Friday, 30 April 2010

Aozora Bunko - Check it

I recently sent an email to Matt of No-sword, relating to things
pertaining to this article, about a section of Osamu Dazai's work,
The Setting Sun, and it's translation.

One thing which really interested me in his article was a link to the
website What follows is taken directly from the
emails we exchanged.

> Now, if you will excuse me for rushing ahead, one thing which really
> piqued my interested was this aozora bunko site. I looked at the
> link you gave for "the original Japanese" and bugger me if the whole
> of the Japanese text didn't just appear on my screen with one click.
> What exactly is the deal with this aozora website? If you'll indulge
> me, what kind of books do they have on this site, and are those books
> really there in their entirety and free to read?

Yeah, man, Aozora Bunko is like the Japanese Gutenberg: they enter
out-of-copyright books as text files, and make them publicly available.
In Japan, copyright for books (currently) only lasts for life of author
+ 50 years, so anyone who died more than 50 years ago is fair game.
Dazai is in there, so is Soseki, Ogai, Miyazawa Kenji, Ango, etc. etc.
And since it's public domain, not only is it on the site for free,
you're also free to translate it, whatever (as far as I have been able
to figure out -- this is not legal advice etc.) That's why I was able to
e-publish Botchan without paying any money to Soseki's heirs.

Ironically, stuff that was published TOO long ago is usually only
available in edited editions, prepared painstakingly by comparing
original manuscripts etc., and this act creates a new copyrightable
work. So what they have is basically Meiji through early Showa at the
moment -- stuff that was originally published as a movable-type style
printed text.

Now back to the studio with G Dawg:
Isn't that cool? I feel kind of like a moron for not knowing until now
about this fabled Japanese Gutenberg. Well, I suppose there has to be
a first time for everything.

Here, to give some examples, is a link to Dazai Osamu's
No Longer Human, a book I recently read in English, and
quite frankly amazing; and another famous book, I am a cat,
by old Natsume Souseki. (Interestingly, for the latter
transcript, aozora seems to have provided
kana for every kanji. Very kind of them indeed.)

I really should say at this point, too, a big thank you to Matt from
No-sword. If ever you've a question that needs answering, he's your


  1. I put some Akutagawa on my iTouch to practice my japanese reading while I was on the go, but the file that I downloaded (maybe this isn't true for all Aozora Bunko downloads) doesn't support ruby text, so instead of pretty furigana floating above the kanji, it's in parentheses afterward. This gets annoying fast...

    I never thought in a million years I'd be complaining about the INCLUSION of furigana in a text. Oy.

  2. yeah, seriously, you're getting pernickety!

  3. I suppose I am. But if I could get Rikaichan installed into my eyeballs, then all my problems would be solved...