Having grown up in Pittsburgh, I went to college at the University of Michigan, where I majored in English. What do you do with an English degree? Almost anything. But at the time (1963) you most likely ended up getting drafted to help with America’s misadventure in Vietnam. So I decided it would be a good idea to continue my student deferment, which I did by coming to Tokyo and enrolling at International Christian University. The official rationale was that I was going to learn Japanese and then do comparative literature. However, I found I was learning more Japanese outside the classroom than in, and I think ICU was very generous in keeping me on the rolls.
After several years, I got an introduction to some people at Miki Takeo’s office in Yotsuya who wanted to learn English and started teaching there once a week. This brought me to the attention of Kunihiro Masao, who was a famous simultaneous interpreter and translator and was also a foreign policy advisor to Miki. (Yes, this is the same Miki Takeo who later went on to become Prime Minister when the LDP needed a Mr Clean in the wake of the Lockheed affair.) Kunihiro asked me if I wanted to try translating a paper for the first Shimoda Conference (in 1967). I did. And it was great. No, I do not mean the translation was great. That was probably terrible. But it was a great experience. Not only did I get to read an advance copy of the paper, writing it in English forced me to understand it. What’s more, I got paid for this.
Soon I was working at Simul International one day a week and doing a lot of take-home translation. Plus doing a lot of non-Simul translation for other clients. When I found the other clients were taking more of my time than Simul was, I established my own company (Japan Research) to provide my services to both Simul and the other clients. This went on for about 40 years, including a lot of work for the national government ministries thanks to an initial introduction from Mochida Takeshi of Japan Echo. There are a lot of fields I do not work in (medicine, electrical engineering, and fine arts among them, but I have extensive experience in business and political translation because these are fields I am interested and knowledgeable in.)
Today, I have scaled back on my commercial translation business and am spending more time on community volunteer activities. Even so, I did find time to translate and publish Rethinking the Constitution: An Anthology of Japanese Opinion (this a translation of Kodansha’s Nihon no Kenpou: Kokumin Shuken no Ronten). As the title says, this is a collection of short opinion pieces on the question of revising the Constitution. The book itself does not take a stand one way or another. Rather, it includes many, many different opinions. If the book itself has a stance, that stance is that the Constitution is everybody’s business and everyone should be thinking about what it should say. If you are at all interested in Japanese politics and the issue of Constitutional revision, this is well worth having and reading.