From Japanese—back to English by Ian Nagata


As most of you know, the majority of the past 6+ months here in Japan has been dedicated to learning Japanese. Every morning consists of about 4 hours of class time, followed by about an equal amount of time devoted to homework. During the evenings and weekends, I try to get out as much as possible to engage in conversation with people.

However, over the past several weeks I’ve been going from Japanese…back to English. Last November I connected with a group in Tohoku that is writing original Japanese worship music. Well, this April they are planning a brief tour to Southern California to connect with various churches that have been involved with the tsunami relief efforts. Because of this, they’ve asked me to help them translate five of their songs into English.

Having traveled throughout the country for three months in search of any and all new-original-Japanese-worship-songwriters, it’s safe to say that this group is one of the most well-known emerging groups in Japan. I often hear their CD playing after various church services here in Tokyo, and have sung their songs throughout different regions in Japan.

All of this should lead you to one main question: Why would they ask me, given the wealth of fully bilingual people in this country?

The answer I still have not completely figured out. Perhaps I was at the right place at the right time? Perhaps they assume my Japanese is better than it really is? Or perhaps this is just yet another one of God’s ways of humoring me, by having me do the exact opposite of what I thought I’d be doing; namely, helping to create original Japanese music.

In thinking about it more though, I suppose it’s exactly what I had hoped to do: to serve the Japanese church. And if that means translating from Japanese to English, then I consider it an absolute privilege to do so.

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