Anne in Twenty-first Century Japan
In Japan, the popularity of Akage-no-An (Red-haired Anne) has meant the continual publication of the Anne books. As Anne Shirley says, you can see “such a lot of different Annes” throughout the series. Japan’s continued love for Anne of Green Gables has many facets.
Hanako Muraoka, the first Japanese translator of Akage-no-An (Anne of Green Gables), published the first hard-cover edition with Mikasa-shobo in 1952. Two years later, it was published by Shinchosha as a bunko-bon, a pocket-sized, soft-cover book read by people of all ages. The seven sequels were later published by Kodansha and were eventually reprinted as Shinchosha bunko books. Including the translated versions of Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles of Avonlea, a total of 10 books are referred to as the “Shinchosha Anne books.”
The Japanese translation of Anne of Green Gables for children comes in abridged and complete versions (although some “complete” versions do not include dedications and/or epigraphs). Hanako Muraoka published both types, but it is her originally published, abridged translation that is the most well-known and is often included in "the series of World Famous Books for Children." The series aimed to instill in children basic cultural knowledge of the world and included beautiful illustrations. Generations of children came to know Muraoka’s name through these books. As for Muraoka’s other abridged versions, her translation of eight Anne books was published in 2008 by Popularsha, with beautiful book covers by watercolorist Shinya Uchida.
After Muraoka’s death in 1968, many translators came out with their own versions of Anne for young readers. Some went out of print before long, but most still survive in digital form.
In 2018, Eriko Kishida published her version of Anne, illustrated with stunning artwork by the award-winning artist, Mitsumasa Anno (1984 Hans Christian Andersen Award) with Asahi Press, and it was enthusiastically received by Japanese Montgomery fans. Chino Midori published Anne in two volumes in 1987 and its two sequels (Anne of Avonlea in 1987 and Anne of the Island in 1992) with mystical cover illustrations by Itsuko Azuma. Just as reviews at the time of the original Anne of the Island (1915) show,1 some Japanese readers (including translators) prefer these first three Anne books to the later ones because of young Anne’s unique, unpredictable character. Chino’s three books attest to this universal estimation.
Yoichiro Kawai, a Shakespeare scholar, released the first three Anne books, and rather than adding notes on Montgomery’s allusions, he explained them precisely within the text itself. He even renamed Anne of the Island as Anne’s First Love (2021). Kawai’s translations include manga illustrations on the covers by Maki Minami, which appeal to new audiences.
In 2008, the centennial year of the publication of Anne, Mie and Eri Muraoka, granddaughters of the original translator, revised her grandmother’s translations and published a new version of the Anne books with Shinchosha. Mie also translated Montgomery’s posthumous book, The Blythes Are Quoted in two volumes under the title of Anne’s Days of Remembrance in 2011. Mie’s translations were added to the “Shinchosha Anne books” series, bringing the total number of books to 12. Every summer, since 1976, Shinchosha publishers promote a summer reading campaign listing “the one hundred most popular books,” and Akage-no-An has been on that list for all 46 years (through 2021).
Three other translators have produced popular versions of the text. Sakiko Nakamura published her first translations in 1957 just after Hanako Muraoka’s bunko books were released. Nakamura didn’t abridge the last three chapters as Muraoka had, but Japanese readers did not fault Muraoka’s translations and enjoyed comparing the differences between them. Nakamura also translated the sequels, using different Japanese titles from Muraoka’s: Anne’s Love Letters for Anne of Windy Willows, and Anne’s Beloved Family for Anne of Ingleside.
In 2005, Yasuko Kakegawa’s translations of the Anne books were published as a set of 10 bunko books by Kodansha. First printed in 1990 as hard-cover books for children, with famous artist Yoko Yamamoto’s copper plate illustrations, Kakegawa used her own Japanese words when translating Anne’s expressions such as “bosom friend” and “kindred spirit,” offering a fresh take on the original.
In addition, author Yuko Matsumoto published yet another version with Shueisha publishers as a hard-cover book in 1993, making numerous revisions of her originals. Her translation of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island were released as Shueisha’s bunko books in 2005 and 2008. She changed publishers (Bungei-shunjyu), revised her three Anne books, and republished them as Bunshun-bunko books in 2019. Since then, she has continued to come out with her own translations of other sequels, and she has recently announced on her website two upcoming translations, of Rainbow Valley in 2022 and Rilla of Ingleside in 2023, bringing her total to eight, as opposed to Muraoka’s 11 and Kakegawa’s 10.
Although all previous Japanese translations have been done by women, interestingly, Shiro Yamamoto, a male professor at Tokyo University, translated The Annotated Anne of Green Gables (Oxford University Press, 1997) and published it as a hardcover book by Harashobo in 1999. It claimed to be “the complete version" on the cover, but later in 2014, that was amended to read “the annotated version.” His translation, which uses modern colloquial expressions, gives the impression of a younger Marilla, and a more modern-day Anne. He also included the editorial notes from the original English edition (by Wendy E. Barry, Margaret Anne Doody, and Mary E. Doody Jones) making them available for the first time to Japanese readers interested in the cultural background.
Anime and Manga versions
In 1997, Nippon Animation Company broadcast a 50-episode anime series of Anne of Green Gables, along with a set of related books.2 World-famous animators, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, were involved in the project. Script writers used the translation by Taeko Kamiyama, published as an Obunsha-bunko book (1973), because it was judged to be the most faithful translation of the original book (now it is only available in digital form). The anime series has been rebroadcast repeatedly since it first aired and has had a huge influence on Japanese readers. In 2008, memorial stamps were issued in Canada and Japan, and the Japanese stamps feature illustrations from this anime. As for manga, manga artist Yumiko Igarashi, published Anne of Green Gables in three volumes from 1997–98, and its sequels, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island in 1998 (Kumon Shuppan). They are referred to as “The Comic Anne Series” by the artist. Although targeted for children, these anime and manga are also greatly enjoyed by adults.
Japanese translations and new editions of Akage-no An continue to be both extremely popular and lucrative. Every translator since Hanako Muraoka owes her a great debt for her original title, Red-haired Anne.3 Readers still turn to digital versions of out-of-print translations and enjoy comparing the subtle differences among the stories. As of early 2022, there are more than 30 Japanese translations, and a new version of Hanako Muraoka’s translation for the younger generation, with popular illustrator Heisuke Kitazawa’s artwork, was released in March 2022 (Kodanhsha) by Hanako’s granddaugters Mie and Eri Muraoka. They have revised their grandmother’s translation under her name and published it to mark the 70th anniversary of the Japanese translation. They proclaim this latest version to be the definitive edition of Hanako Muraoka's translation. Japanese readers return to Montgomery’s stories from childhood through adulthood. Continuous interest in the books means that new translators will no doubt emerge, giving Japanese readers even more opportunities to encounter different Annes.