Thursday, 8 March 2007

Lost and/or gained in translation

Winter quite randomly arrived this week. There is more snow today than there was in all of winter except a few days back in December. And it's cold.

Researching the Kyoto area in preparation for my trip has made me wonder about the history of the area that I live in. The history of this area is not very well known, and little of what is known has been translated into English. This is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject. But on Tuesday I suddenly realised that I could just run the Japanese page through Babel Fish. Why am I so stupid? Why have I never thought of trying Babel Fish out before? Anyway, try running this page through Babel Fish and see how much information is there. Unfortunately it turns into very strange English because a lot of terms that aren't supposed to be translated literally, such as place names and people names, are. So I have to double check by rikai.com. This is going to take a while.

Last night only two students came to my English class because of the weather, so we didn't have a proper lesson. I asked about the history of the area and Doi-san told me a little about the history of kisakata. The ships that carried rice north to Hokkaido from the south and then returned carrying seaweed used to stop at Kisakata. They also stopped at Nikaho and Sakata. (I should draw a map later). Kisakata was then as it is now, a sand beach, so the ships would moor out at sea and the people would come to the shore in longboats. There was also a checkpoint on the northward highway (now Route 7) in Kisakata, so some trade was done.

There were two major famines in Kisakata. For about twelve years starting at about 1710 the summers were cool and the winters warm, which made the rice crops rot in the ground. For most of those years there was no harvest. People ate mountain herbs and such, and because snow did not fall they continued eating them through winter, right down to the root, and so nothing grew in spring. It was a very tough time. Then the same thing happened again ninety years ago.

Doi-san also said that fifteen years ago all the cedar trees on the hill above Kisakata blew down in large typhoon no. 19. The hills and the lower slopes of Mt. Chokai looked white because of the bark of the fallen cedar trunks.

Doi-san knows a lot of things. I ought to try and get her to talk about history more often.
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