I have found Ryotaro Shiba to be an entirely compelling writer. There is just one problem: accessibility. His writings were all originally in Japanese, and no major publishing company has invested heavily into translating all of his works. And I could find no comprehensive listing in English which would give a good overview of what we can find translated into European languages. Insofar as I think that it would be a good idea to have something along those lines, I decided to compose this post here.
The largest number of his works that have been translated have been into English. The following listing is as far as I know accurate although I have not looked very much into his travel writings.
- Clouds Above the Hill: A Historical Novel of the Russo-Japanese War
Original Title: Saka no ue no kumo
Translated very recently, with only the first two volumes published in late 2012 and the last two in late 2013. Therefore, this entire work can be found in English at present.
- The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Original Title: Saigo no Shōgun
This was the book which introduced me to Shiba’s historic journalism, and I believe it remains the most widely accessible book of his in English (and translated to the greatest number of other languages).
- Kukai the Universal: Scenes from His Life
Original Title: Kukai no fukei
This book is again part of my collection, so it is definitely there. Finding it was difficult though so I am not certain how easily accessible it is. There’s a fair bit of information on it, and it looks like something which could easily go back into print if there was demand so that’s that.
- Drunk as a Lord
Original Title: Yotte soro
A collection of four short stories, I found it difficult to get hold of a copy of this book but managed. Seems to have been translated the longest time ago, but that has not necessarily helped its spread.
- The Heart Remembers Home
Original Title: Kokyō bōjigataku sōro
Now this is a problematic one: there is a reference to this book that I found on the cover of ‘Drunk as a Lord’. My searches have indicated that it does exist, but it would seem that the original print was rather limited. It does seem to exist on eBay though so I would expect there to be a number of copies in circulation. I am, however, unsure whether we are dealing with a historical novel or a travel writing although I have located the book in the Library of the Congress listings.
- The Tatar Whirlwind: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century East Asia
Original Title: Dattan shippuroku
And translated in the last decade, this seems fairly accessible and was the second book I discovered when I looked into whatever else could be found by Mr Shiba in English.
French is, as far as I know, another language into which a few of his works have been translated. I have been able to find out about the following:
- Kukai the Universal
Now, I know I have used the English title here but that is singularly because while I see a report that this should have been translated into French, I cannot find the French edition for sale on any site. This could be due to me not knowing where to look, so I’m assuming that this has been translated as the [Japanese Literature Publishing Project] JLPP site claims.
- Le Dernier Shogun: [The Last Shogun]
- Hideyoshi, seigneur singe
Original Title: Shinshi Taikōki
I have ordered this book and will try to read it even though my grasp of French isn’t as great as it should be.
- Tokugawa Ieyasu, shôgun suprême
Original Title: Haō no ie
The exact same comment as the above title.
I wonder if the French have any plans to translate any other titles in the near future, given that they seem to have the greatest number of translated titles after English. Interestingly enough the titles that have been translated are very different, so it might be worth further investigation why that is so.
And I know that German boasts at least one:
- Der letzte Shogun: [The Last Shogun]
I also have seen that there should be one translation into Russian, but that seems to be a travel book: «О России. Изначальный облик севера». I am not entirely sure that I can classify that one as a travel book, but that’s my best guess at present. Similarly, I am not certain that there’s nothing else of Shiba’s to be found in Russian.
‘The Last Shogun’ also seems to be translated into Indonesian, and I thought I saw there also existed a Portugese version. This last bit of information may be wrong, please don’t quote me on that.
And this is where an overview of his translated works must finish — as I said above, I have ignored the presence or absence of the travel writings in English even though I noted that they might exist in Russian. I have no definitive information of any travel writings in English, but I have not looked into the matter as thoroughly as I would like since my main interest lies in the historical novels. At some point, I might increase the scope of what I would like to look at though.
However, I am sure that you’ll agree that overall too few of the works of this masterful writer have been translated. We truly could use more of Mr Shiba’s works in our languages! =)
EDIT, 19/02/2013: Added the original title to ‘The Heart Remembers Home’.
EDIT, 24/01/2014: Added information on the last two volumes of ‘Clouds Above the Hill’.