Translators bring work by foreign peace activists to Japanese readers


Though there are many pacifist campaign groups worldwide, their efforts often go unnoticed in Japan due to the language barrier.

A group of translators is seeking to change that by translating into Japanese reports produced by foreign journalists and lobbyists pushing for peace.

“Information announced by governments (does) not always reflect the true picture of events. We want to convey what might not get covered by major media outlets,” said one member of the group, which calls itself Translators United for Peace.

TUP, which has over 20 members worldwide, was established soon after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Translators and other experts working with the group select articles and publications in foreign languages they believe the Japanese public should see.

They obtain the consent of the original authors, translate the text and then share it within the group. Team members verify each others’ writing and often work on projects together. The finished translations are published on the group’s website.

Documents produced so far include a diary written by a woman in war-torn Baghdad, an account of the situation in the Gaza Strip following Israeli airstrikes, and damage records following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

So far, the group has published about 1,000 articles in Japanese.

Kobe-based translator Masumi Takahashi, 66, joined the group in 2006 at the invitation of a friend. She has worked on newsletters by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a U.S. group that lobbied against the occupation of Iraq and now pushes for better support for veterans who served there. She has also translated texts by the American Friends Service Committee, which supports people in conflict zones and regions affected by natural disasters.

In 2008, Takahashi participated in a project to translate testimony by U.S. veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and who spoke during an IVAW convention in 2008. The veterans spoke of psychological tactics where soldiers are trained to overcome their aversion to killing with the word “kill” repeated incessantly. They also spoke of attempts to cover up the collateral killing of civilians in conflict zones.

Their testimonies were later compiled and published as a book under the title “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations.” The Japanese version of the book, which Takahashi and others worked on, was published in Japan in 2009.

“If only governments’ statements and reports make the news, public opinion gets easily manipulated to (create) greater support for the war,” Takahashi said. “I want to help more people develop and improve their judgment skills.”

Masako Arai, 55, who joined the group in 2008, translates publications into Japanese from English and French.

Her translations include analysis of the background to the massacre in January by Islamist gunmen at French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“Wars can be triggered by lies and I want to let people know there are a lot of lies in what governments tell us,” she said.

The group’s publications can be read at, where readers can also subscribe to emails informing them of updates.