Shortly after the Japanese Nationals 2020, there was a discussion on how we should call his free program name (or music name) in English, partly because his music was not updated in the ISU bio.
We naturally started to call it “Heaven and Earth” but is it really good enough?
As the translator in this tweet precisely noticed, the literal translation is “Heaven and Earth, and“.
Part 4 pic.twitter.com/EcJjblilHC
— axelwithwings (@axelwithwings) December 30, 2020
So something is missing after the final “and”. Actually, this is one of the techniques commonly used in the Japanese culture to intentionally leave a vacant/ white space, or something untold, to induce the imagination of the readers or those who appreciate the artifacts.
What is missing, then? If you are familiar with Chinese classics, you will almost instantly tell that’s a “Jin（人）” factor.
It is from “天時不如地利, 地利不如人和” (Japanese: 天の時は地の利に如かず、地の利は人の和に如かず) from Mencius (孟子）. There is an English translation on this page.
Opportunities of time vouchsafed by Heaven are not equal to advantages of situation afforded by the Earth, and advantages of situation afforded by the Earth are not equal to the union arising from the accord of Men.
公孙丑下 – Gong Sun Chou II
Here Mencius talks about his theory when you try to achieve something. When it was introduced later in Japan, warlords and Samurai got familiar with this concept, since they learned Chinese classics since they were pupils.
Later this set of three words are used aside from the context of the strategy of war or battle. For instance, in Ikebana (生け花）, they also say “It (Ikebana) creates harmony and expresses the three elements of heaven, earth, and human.”
Then if the “Jin(人)” factor is missing, who is implied here? I dare not tell you, because it is needless to say.
Considering all of this, I feel “Between Heaven and Earth” is a more relevant translation, as some Twitter mutual of mine, who is an English native speaker suggested.
I also found some good material to support this argument, which is the closing narration of episode 50 of NHK’s Taiga Drama “Ten to Chi to”, the only recording we can see now.
(Unfortunately, it is geo-controlled –only residents in Japan can watch.)
The closing narration says,
Between the endless heavens and endless earth, there was Masatora*. The sky was blue with freely flowing clouds.
＊Translator’s note: The Japanese people in the pre-modern era often have multiple names and change names as they grow, or on the occasion of important events. The name of UESUGI Kenshin at the time of the 4th battle of Kawanakajima is Masatora.
- Since videotapes were very expensive at that time (NHK’s Taiga Drama”Ten to Chi to” was aired in 1969), tapes were used again and again overwriting the older recording.
- The film produced by Kadokawa based on the same novel, released in 1990 adopted the translation “Heaven and Earth”.