It’s recently come to my (belated) attention that there is an amazing resource provided by the Japan Foundation: the Japanese Literature in Translation Search.
This database contains full bibliographic information on the translations and lets you search by year, which is crucial for me when I’m trying to find what’s recently been translated. There are some shortcomings, however, and the biggest one is that there is no bibliographic data for the original Japanese publication. If I want to search on what’s been translated that was published between, say, 2000-2012, I can’t do it. My search for what was published in 2000-2012 yielded over 50 pages of results, which varied from contemporary works to The Tale of Heike.
My ideal database would have the publication information for the Japanese originals, and the ability not just to search by that, but also to browse: for example, by reign year (Heisei literature, 1989-present) or by Western year (1990s). More metadata would also be helpful. For example, what if I wanted to find out what Naoki prize winners had been translated? Akutagawa prize winners? Detective fiction? Horror? None of this is possible.
I’m not trying to denigrate this database in any way, because it’s an invaluable resource and one I’ll be using from now on. But there is so much potential for things to do with this data, and it’s unfortunate that the dataset itself is so limited. I could see some cool visualizations resulting from it, but they’re along the lines of “in a given year, what works were translated that were from which decade or reign era?” A simple set of sized bubbles showing the 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, and 1980s in a given year would be a fantastic way to quickly see trends in translation and gauge how much very recent fiction is being translated – in other words, how fast the turnaround is.
Given the focus of publishers such as Vertical, too, it would be interesting to see trends in what recent fiction is being translated in terms of genre and author.
Creating another database that does have this metadata does not seem feasible or reasonable, however. This post is about a case of wishful thinking, and praise for a huge undertaking that does a great service to the community of Japanese literature scholars and students.