Book launch

Tuesday 6 June 2017
6:00pm – 8:00pm

Isabella Bird and Japan: A Reassessment

13/14 Cornwall Terrace, Outer Circle (entrance facing Regent's Park), London NW1 4QP

Organised by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

By Professor Kiyonori Kanasaka, translated by Nicholas Pertwee; Published by Renaissance Books
Isabella Bird sits at the top of the pantheon of female women travel writers in the Victorian era; her most successful work was Unbeaten Tracks in Japan: An Account of Travels in the Interior, Including Visits to the Aborigines of Yezo and the Shrines of Nikkô and Isé.  It was reprinted several times, followed by an abridged edition as well as other later editions and reprints by different publishers. In the post-war years, the prevalence of these abridged (single volume) versions led a number of scholars to mistakenly assume that the abridged version was the original version, since there is practically no difference in their titles. The anomalies in the subsequent published research is one of the factors that led Professor Kiyonori Kanasaka to embrace Isabella Bird’s life and travels as his principal preoccupation, which, in turn, has led to him becoming one of the world’s leading experts in this field.

In this talk, Professor Kanasaka speaks about the different aspects of his Isabella Bird studies and activities. In particular, he considers how he came to understand Isabella Bird the person – her actions, decisions and motivations – and how and why her travels in Japan have been so widely misinterpreted and misunderstood. Professor Kanasaka also shows a number of pictures taken from his award-winning bilingual book In the Footsteps of Isabella Bird: Adventures in Twin Time Travel and Nicholas Pertwee discusses his experiences of translating this seminal work into English. They are introduced by former British Ambassador to Japan Sir Hugh Cortazzi.

Isabella Bird and Japan: A Reassessment was available at the special price of £25 (RRP £45) at this event.

About the contributors

Professor Kiyonori Kanasaka

Professor Kiyonori Kanasaka FRSGS, FRGS, is a distinguished geographer at Kyoto University (Emeritus 2011), and is widely recognised as Japan’s leading scholar on Isabella Bird. He has published extensively in Japanese on the subject, including a fully annotated translation of the original two-volume (1880) edition of Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. He is also known worldwide for his ‘Twin Time Travel’ photographic exhibition, which he mounted at fifteen venues in four countries between 2004 and 2014, presenting Bird’s descriptions of what she wrote about in her books in juxtaposition with illustrations of the present. In particular, in the course of his research, commencing in 1989, he has developed a ‘scientific approach’ to understanding Bird, her travels and her travel writings, with a view to clarifying many misconceptions about Bird and her travels in Japan.

Nicholas Pertwee

Nicholas Pertwee is a freelance translator who originally served at the British Embassy, Tokyo, before a career in banking. He has worked for 20 years as a translator of Japanese and is also a leading philatelist and a specialist in Japan’s railway locomotives.

Toggle navigation