• Kyodo News

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A group of Japanese academics announced Wednesday it has found the world’s oldest translation of Beatrix Potter’s story “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” in a 1906 Japanese magazine.

A 1912 Dutch text has been thought to be the first translation of the story, published in 1902. Yoshihide Kawano, a professor of British and American literature at Daito Bunka University, said the discovery shows Japanese were probably the first readers of the popular tale outside English-speaking countries.

Kawano said a 1906 issue of an agricultural magazine carries the story, translated by travel writer Jiro Matsukawa and titled “Itazura na Kousagi” (“Mischievous Little Rabbits”).

Although Matsukawa does not make reference to Potter, illustrations similar to those in the original “Peter Rabbit” accompany the story, Kawano said.

“The story was arranged for Japanese, but we can say that it was a translation,” he said.

Kawano said his group plans to report the finding to the Beatrix Potter Society, an international organization of researchers and followers of the British author’s work.

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