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Poem by Yoshio Mizui,
kaiten pilot who died on
August 10, 1945

Translation Issues

Japanese to English translation requires various choices, since more than one acceptable alternative may exist when translating meanings or when transcribing Japanese characters into the Latin alphabet. When translating material for this web site, I consulted the guidelines in the Japan Style Sheet (1998) by the Society of Writers, Editors and Translators based in Tokyo. However, this professional organization provides several acceptable alternatives, depending on the audience. This page discusses my decisions regarding a variety of translation issues.

My site uses the Hepburn system of romanization, since this system gives the closest approximation of Japanese pronunciation. SWET (1998, 16, 20) recommends the use of macrons (bars over vowels) to indicate long vowel sounds in Japanese, but some Internet browsers, especially older ones, do not render macrons correctly. Therefore, long vowel sounds for words other than proper names are generally written on this web site as aa, ee, ii, ou (based on literal transcription of Japanese characters used to indicate long "o" sound), and uu. For example, bibliographic entries use this convention for titles of books and other works.

Names of people, companies, and geographical locations follow a different convention than the one described in the previous paragraph. For example, based on widely accepted English usage, Toukyou is written as Tokyo, and Ooita Prefecture is written as Oita Prefecture. Names of companies, individuals, and geographical locations are shown with their preferred romanization, if known. I made Google searches of names to try to determine preferred romanization. Some Japanese names with an extended vowel "o" sound are written with "oh" if the person or place uses this convention (e.g., Ohnuki-Tierney).

For some Japanese words and names that frequently appear in the history of kamikaze, I reviewed English-language books and web pages to determine the most frequently used transcriptions. One example will illustrate the complexity of the choices. The ohka was a piloted glider bomb released from beneath a mother plane and used in suicide attacks on Allied ships. The "oh" signifies a long "o" sound in Japanese. Most authors use ohka as the romanization, but others use oka (no indication of long vowel), ouka (alternative romanization for long "o"), ooka (another acceptable alternative transcription), or oka with a macron over the "o." The use of italics and an initial capital letter also vary between authors. After reviewing the various alternatives, I preferred the romanization of "ohka" in lowercase letters without italics, so this alternative has been used throughout this web site except for quotations where someone uses another romanization. The same convention for italics and capitalization has been used for kaiten (manned torpedo) and shinyo (explosive motorboat), other types of suicide weapons used by the Japanese military in World War II. Shinyo should technically be shown as "shinyou" based on the previous guidelines, but I selected the less technically correct romanization for use since other English-language authors typically use shinyo.

Translation from Japanese to English for this web site involved several other choices. Japanese names are shown in the Western order, with personal name first and surname last. The syllabic "n" in Japanese is shown sometimes as "m" before "b" and "p," since this convention is most widely used for words such as "shimbun" (newspaper). Japanese words are generally not italicized, except for titles of books and names of Japanese planes and ships. Multiple readings of personal names often exist in Japanese, so every effort has been made to determine correct readings by consulting reference sources. If the few cases where a definitive reading could not be determined, I generally used the most popular reading indicated by Google.

Source Cited

Society of Writers, Editors and Translators (SWET), Tokyo, Japan. 1998. Japan Style Sheet: The SWET Guide for Writers, Editors and Translators. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.