A “Cook’s Tour” of Some Translation-Related Conferences in 2022

By Judy Wakabayashi

Here are some notes on several workshops and conferences I’ve attended over the past months (mostly online, and just those sessions I attended). The choice is inevitably biased toward my personal research interests and constrained by time zone differences. I hope some aspects might be of interest to other SWET members even if they are not involved in research. In most cases translation is the shared thread, with translation history at the forefront in several instances.

On 25 March the National Institute of Japanese Literature (NIJL) hosted a workshop titled A Remote-Access Guide to Resources and Opportunities. Speakers discussed topics such as the NIJL databases (the Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books being of particular interest), the digitalization of premodern Japanese books, kuzushiji recognition technology, and the Bibliographic Terminology Study Group (書誌学用語勉強会).

Presentations at Kyūshū Islands: A Hub of Global Encounters (11th-19th centuries) (a workshop held on March 25 and April 1, 2022) included one by Keiko Cryns on the “Dutch Factory” at Hirado before the Dutch were forced to move to Nagasaki. Pierre-Emmanuel Bachelot discussed shipwrecked sailors from China, Korea and Southeast Asia who were sent to Nagasaki before being repatriated. Wang Ziqin focused on the Chinese community in Nagasaki and the painting and calligraphy work of some of them. Noriko Berlinguez-Kono explored the dynamics of the circulation of imported knowledge via Saga. Damien Peladan examined piracy raids on the Korean Peninsula from Kyushu, while Peter Shapkinsky focused on how pirates based in Tsushima used its strategic geographic position and connections to help the Japanese and Koreans institutionalize human trafficking. Enomoto Wataru examined the role of Hakata in ancient Japan as a conduit for introducing Chinese culture. Wu Jiang described the importation of Buddhist books via Nagasaki in the Edo period. Although few of the presenters explored translation-related issues in detail, their specialized historical knowledge about this key hub in linguistic and cultural interactions in premodern Japan was not only impressive in its depth but also fascinating.

I attended only one talk at the Healing the People: Popularizing and Printing Medicine in Edo Japan conference (Leiden University, 20–21 May 2022)—Daniel Trambaiolo’s “The Old Cures and the New: Life Cycles of Medical Knowledge in Print.” Daniel has a Ph.D. in molecular biology and another one in the history of science and has a forthcoming book on medical knowledge in Tokugawa Japan.

On 25–28 May, Tallinn University in Estonia hosted a conference titled History and Translation: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Only the closing assembly was online. The recent international focus on translation history in Translation Studies circles reportedly started in Tallinn in 2010, although many individual researchers have long worked on this topic. The interest in translation history is evident from the fact that the History and Translation Network (https://historyandtranslation.net/) now has well over 400 members and the fact that Palgrave has launched a book series on translation history and Routledge has a series titled Research on Translation and Interpreting History. The next conference in the History and Translation series will be held in two years’ time, and there is interest in holding it outside of Europe to help counter the ongoing Eurocentric bias in much of Translation Studies, including translation history. There is also interest in other activities, such as setting up focus groups within the network, organizing public online lectures, and informal mentoring for students writing theses or dissertations on translation history topics.

With the East Asian Translation Studies (EATS) Conference in Paris on 30 June–2 July, some of the sessions that caught my attention were Chen Hung-Shu’s talk on “Universals in Translation of Translation: How Indirect Translation Research in East Asia Contributes to Translation Studies;” Yoshida Aki’s “Towards the Construction of a New Common Knowledge of Literature: The Translation of Asian and African Writers in Japan from the 1950s to the 1970s;” Shao Dan’s “Naming the Past: Feminist Agency and Intertextuality in Japanese Translation of Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye;” Edward Kamens’ “Teaching ‘How to Live Your Life’ Through Translation;” and Yuan Wei’s “Role of Publishers in Translation Circulation and Reception: Jean-Philippe Toussaint in China and Japan as a Case Study.”

On 7 August I attended in person a fascinating talk at the University of Queensland by Professor Felicity Meakins titled “Breathing New Life into Australia’s Indigenous Languages”—an appropriate topic to help mark the start of UNESCO’s Decade of Indigenous Languages. Australian Indigenous languages are some of the world’s most grammatically complex languages and embed social, cultural and ecological knowledge in their grammar in unique ways that might contribute to theories of language and mind. Although not directly focusing on translation, Professor Meakins noted the role that translations to and from Australian Indigenous languages (including Indigenous sign languages) can play in preserving and reviving these languages.

In August, I also attended three of the several talks by Professor Kaisa Koskinen from Tampere University in Finland when she was the CETRA Chair Professor (a role I was honored to play in 2015) in Leuven, Belgium as part of an intensive two-week summer workshop for doctoral students in Translation Studies. I was able to hear Professor Koskinen speak on “Translatoriality,” “Using and Reusing Concepts,” and her closing (and more personal) talk on “Division of Academic Labour or How to Find Your Calling and Stay Motivated in the Academia.”

The day after that talk I was lucky enough to “eavesdrop” at the Religion, Translation and Transnational Relations: Japan and (Counter-)Reformation Europe conference held at Leipzig University between 1 September and 3 September. This was an intimate gathering but extremely impressive in terms of the speakers’ depth of knowledge about the translation of Christian texts in Japan’s “Christian Century.” PhD candidate Kurokawa Mari kicked things off with a talk titled “Pray and Wish in Jesuit Japanese Grammars.” Alessandro Bianchi spoke on “Translations, Bibliography, and the Materiality of Language;” and Professor Orii Yoshimi spoke on “The Theological Sources of the Theory of ‘Dissimulation’ during the Period of Persecution of Christianity in Japan.” Professor Hiraoka Ryuji gave a keynote lecture titled “The Discovery and Significance of Sufera-no nukigaki (Selection on the sphere), a Japanese Translation of Jesuit Cosmology Textbook.” The other keynote lecture was by Professor Higashibaba Ikuo, titled “The Other End of the Encounter: Revisiting Cultural Agencies of the Christian Mission in Early Modern Japan.” Other talks included Pia Jolliffe’s “This Iaponian Palme-tree of Christian Fortitude”—Jesuit Letters from Japan and the English (Counter-) Reformation;” Carla Tronu’s “Translation and Transnational Relations in Early Modern Japanese Confraternities;” Paula Hoyos Hattori’s “Cultural Translations and Edition Processes: A Study of the Jesuits’ Texts Written from the Japanese Mission, Translated and Included by R. Hakluyt in The Principal Navigations (Vo. 2. 1599);” Katja Triplett’s “Remarks on the Bodleian Japanese Jesuit Missionary Print of the Contemptus mundi jenbu (1596) and its Way into a European Collection;” and Fiona Karcz’s “Knowledge and Skills between West and East: The Jesuit Mission Press in Kyūshū (1591–1614). The fact that two of the conferences above focused on Kyushu is no coincidence, as this island was where much of the most important translation-related “action” occurred in early modern Japan.

Yesterday (October 7) I rounded things off by listening to Professor Svenja Kranich from the Excellence University of Bonn speak on “Pragmatic Contrasts and the Use of the Cultural Filter in Translation” at a University of Queensland seminar. Although strongly grounded in solid academic research, this was the only presentation described here that had more direct implications for professional translations. Based on the study of a corpus of English and German texts in the field of business communication and a study of requests in the two languages, Professor Kranich’s research delved into different “cultural scripts” at work in English and German, illustrating how pragmatic differences between the two languages often call for adaptations to the target audience’s expectations. We often hear how English is a much more “direct” and “explicit” language than Japanese, so it was interesting to hear how from a German perspective English favors “indirect” and “implicit” communication.

Although the above is largely a rather dry listing of titles, as space (and energy) does not allow elaboration, I hope this gives readers a taste of some of the themes explored in certain academic circles in recent months and a hint of the awe-inspiring expertise of so many scholars working on translation-relevant topics. Despite the impression the above might give, I am by no means a “conference junkie,” but I am very grateful that online conferences now provide us with more opportunities to participate in these gatherings. This is a real intellectual luxury, especially for those suffering the “tyranny of distance” (or time and money). I am looking forward to attending my next conference in person—the Australian Institute of Translators and Interpreters’ conference at the University of Queensland in November on the theme of “Rebuild & Belong: Evolution, Transformation, and Growth,” where the focus will be on professional rather than academic matters.

If you’re interested in finding out about forthcoming conferences on Japan or translation, the PMJS mailing list, H-Japan, and national associations of translation are some places to start the search.


Judy Wakabayashi served as professor of Japanese-English translation at Kent State University in Ohio from 2002 to 2021. After translating in-house and freelance, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Queensland and taught translation at the graduate level there until moving to Ohio. Now retired, she is based in Brisbane, Queensland and engaged in independent research.

This article was originally written for the SWET website. © 2022 Judy Wakabayashi