SCBWI Tokyo interviews Cathy Hirano

Alexander O. Smith interviews Cathy Hirano on behalf of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Tokyo Translation Group) on her experience translating Dragon Sword and Wind Child and Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince:

“Ogiwara’s battle scenes…convey the emotional intensity of the moment but the smaller details are rather blurred, as if viewed through the subjective lens of a particular character’s mind. At one crucial point, for example, I knew that the heroine, Toko, had stabbed someone but it wasn’t until I tried to translate that part that I realized this fact is not actually stated. Her intent to stab him and subsequently the fact that a knife is protruding from the person’s side are there but not the act itself. In Japanese, readers easily connect these dots but in English, they don’t. So as the translator I had to decide when this act actually takes place and how to convey it without losing the tone.”

Read the full interview here:
Catching Up with Cathy Hirano (SCBWI Tokyo Translation Group)


  1. Page 34 (English version). The unknown guy is referred to as the prince. Spoiler much? I stopped reading, started looking around on the internet for an explanation and stumbled upon this site. Now I read the translator adds text because she thinks we “won’t connect the dots”. That’s an insult. No, seriously. No doubt about it. It’s an insult. I actually paid for this but this is not the reason why I bought a translated Japanese book. I was curious to see how different the writing style is (for example: going from ‘intent to kill’ to ‘knife protruding’). But no… the translator thought I was too dumb for that so she started adding text, effectively ruining the original form of the book. Great. I’m totally disappointed. Translators should translate. That’s what they’re paid for. Not dumbing things down because they think they know how smart (or dumb) English-reading people are. Really really really disappointed.

  2. You misunderstand Anonymous. The translator is not adding new information that’s imparted onto the reader in an effort to aid English-speaking readers. She’s reworking sentences to retain the same information imparted onto the reader as is contained in the original text. You see, translation from Japanese to English and from a Japanese speaking to English speaking audience, and I would recon between any two substantially different languages, is closer to an art form than a science. Words can easily be quantitated and manipulated, but imparted information cannot be. A reading of that sequence of events in Japanese imparts different information than a reading in English would. It’s not the job of a good translator to lifelessly republish words, but rather to preserve and delicately recreate information.

Leave a Reply