The translator as Cyrano

I can't find it online, but the Yomiuri ran an interesting human interest story today about a guy named NAKAMA Tetsu (仲間徹) who works as a translator in Okinawa. Seems that for decades, a big part of his business has been translating love letters exchanged between American soldiers and their Japanese girlfriends (although now, thanks to e-mail and so forth, he mostly does business correspondence). Speaking as a fundamentally nosy person, I found this idea captivating.

Eight years after the war, Nakama moved to Okinawa looking for work on a US base and enrolled in an English school. One day, his cousin, who ran a bar in the entertainment district of Koza city [now Okinawa city] not far from Kadena base, brought him a letter which one of his hostesses had received from a US soldier and said "Translate this, would you?"
Nakama translated it more as an exercise than anything else, but his work was so well-received that before long he was receiving request after request along the same lines.
"I could make a living like this," he thought, and no sooner had he hung out his shingle than the customers began to arrive. To translate an English postcard and write a two-page reply, he charged 50 cents. It was as much as a maid on the base made in a day.

Since Nakama was brought up on an island south of Okinawa, he had actually been caught in the line of fire during the war, and the idea of American soldiers and Okinawan women falling in love aroused "complicated" feelings within him. But,

women who had lost their families and husbands during the war were finding love again in the midst of poverty, rekindling their hopes for the future. As a fellow Okinawan, he couldn't bear not to help them.

There's more, including a sad Vietnam War story and some interesting observations on the changing nature of international relationships in Okinawa over the decades.

I also found a book he wrote twenty years ago called 『恋文30年』 ("Thirty years of love letters").

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Isn't this it?http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20060123TDY03006.htmWhile I'm here I'd also like to say many thanks for this blog - 14 years after I last lived in Japan (teaching in Kobe, before the quake) it's proving to be one of the more enjoyable ways of keeping in touch, and your translations are damned good (well, so far as I can tell these days).


Ill try that again:http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20060123TDY03006.htm


Thanks! That's it! But I swear it wasn't up yesterday!

I actually only found the Japanese edition in the laundromat that day (hence my, uh, variant translation), but I'm glad that it got into the English edition too.

And thanks for the kind words. I do my best.

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