April 23 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), the greatest dramatist of the English speaking world. The anniversary has a particular resonance here: Few countries in the world have embraced Shakespeare with Japan’s sustained passion.
The great literary theorist Shoyo Tsubouchi (1859-1935) made the first translation of the complete works of Shakespeare between 1909 and 1928, and since then a cascade of new translations have poured forth from the pens of eminent Japanese scholars, translators and writers. The greatest problem facing anyone wishing to read the Bard in Japanese is choosing from so many accomplished translations, including translations into the speaking style of kabuki or the Tohoku dialect.
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