American poet Arthur Binard collaborated with famous anime artist Koji Yamamura to bring to life a famous work of Kenji Miyazawa in the English language. The 46-year old American, who currently resides in Itabashi Ward in Tokyo, worked with the 49-year old Japanese illustrator to render an English version of Kenji Mizayawa’s popular work Rain Won’t.
Binard was born in Michigan and fell in love with poetry in high school, which prompted him to take up English literature in college. While at university, he learned about Chinese poetry and took a liking to the composition of Chinese ideograms. His interest in Chinese branched out to the Japanese language and in 1990, Binard went to Japan. While taking language lessons in a Japanese school, he first heard about “Rain Won’t.” Binard “was won over by words and sounds that had an enormous power.”
Translating the work in English was not easy, and it took Binard two years to render the whole thing in the foreign language. He was careful in using English expressions so as not to change the meaning of the poem. At one time, Binard repeated the same verb twice in a line such as, “In days of drought, I’d weep, just weep,” to present the devastating effect of drought to rice, which is a staple of Japanese food. He hopes that his translation “could give Japanese a new angle of view.” When it came to Yamamura’s illustration, he requested the artist to depict a different word that is outside the mood of Kenji’s piece. By using aqueous ink and colored pencils, and adding drawings such as owls and dragonflies in a rural setting that was not originally included in Kenji’s work, Yamamura met the request of the poet and created another world for the Japanese literary piece.
Binard’s take on Kenji’s piece is a description of how one fulfills his role in a society and culture that is limited by the nature of its surroundings. He believes that no secret moralistic messages are hidden in the piece, such as “don’t give up” or “dedicate yourself to others.” He said, “I hope the book will lead its readers to look back on their present selves and reflect if today’s Japan is any richer than the universe of Kenji’s piece.”
[via Asahi Shimbun]