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  • Location: Tokyo

The Translation of Love

Why a Booktrail?

1947: In occupied Tokyo, people tried to survive as best they could. Translating letters between Americans and Japanese however was not always safe…

  • ISBN: 978-1784161149
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

This is Tokyo 1947. The was has ended but for many, especially the innocent civilians of Japan, they are still a long way from freedom. They are now living under the occupation forces and the leadership of General MacArthur. However, his is a unique leadership as he sends out a message that the people of Japan can write to him if they have a problem. More than 500 000 letters are sent in.

One is from Fumi, a young school girl who pleads for help in finding her sister.

These letters are sometimes all a person has to hang on to during this confusing time. Her letter gets into the hands of Matt , A Japanese american who was born in America but who is now is a wartime translator working with McArthur.

Meanwhile, in the city, a teacher from Fumi’s school, is supplementing his income translating love letters for Japanese girls and their GI Joes.

Can letters reunite people during wartime and can the two sides of war ever truly communicate with one another?

Travel Guide

The war

The setting is Tokyo after World War II. 1947 was a tricky time, a poignant time and a very confusing one.

The country had left the war damaged and many of its people from all over the world were forced to repatriate back to Japan. Many such as Aya were forced to return because of their parents, strangers in a country they now had to call home.

This mix of cultures is the most evident change in society. Japan and its people is very confused. Both Americans (Aya) and Japanese (Fumi) are thrown together in one space. American soldiers fall for Japanese girls. Japanese girls want a way out of this no man’s land.

General MacArthur and the GHQ

General MacArthur and his staff work in the Dai Ichi building near the Imperial Palace. Never before in a city have the two sides been so close and the contrast so great.

Translators of letters -within the offices of GM and a teacher from the girl’ s schools are the links between the two sides. Translators of bad news , official speak but also love between two cultures thrown together because of war.

Tokyo 1947

The city is torn between the occupiers and the occupied. The have and the have nots. From the Dai Ichi building where the occupiers work, to the Ueno park where lovers try to snatch a moment or two, to the Shotoku temple where Fumi likes to hang out, this is a city of old and new, tradition and military modernity. Two cultures in one very small and disjointed space.

The Ginza area

The red light area is the hub of the city and full of the bars and brothels that Fumi fears her sister has fallen into. This is a whole other world of darkness and danger. Dancing girls and men who drink too much. Control but of a different kind.

 

The school and orphanage

The insight into the lives of Japanese school girls is also fascinating – the way they are told to behave, bow, do what is expected. The regime both inside and out is constricted with children even having to censor their own textbooks. Then there’s the orphanage with its symbolic ‘ tunnel of separation’

Streetview Maps

D) Ueno Park
E) Love Letter Alley is close to the station

Booktrailer Review

Susan: @thebooktrailer

This is just a beautifully written and utterly captivating book that left me spell bound. The words just flow on the page and the emotion invested in each and every character made each character fully formed and interesting. This was a story of the American occupation of Japan told on so many levels and through various viewpoints but it never gets confusing – rather I was there beside each and every one seeing the effects of both sides of the occupation  – something very unique that an author could be forgiven for focussing on one more than the other, but not Lynne.

I think she’s painted a very multicoloured picture of a difficult time and made it accessible and heartwarming via the power of the written letter. How poignant some of the letters are and the way people use them to reach out across the divide. The mix of viewpoints in the novel too read like a song – all in different voices but the basic melody and their harmonies made the overall tune all the stronger. Never as the phrase ‘All singing from the same song sheet’ been quite as significant.

There’s so much to recommend this novel – the author’s research, her beautiful words and turn of phrase and her ability to make me smile on one page and cry on the next – (the girls and what they find one day!) This was just a gorgeous novel in so many ways and I just love the title – The Translation of Love – words and love unite us all and if only we could communicate properly with each other. We all need the same after all – to be loved, to love and to find strength in each other and ourselves.

I’ve always though that letter writing was an art. Now this novel has made it more so.

Booktrail Boarding Pass Information: The Translation of Love

Author/Guide:  Lynne Kutsukake     Destination: Tokyo     Departure Time: 1947

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