Translating Broadway's Hamilton to Japanese

 

By Gen Parton-Shin


 
 
Japanese Hamilton

One of our resident Hapa Mag contributors, Gen Parton-Shin, has taken on the ambitious challenge of translating the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton into Japanese. Translating can be a tedious task, and it’s extremely tricky transcribing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s intricate rhymes into Nihongo! Here’s what mastermind Gen has to say about it.

 
 

 
The word in Japan, is that Hamilton is impossible to translate into Japanese. After watching the show on Broadway, the CEO of a prominent production company in Japan even went as far as to publicly declare on Twitter, that his production company would never produce the show in Japan. Not only did he think it was impossible but also felt it would not be enjoyable for a Japanese audience to watch. I agree with this sentiment, if (and this is a big if) one’s goal is to translate the show word for word. That, of course, would be an impossible feat, given the rhythmic and spatial limitations that translating a show into Japanese poses.

However, I set out to translate the show in an entirely new way, using a simple method.

Instead of translating the lyrics word-for-word, my process is to extract the bare essence of what is being said in English, reassemble that into Japanese, and hopefully match the same number of rhymes in Japanese. It is a grueling process. I will spend hours ruminating over a single line, but the reward of being able to sing the show in Japanese has made the effort quite worthwhile.

Here is a version of “My Shot” that I created and performed at my solo concert in Tokyo last year. Enjoy!

— Gen Parton-Shin

 
 
 

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Gen was born in London, raised in England, Japan, and Korea. Gen made his debut in the Japanese musical theatre scene before coming to the US, starring in the Official Japanese cast of RENT (Angel), Next to Normal (Gabe), Rocky Horror Show (Rocky), Dracula (Jonathan), Bare (Jason) and Mitsuko. US credits include Miss Saigon (Thuy), Monte Cristo (Benedetto), 167 Tongues (NYIT nomination) and The History Boys (Akthar), as well as numerous readings and workshops including Other World and Kpop. Gen is also the host of cable show TV Japan Club and NYC comedy show Batsu!. Upcoming releases include TV mini series Hodo Buzz. @genpartonshin