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the scene

Xterra Japan

The country's debut off-road triathlon championship at Oku-Nikko

Winner Hideo Fukui crosses the finish line Third-place finisher Courtney Cardenas, course designer Paul Chetwynd and women's champ Jamie Whitmore
Second-place finisher Yu Yumoto Xterra production manager Ted Kozlo, assistant Ami Sato, Japan coordinator Yoko Wakabayashi and Xterra Global Tour director general Dave Nicholas

 

 


star struck

Wizards' words

Translator Yuko Matsuoka brings Harry Potter to millions of Japanese

By Chris Betros

Words like Muggles, Shapeshifters, Dementors and Quidditch are not in the normal lexicon of most translators, but they are for Yuko Matsuoka, the translator of the Harry Potter books. A professional interpreter working in Geneva and Tokyo, Matsuoka is president of publishing company Say-zan-sha, which devotes itself entirely to Harry Potter books and audio-books.

The hero of JK Rowling's stories is big business here. The Japanese version of the fifth novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, went on sale September 1, which, as any fan will tell you, is the first day of term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The first four books have sold more than 16 million copies in Japan so far. The first run of Order will be 2.9 million copies, says Matsuoka, who took over Say-zan-sha after her husband passed away in 1997.

"It usually takes me about a year after the English version comes out to do the Japanese translation. Bookstores and wholesalers always pressure me, but I won't compromise quality," says the graduate of International Christian University, who also has an MA from Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. "As a publisher, I used to be able to get an advance copy; now I have to wait until the launch to read the English version." She has met Rowling three times, before she became really famous. "I like her very much. She is very curious, strong-willed and has a sense of humor."

Matsuoka tries not to let the movies affect her translations. "A two-hour movie is too short to cover the whole story anyway. After five books, I already have a strong image of the characters in my mind," she says. Warner Bros. does, however, ask her to check the movies' subtitles and dubbed versions so the image created in the book is reflected in the movies.

Matsuoka never thought she'd become hooked on a boy wizard. "I was a very serious girl. I never dressed up as a witch or played those sorts of games. I read a lot. My parents used to tell me not to study too hard," she recalls. "But I read the first book and fell in love with it like so many others. We get many fan letters, including some from mothers telling us that their children are reading more, thanks to Harry Potter."

Besides being an interpreter, translator and company president, Matsuoka is involved in organizing an international convention in 2006 on ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, another legacy from her husband, who established the Japan ALS Association. "Time management is the biggest task for me," she says. "I can't do as much interpreting as I used to. Fortunately, my staff is very capable and can run the company here without me." When she's not translating, Matsuoka says she still likes to read. "To learn the beauty of the Japanese language, I must go back to the classics from time to time. For relaxation, I like contemporary authors."

Photo credit: Chris Betros

 

 


q&a

Taro Shirato

Taro Shirato was a collegiate cross-country skier who happened to enter a triathlon during offseason training. The Kyoto native was soon hooked. A competitor since 1987 and a pro since 1990, the director of Xterra Japan 2004 took part in several World Cup races until 1996, when he switched to the grueling 3.8km swim/180km bike ride/42km run Ironman category. Shirato, 37, who now lives in Tsukishima, retired as a pro in 1998, two years shy of the first Olympic triathlon, but still competes at events held around the world.

 

What did you want to be growing up?
A teacher. I wanted to teach social studies, but once I looked into it, I felt better suited to teach physical education, so that’s what I wanted to do.

 

Your meishi says “sports navigator.” What exactly do you do?
I continue to train, provide instruction to others, and inform people about the sport, through speaking and writing. Japanese people really don’t know how to have fun. That’s why I try to give them the opportunity to discover and try, by producing and directing races. Xterra Japan, which I enjoy immensely, is just one of those races.

 

What’s the most important mental aspect of competing in a triathlon?
This isn’t exclusive to the triathlon, but I think it’s motivation. Races take a long time, and so does the training. Without motivation, you can’t keep it up.

 

Do you watch your diet?
Of course, as a triathlete, you need to stay healthy. But if you stick to a rigid diet of non-fat foods, you’d become exhausted mentally. So I like to stay within the comfortable limits of eating what I enjoy. Not that I eat onion rings and fried chicken every day—I’ve grown to know which foods make my body feel good.

 

What’s your favorite food?
Gyudon. I know it’s very fatty and not so nutritious, but I like it, so eat it quite often. Naturally, my favorite restaurant is Yoshinoya. I’ve even bought their stock. I’ve been to the Tsukiji branch that serves real (beef) gyudon at higher prices, but I’d rather hold out for the real thing to come back. CN

Photo credit: Carlo Niederberger

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