About Project Okikirmui

The Project is dedicated to making Ainu literature available in English.  We have translated Chiri Yukie’s 1922 collection ‘Ainu Shinyoushuu’ into English, including the famous song of the owl god, ‘Silver drops fall all around, golden drops fall all around’.

Aims

Project Okikirmui has had no funding, no academic validity, and no consistent leadership.  What it has had is an unshakeable drive to not only translate the book and make it available in English, but to produce a poetic translation that is beautiful as well as instructive. Project Okikirmui is essentially a group of people who became bewitched by the magic of Chiri Yukie’s book and felt compelled to share it.

Beauty is always a matter of personal taste. Therefore, the Project has also taken extreme care to produce an accurate translation, insofar as that can result in a readable English text. There is really no word-for-word translation possible between either Ainu and English or Japanese and English. Furthermore, the Japanese and Ainu texts of the original differ quite a lot in some places for many excellent reasons. The aim, then, has been to translate the yukar themselves in the abstract, taking advantage of both the Ainu and the Japanese texts as sources. Every feature, object, action, and expression that appears in our text represents a feature in the original; although we have tried to be beautiful we have not tried to produce an original work.

History

The Project was begun in 2008 by Benjamin Peterson.  At that time, amazingly, there were no English translations available at all of this beautiful and fascinating book.  By 2009 the Project numbered three people and by 2010 all the actual text of the Ainu Shinyoushuu had been translated in draft form, except for yukar number 8, the Sea God’s song.

Events including the arrival of small children led to the dissolution of the original team in 2010, and the translation languished for more than two years. During this hiatus, some partial translations appeared on the web, but the vast majority of the yukar remained unavailable.  In 2011, Sarah Strong’s Ainu Spirits Singing was published and is rumored to contain a complete translation of Chiri Yukie’s text — however, this book is expensive and uncommon.

This activity seemed to show that there was an interest in Chiri Yukie and her time out there, yet still no actual readily available English version of her work.  The Project therefore redoubled its efforts, moved its base of operations to the UK, and recruited two new members locally. In 2013 Project Okikirmui completed an annotated translation of the Ainu Shinyoushuu.

Which means that very shortly we can all move on, in the knowledge of a job well done!

Project Members

Project Okikirmui has had the following members:

  • Benjamin Peterson — founder, linguistic incompetent
  • Dr Matsui Noriko — Japanese language expert and tallest member of the Japanese adademic community
  • Mr. Noritsugu Nakano — onsite researcher
  • Elizabeth Moriarty — Ainu language ‘expert’
  • Dr. Mary Sunderland — proofreading
  • Emma Rees — events, entertainment, government liaison in the UK
  • Dr. Ralph Parfect — moral support, North-East Asian Languages expert