Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Big Fat Side-of-a-Barn-Target Imperial Household Seems to Be Vindicated This Time Around

An investigative reporter wades into an issue about which he is singularly unequipped to tackle. The language and the culture are totally alien to him. He is forced to rely on sources that are willing to talk to him in his native language. Undeterred, he publishes a book to underwhelming reviews. The book, perhaps inevitably, is reportedly riddled with errors, which will be duly corrected in the translation into that language, with the author's consent.

In the meantime, the author receives a complaint from the representative of the family of the subject of the book in the form of a public letter. The letter is a remarkably restrained affair, a general complaint followed by a lengthy complaint on a couple of issues involving the parents of the subject of the book. This is understandable. One of the issues concern a recent national tragedy on the order of 9.11; the other is an issue in which the family has a 1,300 year engagement and has more recently been involved personally for at least three generations. Another reason the letter must be considered remarkably restrained is because the author had gained permission to use some photos under the condition that the book would not contain anything disrespectful of the household in question.

A decent human being would have acknowledged any errors and apologized for them, and explained that they would be corrected in the upcoming translation and any future editions of the book. The author instead lashed out at the complaint, claiming that he had nothing to apologize about. As far as media reports go, he has not yet acknowledged any wrongdoing.

The EMSM, perhaps predictably, took this issue and ran an article generally favorable to the author with a prototypical "right-wing intimidation" trope. Unfortunately, inconvenient facts have come to the fore, including accusations of gross misrepresentation and past plagiarism from people willing to go on the record. And the publication of the translation has been canceled, the publisher citing loss of mutual trust due to the author's denial of any responsibility.

I will be pleasantly surprised if the EMSM and the author run corrections.

I am, of course, talking about the recent turn of events surrounding the "Princess Masako" incident.

I myself have written of the intimidation from the militant elements of the Japanese far right. And I will go on record as being highly critical of the way the Imperial Household goes about its affairs, which runs the risk of slowly strangling the very institution it is supposed to uphold.

I also believe that journalists should be held to the same standards that they hold the rest of us to.

If you are interested in this matter, I encourage you to go to Shisaku (scroll down) and keep following all the threads. Some books reviews can be found here.


Durf said...

The Japan Times has an article quoting a Kodansha editor as follows:

Kazunobu Kakishima, an editor at Kodansha, denied the company was scrapping the translation because of the government's protest. The decision, he said, came after Hills refused to acknowledge making factual errors during an interview with Japanese television earlier Friday.

"We have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to maintain trustworthy relations with the author and thus we were forced to cancel the book," he said.

Kakishima said a "substantial number of factual errors" have been corrected through fact-checking and meetings with interviewees quoted in the book. Kakishima declined to describe any specific errors, citing privacy.

Hills, Kakishima said, acknowledged the errors in discussions with Kodansha, approved corrections in a translated draft and even thanked the publisher for the changes.

It's interesting to compare and contrast with the translation project for Iris Chang's book some years ago (we want to make these corrections, no don't touch my text you whitewashers, all right the deal's off).

Jun Okumura said...


Thank you for the additional information. Could you lead me to more information on the Iris Chang translation project?

Ⅰsee it was never published here. Intriguing.

Durf said...

The Wikipedia page on the book says:

The Japanese translation was halted following disagreement between Chang and Kashiwa Shobo, the publisher. As a result of the controversy and evidentiary disputes surrounding the book, Kashiwa Shobo had planned to publish a critical commentary about 90 factual errors in the same volume.

So not a straightforward translation of an edited, fact-checked version of the book, but the addition of an appendix casting doubt on the content of the book itself, perhaps. I can see why the author would reject this approach to editing.

Jun Okumura said...


Thanks again. Your information led me to this, this, and this. According to the first document (lifted from the pages of Seiron), Kashiwa Shobo, a respectable left-wing/liberal publisher, decided to publish another book simultaneously entitled Nankin Jiken to Nihonjin (The Nanking Incident and the Japanese), with the subtitle "Za Reipu obu Nankin" wo Tadashiku Yomu tameni(to Read "The Rape of Nanking" Correctly). The latter was to be a compedium of academic papers, with a Marxist anti-denialist as the editor. Two of the American academics mentioned in the article at prospective authors are known to be critics of Ms. Chang's book (though by no means denialists). Given this background, the second book would likely have been a serious attempt to bring a broader, academic perspective to the issue so that the issue would not be buried under a mound of accusations about inaccuracies and falsehoods, real and imagined, in the first book.

Differences betwen the publisher and Ms. Chang over this matter apparently led to the cancellation of both books.

These are (understandably) Sankei sources. But the Asahi letters linked to by the third document supports the Seiron narrative as it pertains to the indefinite suspension of the publication of the translation.


Another meme trumped by the facts. Let's see if anyone bothers to correct Wikipedia.

Another hour spent not making money. Let's see if anyone wants to pay me to write this up.