Mie Muraoka's Speech at the Reception
held by the Dept. of Tourism Parks in PEI in 1989
Hanako MURAOKA, my grandmother, translated and introduced Anne of Green
Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery for the first time to Japanese readers.
The first Japanese translation of Anne of Green Gables was published
in 1952, but she first discovered the kindred spirit of "Anne" many
years earlier, in 1939.
Hanako Muraoka was born in 1893, and in her teens, for ten years, she
studied at Toyo-Eiwa, the Canadian Mission School in Tokyo. The school
was built in 1884 by Canadian missionaries. The missionaries were using
Canadian text books (Ontario). While at mission schools, she learned
not only English but also Canadian culture and Canadian life style.
Her experience there was a positive influence for her rest of her life.
Since13 years old, she began reading mainly 19th century western literature
in English at the school library. On the other hand, she learned Japanese
classic literature such as WAKA (31-syllable Japanese ode) from Mr.
Nobutsuna Sasaki who took the premier stand in the Japanese classical
literature at that time. Because it was very rare to find first-rate
quality translation of the Western literature in those days, Hanako
had been already motivated to translate novels which she herself had
After graduation she decided to become a writer and also a translator
of children's books, working with Canadian colleagues. Literature and
knowledge became Hanako's life-blood.
Before she encountered Anne , she wrote her own books for children.
And she translated western literature for young people such as "Sister
Sue" and "Pollyanna" by Eleanor Hodgman Porter, "Prince and Pauper"
and "The Adventures of Hackleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, "The Exile Portrait
of an American Mother" by Pearl Back, and "Christmas Carol" by Charles
Dickens. They are still re-printed and her translations are still very
popular in Japan.
In1939, when Hanako was 46 years old, she brought the book of Anne
of Green Gables as a keepsake from one of Canadian missionary friends.
Her name was Miss Loretta Leonard SHAW. At that time, signs of the war
were beginning to appear in the world, and all of her Canadian friends
had to leave Japan for home.
The novel of Anne of Green Gables was, indeed, the symbol of friendship
between Miss Shaw and Hanako. She read the story wholeheartedly, and
was so moved by red-haired Anne whose imagination and determination
helped her cheerfully through her life.
The war started and of course it was a hard time for anyone in Japan
concerned with western culture. Translating or even reading literature
from other countries was politically dangerous and could even lead to
arrest. But Hanako could not help translating Anne of Green Gables secretly.
Only her husband and her daughter knew it. As she translated "Anne",
she thought of her Canadian friends then so far away.
War rationing meant that Mrs.Muraoka had to use any kind of paper she
could find to translate Anne of Green Gables. Ironically much the same
as Lucy Maud Montgomery who used the scrap paper from her husband's
sermons to write her novels.
Even during air-raids, she went into the bomb shelter with the book
and the manuscripts to keep at her work. By the end of the World War
II, the translation was completed.
After the war, the publication of new novels was impossible in Japan,
so the treasured translation of Anne of Green Gables lay in the chest
in Hanako's study. She had to wait six years before an editor came to
her to ask for something new for young readers. So, at last the translation
was published in May 1952 by Mikasa-Shobou. (Now her translation is
published by Shinchosha)
It was her daughter, Midori (a college student at that time), who decided
the Japanese title among Hanako's alternatives. They called Anne of
Green Gables as "AKAGE NO ANNE" which means "Red-haired Anne". It became
a best seller, and she received a lot of fan-letter from readers.
It is not exaggerating to say that even though Japan and Canada have
had over hundred years of contact, the translation of Anne of Green
Gables lead to a closer understanding and friendship between two countries.
Motivated, as an artist always is, from the bottom of her heart, she
translated other "Anne" books as well as Lucy Maud Montgomery's other
novels-"Emily", "Pat, "Kilmeny of Orchard", and so on.
Sadly Hanako Muraoka passed away on October 25th,1968, before she could
visit her beloved Prince Edward Island.
Still now her translation of Anne series are very popular and re-printed
over hundred times. Her study room is still preserved in Tokyo as "Anne
Memorial Room / Hanako Muraoka Study Room" and not only Anne fans since
1950's but also those teenagers who have just read the book visit us.
My mother, Midori, my younger sister, Eri, and myself are determined
to preserve the Anne Memorial Room / Hanako Muraoka Study Room. We portray
Hanako Muraoka's life and what she was like through her various works.
We would like you to know Hanako's life as well as her life-time goal
which she was seeking to accomplish.
Hanako lived through an era when it was difficult for women to play
an active role in society but nevertheless, she held on to her ideas.
Therefore, as Hanako's family, we would like to inform as much as possible
of the way of life and achievements of Hanako.
Thank you very much for your attention.
[This speech was prepared when I went to PEI as a reporter of a TV
program which featured Anne of Green Gables produced by NHK as titled
"Akage-no-Anne Yume-Kikou" (directed by Kiyomi Sukegawa and Hiroko Sakaue)