Celebrating SWET’s 40th Anniversary - Add Your Voice!

SWET is pleased to mark the beginning of its fifth decade this month and celebrate the professional support, friendship, and networking role it has played in the lives of Japan-related wordsmiths. Founded in November 1980, SWET has provided society and networking opportunities for writers, editors, translators, and others engaged in English-language-related professions through four decades of change in the tools of our trade, the media of our communications, and even the content of our work.

Today, the SWET website is the headquarters of our activities and the archive of our endeavors. Here visitors can find diverse articles about English-language wordsmithing related to Japan in our “Articles” and “Columns” sections along with reading on numerous other topics. The “SWET Blogroll” takes you to the writing of thoughtful members and former members. “Upcoming Events” announces talks, workshop, and other events and leads to the “Past Events” page where access to selected events is available via YouTube or articles on the website. SWET members can access the full archive of the SWET Newsletter, published from 1981 to 2012.

In a time of multiple networking tools and media online and offline, SWET is proud to have fostered a place for Japan-related English wordsmiths, prizing the connections between people, their professional expertise, and the friendships formed over these years. We celebrate the camaraderie, collaboration, and sharing that has made this possible.

Please add your voice to our celebration by writing to SWET (listed in order received).

Amy Chavez
Kudos to an amazing 40 years of SWET! It's been a pleasure interacting with your organization in all its multifarious forms: meetings, social gatherings, author talks, handbooks, periodicals and, more recently, boundary-busting Zoom presentations. Such a valuable asset to foreigners in writing and publishing in Japan.

George Bourdaniotis
If I had not found SWET back in 1999, I would not be where I am now professionally, and I would not have the wonderful network, support group, and friends that I do. A big thank you to everyone who has worked hard for SWET and wordsmiths in Japan over the last 40 years. Here's to the next 40 and more!

Michihiro Hirai
Congratulations to SWET on its 40th anniversary. On this occasion I would like to express my appreciation of the hard work of all its core members. SWET publications and gatherings have always been a valuable source of inspiration as well as encouragement in my quest for better writing.

Peter Goodman, Stone Bridge Press
SWET has been instrumental in setting the standards for writing intelligently and professionally about Japan. Over the years it has grown to encompass new generations of writers and new media of expression, but its focus has never wavered. I value SWET for setting out early on to demand the best of its membership. Those of us who work on books about Japan value it especially as a place we can go to discuss issues that perhaps only we understand but that, to us, are vitally important and a source of pride and satisfaction. Congratulations to SWET—and to all of us—for keeping the basics at the forefront despite all the cultural and technological changes over the decades.

Beth Cary
40 Years of SWET and Counting! Kudos to the founders, many still active, who had the foresight to realize Writing, Editing, and Translating are intertwined.  With bright prospects to utilize online technology to soar into the twenty-first century, providing the chance to participate in events from afar. 

Christal Whelan
Well, well, SWET turns forty this year! As I referred to the “History of SWET” in order to jog my memory for details. I couldn’t help but tear up a bit since the organization was one of my earliest “families” in Japan after my arrival in 1990. As a newcomer to the country, SWET struck me then (and still does) as an organization full of people of character, all smitten in some way by a love of Japan, and engaged actively in ways to communicate its rich culture, scholarship, and contemporary life to people without much linguistic access to it. The first member I met was Nina Raj, for Nina’s sister, Rita, and my sister, Sally, were already friends through Our Bodies, Ourselves, a book and a non-profit group dedicated to empowering women.
     I lived initially in Tokyo, which meant that I never wanted to miss a single SWET party. Yet inevitably I would get worked up beforehand because there was always such a critical mass of people there with talent, experience, and dedication that was quite intimidating for a newbie like myself. Sure, there was noshing and schmoozing, but at bottom these parties brought together those with a profound commitment to building community and connecting people who worked in the J-E/E-J worlds in various capacities. I would eventually relax at those gatherings through the camaraderie extended in the form of soft-pedaled mentoring. I remember how excited I was to meet Janet Ashby at one of those first parties I attended. I had read and admired her articles in the Japanese English-language press and there she was live! Gradually, I came to know Becky Davis, Jiho Sargent, and Gerry Harcourt. Of the three, my own interests were most aligned with Gerry’s and we remained in touch for several years. She kindly gave me copies of some of her translations of Yuko Tsushima’s novels and wrote to me about her project with Hirotada Ototake, which eventually materialized in English as No One’s Perfect. Gerry also came to stay at our family home in Honolulu around the time of Hawai’i’s referendum on gay-marriage. I remember her impassioned discussion with my mother over Joan of Arc. Sadly, after that visit, I lost touch with that extremely talented and unusual woman.
     My early years in Japan also coincided with a huge global shift—the dawning digital age. It is hard to believe how any of us managed previously with no Internet or email. We had no iPhones either and instead of snapping photos it seems to me that we were more present for one another. When the Internet finally arrived, I can recall purchasing (probably at Kinokuniya’s in Shinjuku) what looked like the yellow pages telephone book, except it consisted of nothing but websites listed by categories. I was fascinated and brought it to show Michael Cooper, then the editor of the Monumenta Nipponica and living at the S.J. House at Sophia University. He was puzzled and asked, “How do you get to these places?” We were all offline in those days!
     I can recall a visit to SWETers Nina Raj and Susie Schmidt at their office at Todai Press, and the sound of Susie’s big bold laugh that was so grounding. We may have been spread all over Tokyo, and all over Japan for that matter, but there was a sense of community and common purpose among all the various wordsmiths in their private nooks. SWET, that is, the SWET community, helped me not only to grow but also to grow up as a professional with a keen sense of adventure and openness. Since then I have discovered that the climate it fostered— mutual support without the usual showboating—is the exception rather than the rule in organizational life. I have continued to benefit from my oldest and newest alliances. Nina Raj remains a trusted old friend and Lynne Riggs a new and wise presence who shepherded me along with sage advice as I pondered a recent offer to translate an academic book.
     May SWET continue to thrive for the next forty years and beyond, and remain a beacon of professional friendship for those navigating rough and still waters alike.

Jillian Yorke
Congratulations on SWET’s 40th anniversary! To have lasted for so long, to still be going strong, and the fact that so many of the founders and early members continue to be involved in SWET in some way are all remarkable achievements.
     My attendance at SWET events in the early 1980s was life-expanding—not only for the expertise and technical knowledge so willingly shared, and the wonderful friendships that developed there, but also because at the time I was living and working in an almost entirely Japanese-language world, so it was liberating just to be in a professional English-language environment.
     Many years later, towards the end of my time in Tokyo, it was a great pleasure to host a SWET garden party in the grounds of the old minka (traditional Japanese house) where I was living. Adam Kabat kicked off the afternoon with a fascinating talk on bakemono (Japanese ghosts), a perfect topic for the setting; there’s an article by Owen Schaeffer on this event in Issue No. 117 of the SWET Newsletter (2007).
     My heartfelt gratitude and respect to everyone who has built and supported SWET through all these years; here’s to the next four decades, and beyond!

Holly Thompson
Congratulations on SWET's fortieth anniversary! While I was aware of SWET when I first lived in Japan during the eighties, it was in the late nineties when I returned to Japan that I joined. I had two young children then, so event participation was difficult, and I recall Lynne Riggs traveling all the way out to Fujisawa for a coffee with me during yōchien and shogakkō hours, kindly advising me on kanji study, writing community, and editing. For Lynne's continued friendship, and for many years of edifying SWET events, valued community, informative newsletters that I saved until one move too many, and the always helpful Japan Style Sheet…I am forever grateful. Thank you to all who have made SWET such a vibrant community. 

Susan Schmidt, American Association of Teachers of Japanese
Congratulations to SWET—to all of us—for 40 years of this amazing international community! What a treasure SWET was at its beginning, and has continued to be: a source of mentoring, education, resources, referrals, fellowship, and more for so many people from all over the world working with, on, in, and around Japan through the medium of words and images. The media and tools for communication and creation have expanded and evolved in exciting ways, but the bedrock stays the same—the people! This year of COVID has been hard in so many ways, and kept us from celebrating in person, but it also opened new ways of connecting and made SWET a more wide-reaching and inclusive organization. Here’s to the next 10, 20, 40 years! And many thanks to the core group, whose sustained faith or energy keep SWET vital and up-to-date!

Susan E. Jones, Kobe College
Happy 40th anniversary, SWET! I first discovered the organization in the late 90s in Kobe. While I couldn't attend events in Tokyo, those I did attend in Kansai were amazing opportunities for professional growth and networking. I took away some new approach to my work or a new contact on each occasion. While many “in-the moment” translation questions are addressed via social media these days, SWET itself holds and disseminates a wealth of collective knowledge thanks to its wide-ranging membership. And need I mention the Japan Style Sheet, incredibly useful articles on the website, and, most recently, online-accessible events? Thank you, SWET! I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you in the future.