Today’s book is the ultra famous “Inai Inai Baa” book.  There’s an actual English version of it called, “Peek-A-Boo.”

We moved here to Fukushima City when my son was three, so I borrowed this book from our library in English and read it to him.  What cherished memories!


The Japanese version opens from right to left.  The English version is, of course, from left to right.

I noticed a major difference in the translation.  There’s a baby at the end, and in Japanese, his (her?) name is Non.  It was translated in English as Nicky, which of course is not the same name.

I have noticed that translations frequently do this.  When translating from Japanese to English, names are changed completely to, I suppose, make the book more palatable to westerners.

In reverse, this does not seem to happen.  If a book is translated into Japanese from English, I notice that the original English names are kept.  (Although in katakana Japanese, of course.)

I think  Americans are a little wary of a book from another country.  These lovely English editions are no longer in print, as proof of that.  What a pity that Americans are not reading them.  Really and truly, what a pity.

The Japanese version is here.

The English version  is here.

I have been thinking about the fact that the translation of this book changes the name of the baby from “Non” to “Nicky.”

And it makes me think of my own book I have written.

One of my…..I won’t say “problems” because I don’t think it is a  problem….  One of the things I considered when revising the book was how “Japanese” to make it.

You might say:  “It’s set in Japan, duh.  Go the whole hog. MAKE IT JAPANESE!”

The problem is that here in Japan, everything is not stereotypically “Japanese.”  We don’t always sit around listening to koto music while folding origami and sipping green tea, just before we rush off to our karate lesson.

Japan is definitely very “Japanese” but includes mundane westerny type stuffy like watching TV and snacking on Pringles.  (Yes, they have Pringles here.)  Japanese people do this—-so it is STILL Japanese!

There is also the problem that if you refer to elements of Japanese culture that westerners can’t relate to that it will deter them from reading the book. They might throw the book down saying, “I don’t know what natto is and I don’t care!  Oooh, the Kardashians just did something really interesting so I will watch that instead.”

So it’s a balancing act.

And that’s what I think about these days.

(This post is linked up to a literacy link-up: