium. I'd discovered this area two years ago when I shot my time lapse video of the volcano. You have to walk along the main street north from the aquarium until you reach a hill with a street running 4 blocks down to the bay again. At the end of the street is a senior community center, and baseball and soccer fields. It's also where Saint Francis Xavier is reported to have landed at Kagoshima in 1545. That was the plan. However, as I was walking through Tenmonkan, I encountered one of the people I know here, and he decided that he had to guide me to the park in front of City Hall to show me the fireworks himself. The City Hall park is a long wide boulevard, lined with tall buildings. My guide sat down about a third of the way along the boulevard, and we waited. There weren't that many people, and the fireworks was fun to watch, coupled with a sound system playing Also Sprach Zarathustra during part of the display, and a laser show during another part, but there were three fireworks launch sites at Sakurajima, and two of them were mostly blocked by the lines of buildings. Next year, I'll know better.

On Sunday, I went to the aquarium for the afternoon and had dinner at the Royal Host family restaurant near the apartment. So, I didn't get a chance to visit Amu Plaza to catch the last of the live music for Age paku. Oh well. At least I could watch the dolphins, seals and squid swimming in their tanks.

The next event is going to be the Yukata Matsuri, which was also rescheduled due to the typhoon on Aug. 5th. That's going to be this Saturday and Sunday (26th and 27th), in Tenmonkan. There's going to be a stage in front of the 7-11, but I can't find a schedule for live music (just a bingo game for giving away prizes on Sunday). I'll have to wait and see if I have any classes Saturday night again.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ajin, Bilingual, vol. 1 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used for review purposes only.
Image taken from the Kodansha page.)

Ajin, Bilingual, vol. 1, translated by Kou Ransom
Kodansha Publishing has joined the other Japanese manga publishers that have bilingual manga for teaching children English. I've seen English/Japanese Doraemon volumes recently, and I discovered bilingual copies of Urusei Yatsura in the Maruzen bookstore in Kagoshima shortly after I got here, 6 years ago, and there have been others. Right now, though, we have Ajin, AKA - Demi-Human, with Ko Ransom listed in the translation credits. Ko's name doesn't show up anywhere else in an search.

Before I start on this, I'd like to lay a little ground work. There's a professional translators association based in Tokyo, and they offer periodic workshops for members trying to get started in the industry. I took one of these workshops last Spring, and the main focus was on fine-tuning our translations (Japanese to English) to be natural-sounding, rather than literally accurate. The point being that clients want high-level translations without having to hire a separate native-checker to do rewrites and clean-up. I think a lot does depend on the client, because in the case of Japanese companies, there is a need for the translation to be relatively close to the original text to avoid the sense that the translator made a mistake. Regardless, the workshop taught that translations shouldn't feel like translations.

So, looking at the first few pages of Ajin, vol. 1, the very first thing that struck me was just how stiff and unnatural the English is. I won't quote the dialog here, or scan any of the pages, because I feel like I'm skating on thin ice in commenting on this kind of book, especially since Vertical (owned by Kodansha) has the U.S. rights to this title. Anyway, yes, the translation is pretty faithful to the original Japanese, so anyone trying to learn English is going to get a decent exposure to English vocabulary, but the sentence structure is very tortured. Working backwards, from English to Japanese, isn't very easy either, because the English text fills the word balloons (which haven't been re-laid out to allow for regular English sentence structures) and the original Japanese source text is crammed into the margins in a really small font, making it hard to read.

As an English teacher, I find it difficult to recommend these kinds of bilingual manga to students of either language, because of the above restrictions, and the 1,000 yen price tag ($10 USD with tax). That's well over 40% above the regular manga cover price. So, yeah, not recommended.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Big Dog

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

The Big Dog (Ookii Inu), by Sukeracko (2017), Grade: B+
There's almost no information on Sukeracko (spelled Sukerakko on Manga Updates) in English, and his/her main prior title is just Bon no Kuni. There's a little more information on their website, such as Sukeracko being an illustrator/manga artist living in Kyoto, but that's about it.

Ookii Inu is a collection of short stories that mostly ran in Itan magazine in 2014, but there are a couple older ones from 2013 from other publications. The artwork is very simple, with clean thin lines and cartoony characters. The stories are very gentle, and embrace the off-beat. The dialog is in casual Japanese with simple kanji, and is fairly easy to read. I do admit that I kind of skimmed over two of the chapters towards the end because they didn't really catch my attention. The rest of the book is good, though.

(Takada offers a fish sausage to the big dog, then wonders if it is lonely at night.)

Ookii Inu (The Big Dog)
Takada is a friendly salaryman that has learned how to speak to dogs. One day, his friend decides to go to India for a few months to study yoga, and he asks Takada to house sit for him. In reality, the guy only makes it to Okinawa, where he spends several months scuba diving and getting drunk. The guy lived in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same, and the only landmark is a big dog that lives nearby. A really BIG dog. Takada befriends the dog, brings it some small snacks, and decides to name it "Pero" for the sound it makes when snatching food out of the air. Takada gets talked into visiting his friend in Okinawa for a few days, and when he comes back, he wants to tell the dog about the new name, but it's nowhere to be seen anymore.

(Takara's grandfather prepares to go traveling with the other 6 Lucky Gods.)

Shichifukujin Tabe (The 7 Lucky Gods Go Traveling)
Takara (Treasure) is a young woman that broke up with her boyfriend, and the only person that consoled her was her grandfather. Now, her grandmother has died and Takara's grandfather announces that it's finally time for him to reunite with the other 6 of the 7 Japanese Lucky Gods and go on a trip again. He claims that they had ridden around on their boat for a long time together, but eventually split up and went their own ways. He asks Takara to help him get set up on the internet to track them down. Takara humors the old man, but pretty soon, it's clear that he's not crazy. One of the gods is a motorcycle fanatic, the other hangs out on Facebook all the time, and the two oldest gods just stay in their apartment and watch TV. When they're finally all reunited, they invite Takara to go with them, and her fear is that she's going to be taken to Heaven and the afterlife.

(Mikami is finally allowed to celebrate Christmas at home with her mother.)

Kurisumasu Mikami (Christmas Mikami)
Mikami is an office worker still living with her mother. It's now Christmas Eve, and Mikami runs out of the office to go buy Christmas cakes and presents to deliver to other people, like she's done every year after getting her current job. This time, she gets paired up with a guy working part time for the cake shop, Santa (literally "3 Fields"), who is dressed up as Santa. Mikami resents the disruption to her routine, but Santa stays out of her way and lets her buy up all the cakes and deliver them to her chosen recipients. Eventually, Santa gets Mikami to explain herself, and the woman says that when she was a child, she'd always wanted to celebrate Christmas, have a tree, exchange presents and eat Christmas cake, like all the other kids did, but her mother had never heard of Christmas and had no interest in these things. So, when Mikami got old enough, she started celebrating Christmas her own way in spite of her mother. Santa gets Mikami to act her feelings out loud, then tells her to say the same words to her mother. At the end of the night, Mikami goes home, tells her mother she wants to celebrate Christmas this year with a tree and Christmas foods. The older woman grudgingly agrees to the tree, and supplements her regular sushi with some Christmas chicken. Mikami thanks Santa, and promises next year that there will be presents. Meanwhile, Santa ends the season at home, eating Christmas cake alone in front of the TV.

(Sakura gets to see real tree blossoms for the first time.)

Ume * Momo * Sakura (Plum, Peach, Cherry)
Ume, Momo and Sakura are 3 brothers that have grown up together in the future. But, the Earth is dying, and humankind has found another planet to move to - Toui-sei (lit. "Distant Planet"). Ume and Momo decide to move to Toui, but Sakura refuses to leave their father behind. The old man has a few trees growing in the backyard of the house, where his wife was buried after she died. He's going to stay there for the rest of his life, with the memory of his wife, and he tells Sakura to move to Toui, too. Sakura refuses, and spends his days working at a parcel delivery service that ships packages to Toui (3 years one-way). Unfortunately, the ground is dying, as are the trees in the backyard, and people keep leaving Earth, so days will go by with no customers at the shop. One day, about 6 years after Ume and Momo left, Sakura is at the shop with his boss, when a huge typhoon hits land with hurricane-force winds. Sakura runs out of the shop and heads for home. He finds his father in the backyard, trying to protect the trees, and has to drag the old man into the safety of the house. A few minutes later, the trees come crashing down. A couple of days after that, Sakura himself gets a package from Touei - it's a glass case filled with cuttings from a cherry tree. His father sees this, and finally agrees that he will go with Sakura to Toui, with the approval of his wife's spirit.

(Asai decides to get drunk at home, only to have Ton pass out on their front steps.)

Kare no Tomodachi (His Friend)
This is one of the chapters I skipped over. A woman, Asai, is friends with a guy named Ton. The story revolves around her constantly reframing what the word "friend" means and who it refers to.

(The big eat-off comes to a peak.)

Hourai-kun (Mr. Hourai)
This is the other one I skipped. An older woman works in a soup kitchen, and ends up in a cooking contest against a kitsune (fox) named Hourai (Hourai only likes eating fried tofu skins). He tries to mess with the old woman during the contest, until his daughter snaps at him (she hates having to eat the same thing - fried tofu skins - all the time).

(Poro offers his hat to Pero.)

Chiisaii Inu (The Small Dog)
We're back with Takada from the first chapter. This time, the main character is Poro, a tiny chihuahua owned by the guy that had gone to Okinawa. We see the world through Poro's eyes, and his main concerns are eating, going outside for walkies, getting intimidated by a doberman, and talking with Takada in dog speak. One day, they head down to the beach and run into Pero (Pero didn't really disappear, he just wanted to go for a walk. He did come back some weeks later). Initially, Poro suffers from overwhelming shyness and embarrassment over having to wear a cute little hat. He overcompensates and impulsively bites Pero on the paw. After returning home, he crawls into a corner and hopes to die. But, his owner coaxes him out of the house, and they go with Takada to the beach. But, Pero is just waking up from a nap and, while still half-asleep, mistakes Poro for a snack and eats him. Poro comes to, thinking that the inside of a stomach is comfortably warm, then realizes that he's riding on top of Pero's head, well above the tops of all the nearby houses. Poro likes being able to look down on the doberman, and he apologizes for biting Pero. They become friends.

Summary: As mentioned above, these are gentle, off-beat stories with happy endings. The artwork is simple, but the characterizations are good. Recommended.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

TV Crew

Tenmokan is the biggest shopping district in the city, it's centrally located, with the tram line running through the middle, and there's usually a lot of people out shopping. So, it makes for a natural location for TV crews to shoot filler footage of crowds and occasionally interview people. I haven't seen that many interviews in-progress in the 6 years I've been here, but it does happen sometimes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Near-Full Moon, June 11

(I'm catching up on my backlog.)
Another rare clear night a couple months ago. Tried taking photos with the pocket camera. This is the only one that turned out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back Clock

I found this interesting. Why would anyone want a clock designed to be backwards?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Good Cut

Maybe not great, but at least good.
Goodbye July.