Ruth McCreery

General Comments

This article, still sadly timely, posed challenging problems for the translators.

First, the title. What is a 国際政治学者? The literal translation is “international political scientist,” but what does that mean? As an English phrase, it is somewhat ambiguous: is it someone studying international political affairs or someone internationally known for those studies? Bear in mind that the title should probably be translated last, to make sure it reflects the content of the article. We find, reading on, that these folks are on TV and elsewhere interpreting current events. Those are not settings in which “political scientists” are often introduced. “International relations experts” is one of the best of our translators’ solutions.

Those suddenly prominent experts are described as 中堅世代, a phrase that prompted a variety of translations. “Mid-career” seems good, since it communicates the sense of 世代 and also that these had not been famous or towering figures.

In the discussion of JAIR, we encounter 地域の研究者, for which the obvious, literal, translation is “regional studies researchers.” “Regional studies,” however, is far less commonly used than “area studies” (and sounds more restricted). The JAIR introduction also raises the question of 下部構造を重視するマルクス主義歴史学. “Substructures” seemed plausible, but meant, given my ignorance of Marxist historiography, nothing to me. Exploring further, I learned that “the base” or “substructure” (note: singular), i.e., the mode of production, is what was referred to.

The discussion of one outcome of those scholars’ work, an eight-volume set on the Pacific War, brought us to a point I am picky about: translating the punctuation. Book titles are italicized, not put in quotation marks, in English.

It also raised a hairy question: what is the time frame defined as 昭和戦前期? “Pre-war Showa period” would mean nothing to many readers. Moreover, that phrase, oddly enough, sometimes includes the wartime years. (See, for example.) “Leading up to the war” is somewhat better, except many would assume “the war” meant war after Pearl Harbor (World War II in the Pacific). Indeed, the book’s title suggests that, but its contents begin near the Mukden Incident of 1931 and continue to the start of war with the US and its allies.

The author’s eloquent defense of the study of history by referring to Tuchman’s The Guns of August and JFK faced with the threat of nuclear war also raised the issue of 実学, a term that the translators dealt with in various ways. Its meaning, in the context of directions in Japanese education, is various, but “science,” practical or applied, is too narrow an interpretation. 学 is not limited to science, after all. “Applied studies” might be a better solution.


This translator dealt with most of the above points effectively in an excellent translation that reads well and is accurate (for the most part).

The title “In the Face of War, What Can International Relations Scholars Do?” is compelling, accurate, and avoids the “political scientist” problem. The first two paragraphs are effective, with “The performance of mid-career researchers especially has been breathtaking” solving one problem neatly while also, with “breathtaking,” providing a compelling translation for 目覚ましい. In the last sentence, though, I do not see a need for “likely.” (It’s also rather awkward.)

In the next paragraph, “Japan’s forte” works well. In introducing the JAIR, the translator’s “Diplomatic historians and area studies researchers have played a key role in the Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR), the largest academic society engaged in research in international relations in Japan, ever since its founding in 1956” may be a misinterpretation of 当初. 当初からwould be “ever since its founding,” but, as is, “at its founding,” with no statement about its present state, is safer. The translator dealt with the Marxist term as “modes of production,” well, though I see no advantage to shifting from “historiography” in the original to “historians” in the translation.

In the next paragraph, “After the nation’s surrender in August 1945, the universal concern of many was the question of why Japan had plunged into an ill-advised war” is good and bad. “The nation’s surrender” is a helpful clarification, but “universal concern” seems an overstatement, one contradicted by “of many” following it. “The large majority of Japanese citizens could not know how their own country’s policies were decided, just like many Russian citizens today,” leaves the Russians hanging. It would read more clearly as “Like many Russian citizens today, the large majority of Japanese citizens . . .” (though then I would suggest rewriting to avoid repeating “citizens”). “There arose from all over Japanese society” could also better be, for example, “throughout Japanese society.”

E42 put the book title in italics! (Italicizing the translated title or not is somewhat of a puzzle; normally, one would not, but since a partial translation of the book exists, the italics make sense for the translated version, too.) The translator also found the correct English name of the publisher.

In the next paragraph, “the pre-war period” at least points the reader in the right direction, but, in the following paragraph, “exceptional research, even while done after the fact” could shed the “even.” No such research is done in advance. The discussion of the Tuchman book and the role of history is effective. “Applied sciences” seems a little off for 実学, however. “Applied studies”?


E32’s translation is free of major errors and reads well. The choice of “geopolitical scholars” in the title is better than the literal “international political scientists,” but not compelling, especially since the first paragraph talks about experts instead of scholars. The first paragraph’s “current generation” for 中堅世代 works, and “actively disseminate” for 活発に発信している is good, but note that they are disseminating their analyses of the latest developments, not news of the developments themselves, as E32 implies.

“Interdisciplinary regional studies,” in the next paragraph effectively communicates what that field (as in “area studies”) means. “In contrast to” is a nifty way to deal with 一線を画し, and “economic substructure” works, but why put Marxist historiography in the past tense? Also 史料に基づいた isn’t limited to using “policy-making documents.” I am puzzled by “systematically sorting through” for 体系的に吸収して; doubtless those area studies researchers did sort through what they absorbed, but the Japanese is talking about their absorbing it.

In the next paragraph, “after the defeat of August 1945” would seem to imply that there were other defeats. (There were, of course, but that would be another topic.) “After Japan’s surrender in August 1945” would clarify the event in question.

The translator italicized the title of the book, and got the publisher’s name right. And added a useful footnote about the availability of its partial translation!

In the paragraph about The Guns of August, “seminal work” is good, but “outlines the events” seems a little thin, and that JFK was “familiar with” the book, instead of reading it, is off. I also do not understand what “played a role in the mentality of world leaders” means. Here the leader in question is specifically JFK and, as E42 said, the book shaped his thinking.

“Practical science” in the last paragraph is also puzzling as a translation for 実学. Is there “impractical science”? And is all 学 science?


E02 also produced a largely accurate translation, with some errors and awkward English. The title, with its “international political scientists,” needs rethinking. In the first paragraph, “everyday” should be “every day,” but the rest of the paragraph works well.

In the next paragraph, I am puzzled by “the academic field in Japan.” Does the translator mean international relations and area studies or academia in general? At the least, “that academic field” would help.

Moving on to JAIR, I see “first established in 1956” as a mistranslation of 1956年の創設当初: 当初 means “at the start, originally,” whereas E02’s translation implies that the organization was re-established at some point. “Became a centre for” also diverges from the kinds of scholars who 中心となっていた. (See E42, for example.) E02 also hands us “substructures,” instead of the Marxist “substructure, base, or modes of production.” (The rest of the paragraph works well.)

The following paragraph is good except for “the Japanese public could not understand.” That phrase is somewhat ambiguous: were people incapable of understanding or lacking the information with which to make sense of what had happened?

In the next paragraph, E02 puts the book title, in English only, in quotation marks. In the next paragraph, “testimonies” seems a little strong for ヒアリング, which would be interviews. Here we also find the literal “Showa pre-war period,” a translation that would mean nothing to many readers. Even dropping “Showa” would help.

“But great research, even after the fact, can make clear,” when discussing research in history and area studies, made me wonder what such research “before the fact” might be.

This translator also inflicts quotation marks on Barbara Tuchman’s book, but handles the impact of the book well before moving on to “practical science.”


“International politics scholars” in the title is not effective. In the next paragraph, “catch our eye with their activeness” is an odd workaround for “strikingly active.” “Situational analyses” in the next sentence is good, but then we get “Not to mention” beginning the next paragraph, which is quite awkwardly written. “New-generation international political scientists actively play such roles on media facing crises, which I would say shows the thickness of academic layers in Japan” manages to be both ungrammatical and painfully literal. Similar clumsiness can be seen in “centered around the researchers” in the introduction to JAIR. “Histography” is presumably a typo, but E46 does use “the base.” The rest of the paragraph needs editing.

E46 does use italics for the book title, but oddly messes up its romanization as Taiheiyou Senso eno Michi. In describing it, “full references” should not be plural, and simply using “hearing” for ヒアリング suggests a lack of even mild checking. (Also, simply back romanizing katakana terms is usually a bad idea.) Here, too, we have the “pre-war Showa era,” which is not helpful. The next two paragraphs continue in clumsy English. The final paragraph’s “studies with tangible outcomes” is, however, a nice try for 実学.


The title “The Power of International Relations in the Face of War” seems effective but does not connect with the content of the article. The first paragraph is, however, well written and accurate. The second paragraph’s beginning, “It should go without saying,” is actually something we could also do without translating; it makes the flow of the argument stumble. The “Pundits of this calibre” sentence is good, though “pundits,” in American English, is now acquiring a somewhat sarcastic tone.

In the paragraph on JAIR, we have “political science” without the “international,” a critical loss. The rest of that paragraph works well. In the following paragraph, the translation of the book title is in unnecessary quotation marks and the name of the publisher is incorrect. “Interviews with primary sources” is a little puzzling; can people be primary sources? An interview with someone who was directly involved is, however, a primary source.

“Reflecting like this on the progression of international relations in Japan, it reiterates the question” is ungrammatical. The rest of paragraph does work well. But, in the next one, why is Tuchman’s book a “work of literature”? Why “referenced by” JFK, when the Japanese says he was reading it? And how could it have “ended a war” that, mercifully, did not occur?

The last paragraph’s trend towards the practical in academia skillfully avoids the 実学 problem. The rest of that sentence is a bit clumsy, but the paragraph ends well with a clear and forceful statement.


E56 wins the best title contest, with the accurate and thought-provoking “What Good Is a Global Political Analyst When War Comes Knocking at the Door?”

The first paragraph’s “tried-and-true mid-ranking analysts” as a way to deal with 中堅世代の研究者 seems overly elaborate and off kilter. These are analysts who suddenly popped up in response to the war in Ukraine; do we know they are tried and true? Or mid ranking? Why aren’t we hearing from top-ranking analysts? “Mid-career researcher” is more accurate and less confusing.

“Seasoned analyst,” in the next paragraph, is, however, effective. In the third paragraph, “even the Japan Association of International Relations” seems to be adding emphasis not in the original. “In the early years after its inception” misses the meaning of 当初, but E56 goes on to deal with the Marxist historiography well. Unfortunately, “These foreign affairs historians conducted a historically situated demonstrative analysis of the process by which political decisions were made in an attempt to illuminate the dynamics behind global politics” is puzzling. A demonstrative analysis addresses how a particular independent variable affects various behaviors; I don’t see how introducing that concept clarifies what those historians were doing. Moreover, E56 has skipped the use of historical sources. But used “area studies”!

The next paragraph begins well, but I found myself wondering why E56 limited 人々 to civilians; many who had served in the military had also been excluded from the decision-making process and were doubtless questioning it. “Much in the same vein as the Russian people today” is odd as English. “A dogged interest” and, in the next paragraph, “pour themselves body and soul” are excellent. E56 has italicized the title of the resulting book, to my delight, but has the publisher’s name wrong and falsely implies that a full translation exists.

The accursed 昭和戦前期 is translated as “the pre-war period of the Shōwa era (1926-1945),” which is clear enough but, since the book covers the years up to 1941, not 1945, not accurate.

The discussion of how historical and areas studies research can provide insights and the introduction of the Tuchman book go well, and the last paragraph is brilliant, and not just in dealing with 実学 as “‘practical’ fields.” E56 has brought the argument to a powerful conclusion.