CAVENDISH — Eri and Mie Muraoka grew up with Anne of Green Gables in their lives, but their relationship with the fictional redhead was far from ordinary.
Their grandmother, Hanako Muraoka, was the first person to translate the novel in Japanese, an accomplishment that helped establish a long-lasting relationship with Prince Edward Island.
Eri said her grandmother translated many novels from North America, but wanted to translate a Canadian novel after attending a Canadian missionary school as a child.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, a teacher who remained close to Hanako gave her a copy of the novel before leaving the country.
“They were good friends,’’ Eri said, with the help of translator Yuka Takahashi, who spoke on behalf of both women.
Eri said in the years that followed, English books were banned in the country and translating the novel came with great risks.
“The situation was very serious.’’
In fact, when warning sirens would sound, Hanako had to find a way to conceal the manuscript while retreating to safety, she said.
“She had to stop translating and would put it in a bag and go to the shelter to hide it.’’
It took six years to translate the novel, which was published seven years later — in 1952.
Hanako decided to publish the translation because morale was very low in the country and she wanted to spread the joy of Anne.
“It gave a lot of hope to the younger Japanese readers,’’ Eri said.
A new edition of the novel has been published this year in Japan to mark 100 years since its original publication in Canada. The new version also has an updated translation by Mie.
“Some words were very old,’’ Mie said.
She first came to the Island 19 years ago and her impressions haven’t changed since then.
“(I have) been deeply impressed by the friendship . . . they started having a friendship almost 100 years ago,’’ Mie said.
That was nearly 20 years before official diplomatic relations were developed between the two countries, she said.
For Eri, the novel was almost a spiritual experience. When she came to the province for the first time last year, it was everything she expected.
“(I have) been feeling the Island magic since (I) came to P.E.I. Anne of Green Gables is a book of Anne, but the story tells of Prince Edward Island,’’ she said.
Eri decided the anniversary was also the right time to publish a biography about her grandmother.
“This is a good year to remind people,’’ she said.
The pair also operates an Anne of Green Gables attraction in Japan, which gives visitors a chance to visit Hanako’s study room where she did much of her translations.
Posted on Thursday, July 31, 2008, 02:05 PM (UTC -4)
We had tea with the Muaroka family while they visited Prince Edward Island this Summer. It was splendid. I couldn’t tell you what most of the conversations where about but a had a nice chat in English with Mia’s husband and son.
The Muaroka sisters are very kind and ladies with a capital “L”. For more information about their beloved grandmother please visit there website.