Musicality and Onomatopoeia Use in Miyazawa Kenji's Short Stories

By Nicolae, Raluca | Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Musicality and Onomatopoeia Use in Miyazawa Kenji's Short Stories


Nicolae, Raluca, Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations


ABSTRACT. Although in Romania little is known about Miyazawa Kenji - a late 19th century Japanese writer - and his works, an attempt to translate his short stories sheds light on his literary style as well as on his poetic use of words. In Japanese language, onomatopoeia are employed in almost all fields and they are not perceived as "baby-talk" as they are in Romanian or English language. In a thorough research, Hiroko Inose (2007) identified nine methods of translation for the Japanese onomatopoeia: (1) translation using adverbs; (2) translation using adjectives; (3) translation using verbs; (4) translation using nouns; (5) translation using explicative paraphrases; (6) translation using idioms; (7) translation using onomatopoeic expressions; (8) translation using two adjectives, or combination of adverbs, adjectives or verbs; (9) no translation (omission or complete change of the phrase). In addition to all these, another option would be leaving the Japanese onomatopoeia untranslated in the text so as to preserve the flavor of the source language. Nevertheless, this method could apply only to giseigo (sound imitating words), but not to gitaigo (non-audible states and actions expressed by sounds). The use of onomatopoeic words in Miyazawa Kenji's works is not a singular phenomenon, but what seems to be unique is the writer's ability to coin mimetics such as: ton-ten-ton, pos-shan-ton, pik-kari-ko etc.

Keywords: onomatopoeia; Japanese; literature; Miyazawa Kenji; translation

Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933) was bom in a period in which dust of the past days had been stirred by the gusts of modernization in Hanamaki, a small town in Iwate prefecture, northeastern Japan. In spite of his short life, he was a poet, a children's story writer, as well as a religious thinker, a teacher, farmer and social reformer. His literary works received little attention during his lifetime and only two books were published before his death: a collection of children's tales entitled The Restaurant of Many Orders and a poetry book, Spring and Ashura. The remainder of the great number of children's stories and poems that he left behind was edited and published only posthumously, after which the richness and depth of his art finally gained wide recognition.1

His extravagant style and peculiar cosmos place Miyazawa in a unique category in Japanese literature. In 1996, people all over Japan celebrated one-hundredth anniversary of Kenji's birth. A lot of books, TV programs and several movies marked the increase of popularity in Miyazawa Kenji's works. In spite of the fact that Miyazawa Kenji has become one of the most widely read literary figures in Japan, he is still little known overseas.2

His major works include: Chümon no öi Ryöriten (The Restaurant of Many Orders); Haru to Shura (Spring and Asura); Gingatetsudö no Yoru (Night on the Galactic Railroad); Kaze no Matasaburö (The Wind Imp/ Matasaburo of the Wind); Sero-hiki no Göshu (Gorsch the Cellist) and others. Some of his works have also been translated into English:

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 1972. Winds from Afar (transi, by John Bester). Tokyo: Kodansha

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 1991. Night of the Milky Way Railroad, (transi, by Sara M. Strong). London: M.A. Sharpe Inc

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 1994. Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa (transi, by John Bester). Tokyo: Kodansha International

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 1996. The Milky Way Railroad (transi, by Joseph Sigrist and D. M. Stroud). Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 1999. The Tales of Miyazawa Kenji (Kodansha Bilingual Books, English and Japanese Edition) (transi, by John Bester). Tokyo: Kodansha International

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 2005. Ten Japanese Stories for Children (transi, by P. A. George). New Delhi: Northern Book Center, 2005

* Miyazawa, Kenji. 2007. Miyazawa Kenji Selections (transi, by Gary Snyder; Hiroaki Sato). Berkeley: University of California Press etc.

There are also unpublished translations available on the internet, such as the translations provided by Derek Petrarca in his M. …

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