Saturday, 7 May 2011

Translators' Note

This book was first published in Japanese in 1986. The translation is based on the revised edition, to which a
postscript by Aya's mother was added. Most of the original diary dates were excluded during editing, so we have added the years for each chapter to give some idea of the passage of time.
To express familiarity or respect, the Japanese often add suffixes to names. Aya used many in her diary. Where it seemed appropriate, we decided to retain them in the translation. For example, Aya refers to most of her girlfriends by adding the suffix '-chan' to the first letter of their given name ('A-chan') or the first Japanese syllable ('Satchan'). In the few places where she uses the full given name, we have removed the suffix ('Emi').With boys, she usually adds the suffix '-kun' ('T-kun').
The common Japanese suffix '-san', which is generally used for adults, is somewhat vague because it can refer to both sexes, rather like 'Dr.' in English. In some cases, it is not clear whether Aya was referring to a man or
a woman (and in a few cases, students), so we decided to retain it. The same is true of the polite suffix
'-sensei', which basically means 'teacher' but is also used for doctors and other people of authority. Aya
generally referred to her school teachers by adding '-sensei' to their surname ('Inamoto-sensei') or to the first
letter of their surname ('I-sensei'). In one case, she used the full given name of a female teacher
('Motoko-sensei'). Aya also used '-sensei' to refer to her doctors, but it seemed more sensible in English to
translate that as 'Dr.' to distinguish them from her teachers.
In the case of her first caregiver, Aya referred to her by name; she affectionately used the term for an elderly
lady, 'Obachan', which literally means 'granny.' We decided to translate this as 'little old lady'. Aya also
used the suffix '-obachan', which is used for middle-aged-woman.
Another cause of translation problems is the Japanese convention of referring to siblings by their age relative
to the speaker rather than by using their name. For example, 'imoto' means 'younger sister' and 'ototo' means
'younger brother,' and you can refer to your elder sister as 'one-san' or 'ne-chan'. This convention is not
used so much in English, especially when talking directly to one of your siblings. In written Japanese, it is
often easier to write the one character for 'imoto', for example, than writing out your sister's name. This is
somewhat confusing in Aya's case because she had two younger sisters and two younger brothers, and it is not always clear which one she was referring to. In a few diary entries she does use her sisters' names, but neither Aya nor her mother ever refer to her two brothers by name. As far as possible, we have determined which brother or sister was being referred to and followed the English convention of using their names.
When Dr. Yamamoto first met the 14-year-old Aya, she called her 'Aya-chan.' To suggest the affection inherent in that form of address, which her doctors and nurses continued to use even when Aya was in her twenties, we decided to translate it as 'Little Aya.'
The text includes expressions in Aya's local Aichi Prefecture dialect, but we have not attempted to duplicate
them in English.

Yoko Toyozaki
Stuart Varnam-Atkin

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