The Impact of Ulysses on Japan
A Short Introduction

Eishiro Ito

   The impact Ulysses has had on Japan is infinitely big-- for many Japanese people who like European literature.  Japan has the greatest reservoir of translation in almost all the fields, far different from China where the first Chinese translation of Ulysses was published in 1995.  Once some interesting book is published in somewhere in the world, some Japanese soon tries to publish the Japanese translation.  So Japanese readers could enjoy the first Japanese translation of Ulysses in 1931, even earlier than most American readers did.  The first legal American edition (Random House, January 1934) was made available after the famous Judge John M. Woolsey's decision, and British readers were able to buy the first legal British edition (Bodley Head, September 1937).  The 1931 Japanese translation was probably the third one after the German translation (1927) and the French translation (1929).  I am very proud of Japan which quickly recognized how valuable Ulysses is!

   James Joyce was first introduced to Japan by Yonejiro Noguchi's article about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1918 (Gakuto the literary magazine, March 1918 issue).  The next year Ryunosuke Akutagawa, one of the most famous novelists at that time, bought two books of James Joyce including A Portrait  He was much impressed with Joyce's technique, especially the boy narrator of its first chapter: Later he tried to translate some fragments of the novel under the title "Dedalus."

   The first Japanese article about Joyce's Ulysses was published in Eigo-Seinen the literary magazine (English name: The Rising Generation), December 15, 1922 issue by Mirai Sugita.  In 1925 Daigaku Horiuchi wrote an article titled "Shosetsu no Shin-Keishiki toshiteno 'Naiteki-Dokuhaku'" ("Interior Monologue as a New Novel Form"), mentioning that the narrative style of Ulysses was influenced by Edouard Dujardin's Les Lauriers sont coupes (Shincho the literary magazine, August 1925 issue).  One of the earliest Ulysses influence can be seen in another famous novelist Junichiro Tanizaki's lesbian novel "Manji" (1928), in which Tanizaki had a woman narrator use a Joycean interior monologue.  (The interior monologue itself was already lectured in the English Department of Tokyo Imperial University since c. 1900 when some English professors lectured William James.  It became popular among some ambitious novelists through Joyce's works.  Riichi Yokomitsu's novel "Kikai" (literally "Machine") appeared in the Kaizo literary magazine, September 1930 issue.

   The first influential academic introduction was done by Prof. Kochi Doi (Tohoku Imperial University)'s "Joyce's Ulysses" in the Kaizo magazine, February 1929 issue, in which Doi introduced and analyzed the structure of the novel and its relationship with A Portrait.  Kochi Doi was said to have known Ulysses in 1922 when he stayed in Boston but it was 1923 in Edinburgh that he got the copy and read it.  Since then, many Japanese scholars including Junzaburo Nishiwaki, Yukio Haruyama and Kazutoshi Fukunaga began to argue Ulysses, sometimes comparing with Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, etc.

  The first complete Japanese translation of Ulysses by Sei Ito, Sadamu Nagamatsu and Hisanori Tsuji was published by Daiichi-shobo, Tokyo in 1931-1934.  The second translation (by Sohei Morita, Nahara Hirosaburo, Naotaro Tatsuguchi, Takehito Ono, Ichiro Ando and Eitaro Murayama) was published by Iwanami-shoten, Tokyo in 1932-1935.  The third one by Sei Ito, Sadamu Nagamatsu was published by Shincho-sha, Tokyo in 1955.

   Sei Ito is worth mentioning more.  He is a most important Joycean to remember.  After translating Ulysses, Ito was deeply influenced by James Joyce and his literary technique.  Ito had gone to court defending his translation of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (abridged trans. 1935; completed trans. 1950) from the public prosecutions in 1950.   The Japanese branch of the "Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists" (PEN) and the "Bungei Club" (the Japanese association of literature) supported Ito.  It took six years for the court to convict him and the publisher of publishing a "pornography."  As opposed to the UK and America, Ulysses was not severely treated as a "obscene novel" in Japan.**  Ito published his autobiographical novel Wakai Shijin no Shozo (A Portrait of the Poet as a Young Man) in 1956.

   The fourth translation by Saiichi Maruya, Reiji Nagakawa and Yuichi Takamatsu was published by Kawade-shobo, Tokyo in 1964.  The fifth one (the revised edition with detailed notes by Prof. Hideo Yuki) by Saiichi Maruya, Reiji Nagakawa and Yuichi Takamatsu was published in 1996-1997;  its paperback edition is released in late 2003.  Two more new translations are in progress (partially published).
**Either the translators or publishers purposely deleted or omitted some obscene sentences and paragraphs from the Japanese translation in earlier editions in order to avoid censorship.






Copyright (c) 2003 Eishiro Ito.  All rights reserved.