Translating (a bit) on the Fly

Recently I've been looking for a short story to translate. I'm not sure I really have any criteria outside 'interesting', and I'm not that well-versed in Japanese authors outside the famous ones that have already been translated. The other day I went to the library and just picked out a few that seemed promising. The story I've settled on reading so far is called "Not Only Bread", by Meisei Gotou (「パンのみに非ず」、後藤明生). He's been translated into English ("Shot By Both Sides") before, but this collection isn't.

While his sentences don't seem terribly difficult, and there isn't a ridiculous amount of kanji for me to trip over, he does have some long sentences, kind of as if someone was talking to you or writing in stream of conscious, so I'm a little worried as to whether or not I can get the right tone. It's pretty humorous, as far as I can tell; it's the story of a guard at at a weight-loss center on the top of a mountain. I say weight-loss center, but the Japanese is 断食道場, which I suppose is literally 'fasting place'. Googling a bit it seems more like what we'd call a health and wellness center, or something, so that might be the better term, since I'm not sure if the people there have weight-loss in mind when they come to fast. I've only really translated the first page, and I'm not very happy with it. I'm going to read far ahead with as little dictionary interruption as possible, and then try to go at it again.

If you're looking for something Japanese to read, Shinichi Hoshi's stuff is fun. The sentences are straightforward, so I've been reading him in between other more difficult things; otherwise I run away to English books (or worse, the internet), and get no studying done at all. Here's a bit I did from おかしな青年. I translated it on the fly, so I'm sure there are things that aren't quite right, but I'll only put up enough to make you want to read it yourselves. Shinichi Hoshi does have a collection published in translation, so if you think you're reading skills aren't up to snuff, you may be able to find it in English (with a less clunky opening than my own).


"The Strange Young Man", Shinichi Hoshi

There was a large hospital. In this general hospital, with both internal medicine and surgical departments, there was also quite a substantial amount of medical examination equipment. The receptionist, wearing a troubled expression, came to the manager with some news.

Actually, there's a strange person here, and he won't leave.”

Is he sick?”

He doesn't look sick, but he must be.”

What's strange about him?”

He's mumbling nonsense.”

Now I'm interested. Lately all we've had is cut-and-dry cases. The consistency gets tedious. Let's have a look at him then. Bring him in.”


The woman returned with the young man, and had him sit in a chair. It's this person here.”

I see. Well then, please get on your with work...” The manager began to talk to the young man. Well then, what seems to be the trouble?”

Well, I'm a ghost...” said the young man, and the manager asked him:

What's that you said?”

I'm a ghost.”

So you're saying that you're a ghost.”


The manager looked at the young man again, nodding. There wasn't anything remotely ghostly about him. I see, so you're under a delusion. In that case you'll be a patient in neurology, won't you.”

I'm not a patient. I'm a ghost.”

I understand that. By the way, have you brought your health insurance card with you?”

It doesn't make sense for me to have one, does it? Because I'm a ghost.”

The manager took out a piece of paper and asked, Your address is..?”

It's on the Other Side.”

Ooh! Is he a ghost? Or isn't he? 

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