The country's debut off-road
triathlon championship at Oku-Nikko
Fukui crosses the finish line
Courtney Cardenas, course designer Paul Chetwynd and women's
champ Jamie Whitmore
finisher Yu Yumoto
||Xterra production manager
Ted Kozlo, assistant Ami Sato, Japan coordinator Yoko
Wakabayashi and Xterra Global Tour director general Dave
Translator Yuko Matsuoka brings Harry Potter to millions
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
"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
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 thats 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 dont know how to have fun. Thats
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.
Whats the most important mental aspect of competing
in a triathlon?
This isnt exclusive to the triathlon, but I think
its motivation. Races take a long time, and so does
the training. Without motivation, you cant 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, youd
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 dayIve grown to know which
foods make my body feel good.
Whats your favorite food?
Gyudon. I know its very fatty and not so nutritious,
but I like it, so eat it quite often. Naturally, my favorite
restaurant is Yoshinoya. Ive even bought their stock.
Ive been to the Tsukiji branch that serves real (beef)
gyudon at higher prices, but Id rather hold out for
the real thing to come back. CN
Photo credit: Carlo Niederberger