Continuously read for over a millennium, "The Tale of Genji" is reborn through a new translation by Mitsuyo Kakuta!


Since November 2014, Kawade Shobo Shinsha has continued to published Ikezawa Natsuki = Kojin henshū Nihon bungaku zenshū (Complete works of Japanese literature as compiled by Natsuki Ikezawa). The final piece of this 30-book collection, Genji monogatari gekan (Tale of Genji book 3) will be released later this month. The first and second parts of Mitsuyo Kakuta’s translation of The Tale of Genji have already been published, with this third installment marking an end to her five-year project.

The Tale of Genji was originally written just over a millennium ago by Murasaki Shikibu, and has continued to be read ever since. In tackling a new translation of such a massive work, Mitsuyo Kakuta focused on emphasizing readability and a feeling of shared emotions between the story’s contemporary readers and people reading the book today.

Kakuta noted that the main challenge she faced was examining currently existing modern translations by Yosano Akiko, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, and Jakucho Setouchi, and figuring out how her own translation would stand out from the others that came before. After lengthy considerations, she decided to base the philosophy of her translation on readability and an intimacy with the emotions found within the story.

One of the highlights of Kakuta’s translation is the simplicity of its language, as well as the structure allowing for the story to be read as a single long-form novel. This is a recommended translation, especially to any readers who have struggled with the complexity of the language in The Tale of Genji, as well as the patchwork nature of the surviving chapters and gave up reading partway through.

In March, Mitsuyo Kakuta will be joining JWH’s Koji Chikatani at an international exchange event in Myanmar to discuss The Tale of Genji and Japanese literature.