The English edition of a great book on Japanese metalwork

For those who want to know more about Japanese metalwork, I strongly recommend the English version of the book I introduced in the previous post: The Soul of Gold: Tales from a Japanese Metal Artist’s Studio (English translation of Ogon yujo: Kinko no monogatari) by Osumi Yukie, translated by Joel Earle (SelectBooks, Inc., 2020). Apart from the content of this book being in English, one of its other important features is that it was translated by Joel (Joe) Earle. As a translator myself, please let me tell you why it is so significant.

Basically, a translator needs to have a thorough grasp of both languages in order to understand a text and translate it accurately. Particularly in the field of Japanese arts and crafts, there are many special terms and techniques that are difficult to understand. Translating these into a foreign language is even more difficult without sufficient knowledge of the subject and, of course, experience in translation.

In this respect, Joe Earle is a well-known scholar of Japanese art overseas, having worked in the Japanese or Asian art departments of some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Moreover, he is an excellent linguist and a superb translator.

I know only too well that a mistranslation can easily happen if a translator does not fully understand and convey what the author is trying to say. It is, therefore, very helpful that the translator is able to communicate with the author and make sure that he/she has fully understood the author’s meaning, although this is not always possible. In this book, there is no need to worry about that. The author Osumi-sensei, who is competent in English, told me that she had exchanged opinions on the English translation with the translator and I don’t think the resulting translation could have been more accurate. In addition, this English edition has been fully translated from the original, unlike some that only represent a partial or abridged translation, often due to budget restrictions.

In the preface to the English edition, Osumi-sensei points out that some techniques or methods are given too much prominence outside Japan, at the expense of a deep understanding of Japanese metalwork culture. I think this is also true in other fields of Japanese crafts. In order to improve this situation, it is important that this informative book by the talented artist in excellent English is available to people around the world, just as in the case of The Book of Urushi (click here for details). Please click on the links below to find it on Amazon and other stores! (possibly also available at

Komada Makiko

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