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Sinnesspiel ([personal profile] sinnesspiel) wrote2013-07-18 07:17 pm

Shiki Novel Translations 1.4


The nights, when the heat could dissipate, were short and the sun rose early to shine brightly over the mountainsides, warming them up. Kunihiro Ritsuko came down the steep slope at a quick pace. The northern part of the village was nothing but slopes from the northern mountain. A number of kids were behind Ritsuko, and with no mind for the slope, they would go up and down them, passing Ritsuko by.

"Miss! Good morning!"

Ritsuko returned a "Good morning!" to them. The kids made it to the top of the hill, crossing over the slope towards yet another slope that lead to the lumber mill. They were probably going to do radio exercises.

With a light smile Ritsuko passed the street corner to the white building ahead. The one with the Ozaki Hospital signboard was Ritsuko's workplace.

From the mountains that pressed in on the village, the breeze blew through like a lingering shade, carrying the smell of the fir trees with the voices of the cicadas. Their cries made the early summer morning somehow melancholy. Turning her eyes to the eastern mountains, the freshly risen sun's rays were strong, and she imagined it would be another hot day today.

Taking a shortcut across the parking lot, Ritsuko went around the back of the hospital. She came in through the staff entrance, straight towards the locker room.

"Good morning," she called out politely as she opened the door, though there was nobody in the locker room. No other nurses must have arrived yet, as the window blinds were left closed, the air in the room stagnant with the lingering laziness of the weekend.

The Ozaki Hospital did have "hospital" on the signboard but for all practical purposes, they didn't take in-patients. If it was for observation or examinations, a special case might be taken in for a night or two, but any patients who required a longer stay than that were all sent to the hospital in Mizobe. Thus if there was no night shift, there was no Sunday shift, and her fellow nurses would rotate shifts in order to have two days off per week. As the village's only hospital there were emergency cases that would be taken on a Sunday but the hospital director who had inherited the position was understanding and had staff on call in three week cycles, as it wasn't like they really needed to come in to work, and there was compensation for being on call. --All in all, she found it a bountiful place to work at.

She choose the job because she liked it after all, and it felt worth doing. It wasn't a bad place to work. And yet, on the morning after a day off, there was that listlessness, thinking 'here we go, another week.'

Throwing her bag into the locker, Ritsuko took out her freshly selected white coat. She changed into her white uniform, tied her hair up and put on her white nurse's cap. Funny how with just those preparations, it felt as if her posture improved.

It was going from her personal self to herself as a nurse. There was a strange divide between the two. The listlessness after a day off might have just been annoyance at crossing that distance between the two selves that grew the longer a break was.

She checked herself out in the mirror and gave herself an: "All right!" She raised the blinds and opened the window, a cool breeze and the voices of the cicadas blowing in. And, of course, the lively voices of children.

Behind the hospital stretched a narrow rice field and the Maruyasu lumberyard. That was the spot decided on for the neighborhood's radio exercises. The cheerful shouts of the kids gathered there echoed through the mountains near the lumberyard, flowing more loudly into the room than even the voices of the cicadas.

The nearby mountains were bountifully green. High on the mountain to the right, the main temple building could be seen. Shone on directly by the sun's rays, the large roof glistened like dull silver. From the temple grounds to the sawmill, the slope was sparse with trees that jutted out like teeth. That was the temple's graveyard. As Sotoba didn't really use tombstones, you wouldn't know it was one just by looking.

There the mountains had horseshoe hollow, holding who-knew-how-many lumberyards. Clean cut wavelets of the planted fir trees treetops basked in the morning sun. The mountains to the left were green with firs, too. From above that a pointed black roof top peeked out.

Ritsuko ended up looking up looking up at that house--that mansion.

Until recently, that was the Kanemasa mansion. It was a stately mansion indeed, with its old stone walls, its countless ridged roofs, and garden trees. And furthermore, the masters had long ago--before Ritsuko had even come capable of awareness---changed residencies, so the mansion was often unmanned, and while there was at least upkeep, it wasn't what you would call stellar, so amongst the children it was known as "The Kanemasa Haunted Mansion."

Ritsuko, during a middle school under the guise of some test of courage game, had snuck into the garden. She remembered expecting it to be unmanned only for an old man she supposed was the property manager to find her and scold her.

That haunted mansion was torn down last year. Afterwards a strange house was erected. It was called strange but it wasn't exactly the building itself that was strange. Yes, if it weren't in Sotoba, if it was a holiday home, that is, in some small village in another country, there wouldn't have been anything out of place about it. It was small, but it was like something you'd see in a movie--an occidental house.

That building, when compared to the village that was its backdrop, clearly stood out. Another thing that made it weird was its bearings. That house seemed to think it was there for a hundred years or more. It had an old stone wall, and the chimneys and windows looked as if they'd weathered the winds and the rains. It appeared they dismantled and rebuilt an older building.

The villagers were bewildered as to why someone would do that. They demolished an old house and built a new one, regardless of whether it blended in well with its scenery, overlooking a small village unlike any other that one could find anywhere else, giving off a feeling of greater age and history than any other home in the village. No matter how it seemed to be aged into place, there was an unshakably out of place feel to it.

(It really is a strange house...)

As she murmured that in her thoughts, the locker room door opened.

"Oh my, it's Ricchan!"

It was Nurse Nagata Kiyomi.

"Good morning."

"It sure is early," said Kiyomi with a smile, opening her locker. "What's wrong? You look pensive."

Ritsuko shook her head. "Just thinking that the weather is nice. It looks like it's going to be hot."

"You said it," said Kiyomi with both a sigh and a smile, stripping off her clothes candidly. Ritsuko hurried and stretched a hand to lower the blinds.

"Oh, it's fine. We'll get a breeze if the blinds are open. It might be different for a girl like Ricchan, but there's not going to be anyone peeking in to see this old girl in her underwear."

"Wouldn't you say lady instead of old girl? About a woman at forty."

Kiyomi laughed as she put on her white coat.

"That's old fashioned. ---I've long passed forty. The only one who'd call me young and be happy to come see me would be the dead from the temple's yard."

Ritsuko looked at the graveyard on the slope with a laugh.

"What's this, age talk?" said Hashiguchi Yasuyo, coming into the locker room.

"Good morning."

"Morning. --Well dear me. Leaving the blinds wide open like that!"

"Like I was saying," laughed Kiyomi. "I'm at the age where it wouldn't even be bad to be peeked at."

"What are you saying! You, you're still ten years younger than me!"

"Maybe if I was ten kilos lighter I'd hide."

"Some people hide for shame, but there's a matter of modesty, you know. Though if I were as young as Ricchan, I might flaunt a little."

"Matter of modesty, huh?"

"If a woman doesn't have that, it's all over for her! ---Even you and me aren't something to scoff at, for a couple of old sea lions."

Toshio stepped out of the bathroom first thing in the morning with a cigarette already in his mouth and headed to the dining room. The bright light came pouring in through the large southern window. There were two people's shares of breakfast set on the table with a newspaper in Toshio's seat. He looked at the sight and thought 'I see, Kyouko's gone back to Mizobe.'

Ozaki Toshio was thirty two and the director of Sotoba's only hospital, the Ozaki Hospital. That is to say, Toshio was the only doctor in town. Three years ago, his father died of pancreatic cancer, and so he quit his job at the university hospital to return. His wife Kyouko was thirty and they had no children. Unable to stand life in the mountain village, Kyouko stayed in her apartment near an antique shop she kept in the more urban town of Mizobe. She came back to Sotoba two or three times a month.

Toshio wasn't sure whether it was more appropriate to say she didn't come by more often than that or that she came by that frequently. That she hated life there and left may have meant that they had a cold marriage but all that aside she did come back on her own so that may have meant they had a good relationship.

"Good morning."

As he looked out the window, his mother Takae carried in miso soup. He gave a half-hearted response. Looking at the weather forecast, it would be a clear day and the probability of rain was 0 percent. The daytime temperature was to be hotter than usual for this time of year, with temperatures to surpass 36 degrees Celsius. It'd been that way this year since spring. There hadn't been much rain and it was unusually hot. In the Tokai region, there was a wide scale drought and severe damages caused by the intense heat.

Takae sat facing the table, taking in Toshio's T-shirt and jeans clad form with a critical eye. At the elegant and extravagant evergreen table were six chairs of elaborate and refined craftsmanship, the most ornate of which was empty. It was once his father's seat, and according to Takae, that was the seat of the head of the family, and Toshio was still lacking in the dignity to so much as sit at that seat. Toshio didn't really care where he sat. He would be fine sitting in the lowest seat but his mother didn't understand that. It seemed she meant withholding the family head's chair to be a punishment.

With a 'good grief' breath, he kept his eyes outside. Through the living room window overlooking the spacious backyard one could take in the western mountains at a glance. The mountain side was a summer suited green and poking out through one section of that was a slate black roof. The structure stuck out from above the gables. It was a curious, triangular roof, like a picture a small child would draw. It wasn't a house suited for Sotoba, but if it were only surrounded by the fir trees and if that was all that were around it, it could suit itself there in its own way. If it were covered in snow in the winter, it may have been an interesting sight.

(It's a weird house...)

As he murmured that in his thoughts, Toshio caught sight of Takae, who let out a low voice. "Do you have the time to be so leisurely?"

Receiving only a halfhearted answer to that as well, Takae looked out the window for only a moment, herself. "They haven't moved in, have they? I wonder, have they no intent to live here at all?"

"It's probably not a holiday home. Not a house built up like that."

"How garish."

Toshio gave a thin smirk at the clear thorns present in Takae's words. To begin with Takae's relationship with Kanemasa was not a good one. She did not take well to being looked down upon by them. As the Kanemasas had moved out, at last the only ones looking down on the Ozaki family were those at the temple, and now those whose faces she had never even seen had come to look down on her. For Toshio, it was something he couldn't understand being so upset over but so long as he couldn't understand that, he would never be allowed to sit at the seat for the head of the family.

"Everyone's got their circumstances. --Done with breakfast."

Mutou entered the hospital grounds and noted that the front door was already opened. Through the glass pane, he confirmed that several patients had arrived in the waiting room. Part timer Sekiguchi Miki was sweeping. With a greeting to him, Mutou turned towards the side door. As he stepped in the side door, he saw another part timer Takano Fujou was beside the spicket washing the mop. They exchanged greetings and he headed into the locker room for his white coat. He drew out the changing wall, his legs dragging, then hurried to the reception desk where Towada was scrubbing the counter.


"Good morning." Towada gave a youthful smile and wave.

"I'm already finished here, so you're welcome to go to the break room first, Mutou-san. I will handle things here!"

"Sorry for the trouble."

Towada humbly dismissed that it was no trouble and turned to greet the patients. Most of them had been getting treatment here for a while, so there were many familiar faces.

Just as he was going to take Towada up on his offer and head to the break room, the director stepped into the waiting room from his own house. Dressed in only jeans and a T-shirt.

"Yo, morning," Toshio said to nobody in particular, sliding his arm through his white coat as he surveyed the waiting room. "Oi, oi. There's already this many here? You old folks and your early rising."

One old woman replied to his idle comment. "Isn't it more that the young doctor is slow to rise? It's late, you know."

"Like that's the problem. It's because I have to meet with you all that business hours have been pushed up earlier and earlier. Hope you're all at least eating breakfast before you come in."

"I always do."

"That's good. You don't have many years left you know, so you have to eat as much good food as you can so there's no regrets."

Thin laughter filled the waiting room. Mutou and Towada exchanged forced smiles. The director, Ozaki Toshio, was like this in anything and everything he did.

"There you go again with those thoughtless, cruel words..." Sighed Mutou quietly as he followed after Toshio into the break room.

"It's the gods' honest truth. ---What's up? You're dragging your feet."

"I'm just sore. It's from the mushiokuri."

"That right? Mutou-san was a yuge-shuu?"

"Yes, I was, but that aside..." Mutou gave Toshio a withering glare. "Since you don't watch your mouth, I have to hear that the young doctor of the Ozaki Hospital is a no-good doctor, you realize."

"Is there any doubt I am a no-good doctor? If I was serious about being a doctor, do you think I'd come back to the country like this? What I left behind was a modern ivory tower."

'Good grief,' thought Mutou as he forced a smile. The former Doctor Ozaki had been an exceedingly haughty man, and there were those, particularly the elderly, who came to the hospital longing for the gravitas of his predecessor, saying that his son was an impudent brat but as for Mutou himself, he preferred the son to the father. He was verbally abusive, using it to intentionally provoke others around him, imprudent and light lipped. Wearing his white coat over jeans and a T-shirt, he didn't command so much as an ounce of majesty as a doctor but he didn't begrudge after-hours medical examinations and if he was called, then regardless of the hour he would grab his bag and go off on a house call without a second thought. Last year he'd taken out a significant loan to expand and remodel one part of the hospital and bring in a CT scanner. The destruction of the spacious director's office beloved by generations, indeed a splendid room, and the adjoining reception room that both faced outwards to an extravagant garden, for the sake of at CR scanner, spoke volumes about Toshio's temperament.

Toshio opened the break room door. Inside, Towada saw that all staff members were already assembled. There were four nurses. First was the eldest, Hashiguchi Yasuyo, with Nagata Kiyomi and Kunihiro Ritsuko completing the list of those from within town, followed by the commuter, Shiomi Yuki. There was another worker who commuted, Isaki Satoko, but she wasn't there today.

Towada supposed that since she wasn't here, it must have been her day off. There was the X-ray technician Shimoyama, the office workers Mutou and Towada, as well as the part timers in charge of cleaning and general duties, Miki and Fujou, and that was all the staff there were to take care of each and every patient in Sotoba.

"Good morning."

Seeing Toshio and Mutou, Kiyomi stood. In response Toshio indicated for her to get him a coffee and sat himself down at one of the chairs surrounding the wide table. Mutou pulled out a neighboring seat when his movements caught Kiyomi's eye as she was about to leave the room.

"Mutou-san, what happened? To your leg."

"I was just now telling the doctor how they're sore."

"Oh, Mutou-san was a yuge-shuu? Somebody doesn't get enough exercise, does he!"

"A little exercise wouldn't have warded this off."

Toshio snickered. "The festivities start off with bunch of guys jumping all over the place like mountain tengu, after all."


With a grimace he finally took a seat. He had tended to it all day yesterday, but it still hurt. It seemed like he was going to be groaning every time he stood or sat down for a while still.

At the window side table, the nurses dutifully prepared the gauze. Shimoyama opened a manual filled with sticky notes. Before the hospital opened staff was supposed to assemble for a morning meeting but it was really only a chance for staff to relay anything that needed to be known while everyone was assembled in the brief lull before medical examinations began, and nothing more.

The sun's rays and a pleasantly cool breeze came in through the wide open window. For now they could get by comfortably enough without the air conditioner but this summer was hot. As the sun rose, the temperatures were sure to rise rapidly as always.

"The weather's so good it's annoying." Toshio looked out the window, lighting a cigarette. Toshio was a member of the heavy smoker class, an archetypal example of a doctor not practicing what they preach, neglecting their own health.

"It really is!" Yasuyo stopped to look out the window. Already sweat was forming on the rounded tip of her nose. "Day after day, I can't take this heat! When you put on weight, heat becomes even hotter."

"Of course summer's gonna be hot. But still, this summer is hot. This weather's going to clear the old folks right on out of here."

Mutou scowled at Toshio. "I'm begging you, please do not say that kind of imprudent thing in public."

"---If I lose that many clients, at least Seishin will be raking it in."

Mutou let out a sigh; there was nothing that could be done about him. The heir of the mountain temple, Muroi Seishin had been a classmate of Toshio's.

"...Come to think of it, someone from the Yajima National Health Institute said that he had seen the doctor talking to a monk and found it strange."

As Yasuyo said that, Toshio gave a low chuckle.

"He could smell the conspiracy, I bet. When me and Seishin get together, you never know what we might be plotting."

"Please don't say that. When you say it, it doesn't sound enough like a joke."

While the fir trees isolated the mountainside and the houses in a sense, they were at the top of the map near the Maruyasu sawmill's lumber yard and the doctor and the monk had been friends since they were children. It was common knowledge amongst the villagers but it might have looked like and unusual combination to someone who didn't know.

"That's right, hey, back to the mushiokuri," said Mutou as he rubbed at his leg. "Something weird happened."

"Something weird?"

"Yes. While we were burning the Betto, a moving van came by."

"Oi, oi. Isn't that in the dead of night?"

"Right, in the dead of night. There was a truck and two cars following it."

'Hnn' breathed Toshio as he exhaled smoke, looking to the window. "Whatever the case, they seem to be pretty weird. The people living at Kanemasa."

"Don't you think so? If a moving truck comes in you'd normally think that they were finally going to move in to Kanemasa, wouldn't you? The house had been built last June, but the owners themselves still hadn't ever moved in! As a matter of fact, that truck only came in half way, then turned back around!"

"Eh?" It was Yasuyo who interrupted. "Are you sure it wasn't just a careless driver who took the wrong road?"

"That can't be," said Yuki. Yuki drove in to work from a neighboring town herself. "There's no road to mistake it for. The road's a different size! There aren't any side roads around there besides the one coming into Sotoba."

"So I'm saying, maybe they had the wrong main road and were changing course."

"If that was the case, isn't there the drive-in on the corner at the intersection? The parking lot is big enough that the truck could have easily turned around without having to come all the way into town to back up and change directions."


"In the first place, you wouldn't normally move in in the middle of the night, either."

"You might if you moved in from far away," Yasuyo said looking to Mutou. "What was on the license plate?"

"No idea. It wasn't close enough that you could see the license plate."

"In cases like that, wouldn't you set out to arrive during the day time? It's strange is what it is."

While Yuki was trying to push the story as strange, Yasuyo turned a frustrated eye to her.

"Then there was probably some unexpected delay that made them arrive late, I'm sure."

"But isn't that boooring?"

Mutou and the others laughed at her whining way of putting it.

"Good grief. That's all it comes down to for this girl."

"I want to be entertained, since I'm still young," said Yuki as she leaned towards Ritsuko, peering up into her eyes. "Since I don't have anybody to eat lunch with on Sunday in Mizobe, three doors down from the town hall at the Italian restaurant."

Ritsuko's eyes widened with a start, her face quickly going red.

"Yuki-chan," Yasuyo laughed. "What a concrete topic you've turned to now!"

"It's a maiden's dream! He would wear a green polo shirt, and I would dress to match him in a mint green one piece!"

"Oh, Yuki-chan, you!"

Toshio laughed as Ritsuko gave Yuki a light push. "Yuki-chan still hasn't said who she was with, though."

"That's right, that's right!"

With a whine of 'No!' Ritsuko glared at Yuki as if angry, her face red.

Come to think of it, Ritsuko was twenty eight, wasn't she, getting to be about that age, thought Mutou. It wouldn't be strange at all for her to be getting married at that age, in fact by the village of Sotoba's standards she would be a late marriage. But it would hurt to have the good nurse quit. Even setting her quality aside, there would probably be a nurse shortage; he didn't think that they could find a replacement so easily for a country hospital.

"If you're getting married, make it to someone who'll let you continue nursing. If not, don't expect any wedding presents from me."

At Toshio's teasing, Ritsuko turned away, still bright red.

"It is not going to come to that!"

According to the Ozaki Hospital signboard, their specialty was internal medicine but by request they could look into anything. It was technically a hospital, so patients could be admitted but in all the rooms there were 19 beds, all of which had remained open ever since Toshio had returned. Even if they had the equipment, there wasn't enough staff to manage in-patient clients.

"I'd been planning to rely on Ricchan's little sister, though. Her working at a day care was a miscalculation."

Despite being teased by Toshio, Ritsuko wore an unfazed smile.

"Don't you think she choose that instead because she sees how much I suffer for work?"

"And so, we've got no choice but to count on Mutou-san's daughter."

"Surely you jest," returned Mutou. Kids nowadays wouldn't want to work at the same place as their parents, and his eighteen year old daughter was still in high school.

"You're a cold guy. Then that leaves--" Just as Toshio was speaking, Kiyomi returned from the kitchen with a tray. "Ah ha, Nagata-san's got a daughter."

Mutou and Ritsuko laughed, leaving Kiyomi to look at them with bewilderment. "What is this? You've been badmouthing me, I see."

"Naw," Toshio laughed. "It's been unanimously decided that we will be having Nagata-san's daughter coming to work here as a nurse."

Kiyomi gave an exasperated huff. "My child is still in sixth grade. ---Here, your coffee."

Kiyomi sat a cup down in front of Toshio and Mutou.

"Excuse me, Doctor?" Towada opened the door and stuck his face in. "The old man from the Ebata family's fallen off of his bicycle."

"It starts."

Toshio stood. Yuki and Ritsuko briskly prepared the gauze.

"Is he coming in?"

"Someone from the house will be bringing him. He's cut his head and his face is covered in blood."

Toshio and Yasuyo half-hustled out, leaving the freshly brought coffee untouched. It was still ten minutes until office hours officially began.

(Anonymous) 2013-07-26 02:19 am (UTC)(link)
The hospital seems like a fun place. Never heard of old ladies referring to themselves as sea lions before. Arf arf! Haha, also it took me a while to identify Ricchan and Ritsuko as the same person.

To clarify, all of the names are in Japanese order (last name first) right?

(Anonymous) 2013-08-07 03:04 am (UTC)(link)
It's a shame that Shiki is so underground, because I feel like a lot of people would like it if they got a chance to read, not just anime fans. I saw a blog post online about how they could give Shiki an official translation and then market it as 'hey, this book was a shout-out to Salem's Lot' because Stephen King is super popular. I think if they did that, they could make a profit. Although the book being Japanese could scare off some potential readers. That's too bad, though. Even though it's only been one chapter (and it's long as hell), I can tell that the author is great at writing. --And you're great at translating too! *compliment* :)

[personal profile] airlynx 2013-08-12 11:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Shiki being Japanese is, as you said, part of its charm...I wish that anime/manga/other Japanese stuff weren't seen as so weaboo. Like, "oh yeah, people who like that stuff are WEIRD". Well, they're really missing out! I can't argue that some can be pleeeenty obnoxious, but that's quite a stereotype.
So I wish there wasn't a NEED for shying away from the anime/manga stereotype, but I also think that any work that wants to escape that stereotype kind of needs to, in order to reach a wider audience.

It sucks that if a person is like "I'm really interested in Indian culture" that's normal and cool but if they're interested in Japanese culture, then it's automatically "get thee behind me, otaku"

[personal profile] airlynx 2013-08-14 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
With any new book, especially translations, it's kind of like playing Russian Roulette because it's hard to tell if it'll be successful or not. With the proper funding, I guess you could get some ads up, put the books on the front shelf at the bookstore, etc. But without it, it could just end up as one of those paperbacks that sits in the shady section of the store where nobody dares venture. One of those that you couldn't find it if you didn't know it was there.
But then it could also be a sleeper hit with fans coming out of nowhere.

On the other hand, there are quite a lot of weaboos/otakus out there, enough to make a profit on I suppose.

But yeah, I think that fan-translations are a lot of the times better and more accurate, because it's nonprofit so the person doing them actually wants to and is focused on doing a good job (or so I'd hope...) But official translations know that they're going to get a profit no matter what they do so they can, like, half-ass it.
Unfortunately, it would be pretty hard to unite everyone into demanding better translations, which sucks because I'm sure there's not a single person who doesn't want that.