Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura
Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 4:40 p.m. Conference Room, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Mie, Japan Times: I have a question about the Hiroshima Declaration. The original document uses the term “human suffering,” but the Japanese version uses the term, “hi-ningenteki” It seems that “inhumane” would be more appropriate, and some are suggesting that this was a mistranslation. Please explain your opinion on this point. Also, there is talk about a visit by Mr. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, to Hiroshima, and the White House Press Secretary and others have mentioned this possibility. Is the Government of Japan directly inviting him? If not, what is the reason for not inviting him?
Press Secretary Kawamura: Regarding your first question on the term “human suffering” in the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Hiroshima Declaration and its translation, the use of “human suffering” in the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Hiroshima Declaration was a joint decision by the G7 Foreign Ministers.
As to the translation of “human” in “human suffering,” when we make a translation, which we call a provisional translation, we select a suitable term taking into account the context of the entire document. With regard to the context in this paragraph, I think the translation of this term in the Japanese document is appropriate given the aim of the Hiroshima Declaration is to communicate accurately the realities of atomic bombings, and spread the understanding on its suffering, and send a strong message for the realization of a “World without Nuclear Weapons”.
Regarding the question about President Obama, the White House Press Secretary’s comments you mentioned have been reported by the media, but my understanding is that the Press Secretary stated that he is still not fully aware of President Obama’s schedule during his visit to Japan for the Ise-Shima Summit at this point. As for the Government of Japan, I would like to refrain from commenting on the schedule of the President of the United States during his visit to Japan. Additionally, Japanese and U.S. authorities are not conducting detailed coordination of a visit to Hiroshima.
Mie, Japan Times: Is there a reason why this is not being done?
Press Secretary Kawamura: I think preparation and management of the schedule when President Obama comes to Japan for the Ise-Shima Summit is something for the Government of the United States to handle, so we don’t coordinate on that, and I would like to refrain from commenting on his visit from the Japanese side at this point.
Tadokoro, Mainichi Shimbun: I would like to ask about a possible visit by President Obama to Hiroshima. While the Government of the United States is studying the schedule itself, I think whether a Hiroshima visit occurs or not matters because the Government of Japan needs to make administrative preparations if such a visit takes place. Given the latest comments by the Government of the United States, it seems that Japan might need to make administrative preparations. Are these preparations taking place? What are your thoughts about the need for this activity?
Press Secretary Kawamura: The gist of your question assumes a visit to Hiroshima by President Obama. I apologize for repeating what I have stated. But I would like to refrain from commenting on the schedule of the President of the United States’ trip to Japan and related points. Additionally, the Governments of Japan and the United States are not conducting any coordination of his visit to Hiroshima.
Kurihara, NHK: Going back to the translation issue, your explanation suggests that international agreement documents are not always translated “word-for-word” and allow room for some interpretive translation that factors in the content of the overall document. Is a translation that is not “word-for-word” normally acceptable?
Press Secretary Kawamura: The word “human”, for example, has multiple translation choices in a dictionary, including “ningen-no,” “hito-no,” and others. It is true that there are various Japanese words that can be used for the translation of “human”, but the important thing is to choose an appropriate one taking into account the context of the document. There were similar cases in which the word “humanitarian” that appeared in documents related to atomic bombings was translated into “hi-jindoteki.” If you look up the word “humanitarian” in an English-Japanese dictionary, you will find something like “ningenteki na” but there is a precedent when we used “hi-jindoteki” for its translation in order to deliver correctly the meaning of the word that was used in a negative context, such as atomic bombs, atomic bombings, or sufferings that were inflicted on people by them. We do not necessarily translate foreign languages word for word sticking to the terms found in a dictionary. To repeat what I mentioned earlier, I believe the use of the Japanese word “hi-ningenteki” as the translation for “human” is appropriate given the context that conveys the realities of atomic bombings.
Tadokoro, Mainichi Shimbun: When replying to the question concerning the term “hi-ningenteki” at the start, you stated that the translation is suitable as a provisional translation. Since it is provisional, there could be a possible modification in the future. However, you seem to be saying that the translation is appropriate and does not need to be revised. Am I correct?
Press Secretary Kawamura: I do not think you need to place too much emphasis on the word “provisional”. However, as you said, I believe “hiningenteki na kunan” is a suitable Japanese translation for “human suffering”.
Takeda, Asahi Shimbun: Related to this, I would like to ask you whether we can understand that this is an interpretive translation and whether there is any plan to issue another translation later since the current one is a provisional translation.
Press Secretary Kawamura: There are various words used in Japanese, such as “Hon-yaku” or “Wa-Yaku”, and normally the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses the term provisional translation when it issues translation of this type of official document or diplomatic document. We do not use expressions such as interpretive translation or literal translation. On the question about whether the term might be changed from provisional translation to translation at some point, MOFA has released this provisional translation and maintains its decision that this is a translated text suitable at this point.
As to whether the content of a released translation never changes, we sometimes correct typos or other mistakes when they are to occur. There might be such cases in which we did so in the past. However, I think provisional translations are normally maintained once they have been issued.
Takeda, Asahi Shimbun: While I have only been covering MOFA for a year now and still have a lot to learn, but I would like to know to what extent MOFA permits interpretive translation in its translations. Could you explain whether there is a policy on this? Also, I believe word-for-word translation that is close to literal is one of the methods of translating. Are there any differences in MOFA’s translation?
Press Secretary Kawamura: There are many types of diplomatic documents and so are the circumstances in which these documents were concluded or issued. Officials directly involved in the negotiations to conclude the Hiroshima Declaration understand well how it’s made. This time, with a good understanding of the purpose of the Hiroshima Declaration, they made its translation so that the words and the content of the Declaration be understood correctly. This is how we prepare translations to fulfill such a role. You mentioned use of word-for-word translation in certain cases and interpretive translation in other cases. However, rather than this type of distinction, MOFA reflects in the translation the circumstances leading up to the release of a diplomatic document, negotiation aims, and the purpose of issuing the document, in the case of the Hiroshima Declaration, to repeat, the document expresses the joint decision of the G7 Foreign Ministers to send a strong message for a “World without Nuclear Weapons.” What is important is to make a translation that properly communicates this message.
Kobayashi, Asahi Shimbun: The term “hi-jindoteki” was used in the past, and this time the choice was “hi-ningenteki.” What is your view of the difference in meaning between these two words and which has a stronger severity?
Press Secretary Kawamura: As I explained, there is a precedent for translating the term “humanitarian” to ”hi-jindoteki” in Japanese. The term “humanitarian” may usually be translated into “ningenteki” or “jindoteki ”, yet, in a specific context, there have been cases in which translating this English word into “hi-jindoteki”was more appropriate. I explained that this type of precedent exists. For the translation of “human” this time, MOFA decided that it was appropriate to use the term “hi-ningenteki ” in light of the document’s context. Or I might have misunderstood your question.
Kobayashi, Asahi Shimbun: Well, what I wanted to know was which word is stronger in terms of severity.
Press Secretary Kawamura: Severity? While this is going to be a repetition again, the Hiroshima Declaration aims to hand down to the world the suffering of atomic bombings and to send a strong message toward the realization of a “World without Nuclear Weapons”. The translation, therefore, takes into account these messages, and as I just mentioned, there were cases in which the term “hi-jindosei” was used. The most suitable translations have been made reflecting the circumstances in which each document was issued and the purposes for which each document was elaborated. I do not think a simple comparison is appropriate in our discussion concerning the translation of this sentence.
Tadokoro, Mainichi Shimbun: The G7 Foreign Ministers visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and overseas media carried many articles that largely reacted favorably. What is your view of this outcome? Also, in the Hiroshima Declaration, the G7 and Japan called on the world’s political leaders to visit the atomic bombing sites. Do you expect the favorable reaction to support this call? What are your thoughts on this point?
Press Secretary Kawamura: I am aware that major overseas media showed strong interest in and broadly reported on the result of the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Hiroshima Declaration, the G7 foreign ministers’ visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph for Atomic Bombing Victims by the G7 Foreign Ministers. Some major newspapers addressed these events in editorials and I think the communication of a large picture of the G7 Foreign Ministers standing in front of the Cenotaph on front pages sent a strong message to the world that the G7 Foreign Ministers met in Hiroshima and issued the Hiroshima Declaration with a strong message for a “World without Nuclear Weapons.”
While MOFA intends to continue to closely follow overseas reporting, I think the gist of the various media coverage by newspapers, TV, and other media is what I just explained. In light of this result, MOFA plans to continue efforts to present Japan’s position to other countries and to ensure that results from the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting are reflected at the Ise-Shima Summit that is taking place. We also need to ensure that Japan’s position is being communicated accurately to overseas.
Tadokoro, Mainichi Shimbun: On the latter half of the question, what are your thoughts about the reaction contributing to visits by the world’s political leaders?
Press Secretary Kawamura: I think this requires a careful review of the various types of media coverage to assess the overall sentiment. As Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated in his presidency press conference, it continues to be important for global political leaders to visit Hiroshima and directly witness with their own eyes the realities of atomic bombings. I believe this view has already been communicated by media reports, and MOFA intends to continue its efforts to accurately express this concept globally and cooperate even more toward realizing the goal of a “World without Nuclear Weapons.”