Hikone: A Journey in Time (manga review)


Hikone: A Journey in Time (cover)

Updated: Nov. 7, 2014

The Hikone Board of Education has published a manga comic booklet in English titled, Hikone: A Journey in Time. Targeting tourists, the black-and-white manga explains about Hikone’s feudal history and cultural sights through the eyes of John, a fictitious 20-year-old lad from Michigan (Shiga’s sister state) visiting Hikone while staying with a Japanese family. The A5-size, 70-page booklet is available for 500 yen at the Hikone Castle Museum next to the ticket booth where you enter Hikone Castle.

The manga story starts off with John visiting Hikone Castle with his host family, the Tachibanas who have a 12-year-old daughter named Hana. A lightning bolt during a rainstorm transports John and Hana back in time to the year 1600 during the Battle of Sekigahara (in Gifu). A mysterious and beckoning cat named Toku serves as their time-warp tour guide as they witness the Eastern Forces’ Tokugawa Ieyasu defeat the Western Forces’ (and Shiga native) Ishida Mitsunari. Then they see Ieyasu’s major ally Ii Naomasa consequently awarded the domain of Hikone and his successors building Hikone Castle and the town. Ii Naosuke is also introduced as the Tairo (Chief Minister) of the Tokugawa government in 1858 who made the decision to open up Japan to the Western powers led by Commodore Perry (very good manga likeness).

Naosuke is later assassinated by radical samurai from Mito in 1860 while on his snowy way to Edo Castle’s Sakurada-mon Gate. Although the manga shows him being shot and stabbed in his palanquin, it does not show (nor mention) that he was also dragged out of his palanquin and beheaded.

Toku the talking cat then takes John and Hana to see Hikone’s cultural products like kotoyaki pottery and Takamiya jofu textiles and Korean emissary processions. John and Hana are later zapped back to the present day as the cat disappears. The manga continues with the legendary story of the maneki-neko or beckoning cat saving Ii Naotaka (3rd lord of Hikone) from a lightning bolt at Gotokuji temple in Tokyo. John also visits a butsudan Buddhist altar factory where Hana’s dad works. I wish they also mentioned that many of the butsudan parts are crafted elsewhere (such as in neighboring Maibara) and then assembled in Hikone.

The end of the book has short English articles about the Korean Road (along which the Korean emissary traveled in Hikone on the way to Edo), Hikone Castle being on the World Heritage Site Tentative List, Hiko-nyan (Hikone’s official mascot), and a list and map of cultural properties in Hikone. It doesn’t elaborate on Hikone Castle’s prospects of actually becoming a World Heritage Site which I think is a long shot. It has languished on the Tentative List for 20 years since Japan first nominated it in 1992. The manga is apparently part of a strategy to gain support for Hikone Castle’s designation as a World Heritage Site.

Actually, I think they should first push Lake Biwa‘s designation as a national park (it’s a quasi-national park). It’s one of the world’s oldest lakes with unique native species and has a long satoyama history of people living and interacting with the lake. And besides Hikone Castle, there are numerous nationally historic, cultural, and scenic sites around the lake such Mt. Shizugatake, Anegawa River, Mt. Ibuki, Nagahama Castle, Lake Yogo, Azuchi Castle, and Harie.

The manga provides whirlwind/superficial coverage of Hikone’s history, so some important details are missing. But it does give the newcomer a good, if not amusing, idea of what Hikone is about. It’s good enough for me to buy a copy to give to friends visiting Shiga.

The booklet is an excellent attempt by a local Board of Education to reach out to foreign tourists, a very rare project indeed. All local Boards of Education should follow suit. After all, they are the ones who have the expertise in local history and culture. The tourist bureaus are not terribly interested in explaining about local culture and history (because they are not academics nor researchers) and don’t care so much about serving a minority (foreign) segment of visitors. When they do produce something in English, it’s usually pretty shoddy.

The Hikone Board of Education contracted Kyoto Seika University to produce the booklet. The manga was drawn by a graduate of the university, Kojima Eiyu (小島瑛由). He did a fine job. The English translation was done by a manga researcher at Kyoto Seika University International, Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto, and the editing was supervised by Peter J. Morris, Executive Director of International Programs at the University of Shiga Prefecture (not to be confused with Shiga University, a national university).

Employing native English speakers was wise (compared to using machine translation or a Japanese translator), but the booklet still has too many typos and grammatical issues. Apparently, the translator and editor weren’t given a chance to proofread their work. Many Japanese in printing/publishing don’t understand that translators/writers need time to proofread their work. I bet it was a rush job and the translator had only the Japanese text to translate, without the benefit of seeing the manga cells. It’s like translating a photo caption without seeing the photo. It’s very difficult. The translator/editor should also be given adequate leeway to modify the English text/dialog to suit the foreign readership and convey the meaning accurately.

The booklet includes a separate insert providing a Japanese translation of the English dialog on each page. (It seems to be the Japanese source text that was translated into English.)

Some 3,000 copies have been printed for the first printing. According to the Shiga Hikone Shimbun, the production cost was 2.6 million yen (867 yen per copy) which means they are taking a substantial loss by selling it for so cheap at 500 yen. The BOE published it to mark the 75th anniversary of Hikone. For more information, call the Hikone Board of Education at 0749-26-5833.

If they will revise this manga for another printing, here are my suggestions/corrections (excluding typos and grammatical errors) for improvement:

    • On the booklet’s cover, instead of touristy photographs, why not have a large manga in color to indicate that it’s a manga booklet? It would be more eye-catching.
    • John’s dad is Japanese and mom is American. But the story does not play up this tidbit at all. His parents don’t say anything and we can only question his nationality.
    • The word “cool” is used too often.
    • The asterisk used to cite Japanese terms should appear at the end of the word, not above it.
    • Page 7 describes Hana as a “little girl.” I wouldn’t call a 6th grader “little.”
    • On page 7, delete “the” in “I especially love the castles.” (An example of a grammatical error.)
    • “City” need not be appended to “Hikone.” It’s not part of the city’s name (like Kansas City or New York City). Appending “city” would be necessary only if the name of the city is the same as the prefecture, such as Hiroshima, to prevent confusion. I also recommend teaching how to pronounce “Hikone.” Most Americans might pronounce it Hee-cone with a silent e.
    • Page 10 does not say where Uoya-machi is and its relation to the castle.
    • Page 11 should mention that the Horse Stable and Tenbin Yagura are Important Cultural Properties. Too bad there’s no illustration of the Horse Stable’s interior. No mention of the Nishinomaru 3-story turret which is also an Important Cultural Property. It doesn’t show the exhibits inside Hikone Castle Museum. Should mention that the castle is a short walk from Hikone Station.
    • Page 14 says that you can walk around the outside balcony. This seems to be a mistranslation. It’s not about walking around the outside balcony (which we cannot do since the balcony is too small), it’s about the cornice-like balcony that goes around the tower. Also on the same page, “one can only climb up 1 or 2 meters” needs to be clarified/explained further.
    • The use of capital letters is inconsistent: For example, Hikone Castle and Hikone castle.
    • Page 16 should mention the other three castles (Matsumoto, Inuyama, and Himeji) which are also National Treasures.
    • Page 19 should caption the statue of Ii Naosuke.
    • Page 24 has “…East and West. Led by Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.” This makes it look like Mitsunari led the East and Ieyasu the West. It should be vice versa.
    • Page 25 should mention where Sekigahara is. And that the battle sites can be easily visited from Sekigahara Station, not far from Hikone.
    • Page 36 shows Naosuke’s entourage leaving his residence near Edo Castle (or perhaps entering Sakurada-mon Gate). However, the text says that he met trouble as he was entering Sakurada-mon Gate. This implies that he was assassinated at or inside the gate or castle grounds. Not so. He was attacked soon after leaving his residence and well before they reached Sakurada-mon Gate.
    • The practice of breaking up a sentence into two (or more) speech bubbles doesn’t bode well in English.
    • Page 42 should explain the Noh illustrations.
    • Page 48 has mistranslations in the second cell. Hana asks, “So did many Westerners come to Japan?” Toku answers, “Actually, not at all. But for many years before, there were many visits from Korea.” This exchange should read, “Did only Westerners come to Japan?” and Toku answering, “No, there were also Korean visitors from centuries before.” There were the Dutch at Dejima, so it’s not “not at all.”
    • Page 60 should mention that funa-zushi is the origin of sushi instead of “the only true fermented sushi in Japan.” (As if there are fake fermented sushi in Japan.)
    • “Hikonyan” should be spelled “Hiko-nyan.” Otherwise, people are apt to mispronounce it as “Hikon-yan,” for example.
    • 冊子の全体的の印象はよいですが、なんか英語訳が急いで作られた感じがする。スペルミス、文法のミス、説明不足、誤訳などが結構あります。もっと時間をかけて最終のチェックが必要。教育委員会の英文出版物としてもっときちんとした正しい英語が重要。英語を勉強している生徒たちに間違った英語・訳を普及させたくない。

Update (Feb. 9, 2014): A Japanese version of this English manga has been published in Jan. 2014. It is selling for 500 yen. As of Jan. 2014, about 1,500 copies of the English version has been sold.


Sample manga page from Hikone: A Journey in Time.

Japanese translation insert (cover).


Sample Japanese insert page.


Shiga Prefecture Food and Craft Fair (Dai-Omiten) at Takashimaya Department Store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Feb. 24 to March 1, 2012.

東京日本橋の高島屋で開催中の第24回 琵琶湖夢街道 大近江展へ行きました。






Takashimaya Department Store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo is currently holding the Dai-Omiten (大近江展) food and craft fair featuring stuff from Shiga Prefecture. In one corner, this Sagicho Festival float decoration is on display. The festival has 13 floats and each one has an elaborate decoration with the year’s Oriental zodiac sign. What’s incredible is that the decorations are made of edible things. For example, the dragon’s teeth are cashew nuts. The Sagicho festival is held in mid-March (17th and 18th this year) in Omi-Hachiman, Shiga. The food fair is on the 8th floor, from 10 am to 8 pm (until 6 pm on March 1), until March 1. http://www.biwako-visitors.jp/pdf/oumiten.pdf


左が旧版、右が最新版の英文Map of Shiga。

社団法人びわこビジターズビューローが発行したMap of Shigaの英文地図のパンフレットを拝見しました。旧版と比べると英文が全然改善されてない。形だけが変わっていて中身がそのまま。

旧版のMap of Shigaのよくない英語をそのまま流用されている。むしろスペルミスや間違っている文法が増えている。Native speakerによるcheckがやっていない。


地図(と県庁のHP)に強調して欲しいのはまず国宝。寺院と神社は勿論、高槻の国宝の観音さんもいかが?そして戦国時代の史跡。特に大河ドラマに登場した場所。広重が好きなら宿場町もハイライトしよう。あとは各市町の観光案内所(電話番も)、自転車が借りれる駅(載れる道も)、道の駅(物産センター含む)。なぜJTBやKinki Nippon Touristのofficeがあるけど自分の案内所と物産センターが載ってないのか?

地図の裏面(下の写真)は滋賀の観光スポットを簡単に紹介しているけど、とても物足りない。滋賀の魅力が十分に伝わってこないし、全市町の名所が載せていない。高島市、米原市、日野町などが全然載ってない。お祭りの紹介もゼロ。英語もずさん。”Biwako Hana Funsui”にある”ajutages”っていったい何?

そしてなんと琵琶湖も全然紹介してない。どういう湖とか、基本的な説明なし。近江舞子も竹生島も全く紹介なし。Biwako Visitors Bureauの名称にも地図の表紙にも「ビワコ」があるのに紹介してない。あんだけ「Biwako, Biwako, Biwako」ばかり言っているのに。

しかし、滋賀は琵琶湖だけじゃない。県民も「琵琶湖」より「滋賀」の名称が圧倒的に好んでいます。Shiga Lakestarsのプロバスケチームの名前も投票で決まったけど、Biwako Lakestarsは全くダメだった。琵琶湖は国立公園にもなっていないし、摩周湖や十和田湖のように「美しい湖」というイメージが全国的にありません。滋賀県すら聞いたことない外国人にBiwakoと言ってもピントこない。Ninja, samurai, National Treasuresの方がずっと通じやすい。


Map of ShigaはやはりBVBのHP/FBと同じ性質である。形だけで中身が不十分。企画と実行がよく考えていない。せっかく奇麗に印刷したのに、もったいない。



  • Map of Shigaの名称をMap of Shiga Prefectureに。なぜかというと、信州の志賀高原とよく間違われる。
  • Lake Biwa JapanをLake Biwa, Japanに。
  • 相応しい滋賀の観光キャッチコピーがあったらいい。
  • 滋賀は日本のどこにあるか分かるように日本の地図に滋賀がマークされた小さい地図もあるといい。


  • “Access Map”の”Access”は和製英語です。正しい英語は英文ガイドブックなど参考してください。
  • By Train, etc.の見出しですが、etc.は見出しに使わない。アクセスの説明も不十分。新幹線駅の利便性や京都からの電車乗車時間などもっと優しく説明しよう。
  • Tourist SectionをTourist Information Officesに。県内にある全ての観光案内所を掲載してください。文字をもっと小さくしたら入ると思う。なぜ高島市が載っていないのか。あんなでっかい市の観光案内所の案内が何でない?
  • 英文住所にある”City”や”Town”は不要。でもShigaが必要。
  • コロン(:)の後に必ず一個のスペースを入れる。Tel: Address: など。


  • ローマ字やスペルミスが多数。よくチェックしてください。
  • 県内と県外の部分が両方緑色となっているため、県境が見にくい。旧版の地図の方が見やすい(県外が白い)。市町の境も非常に見にくい。
  • 強調している近江八景はローマ字で英語になっていない。Karasaki no Yauの意味は分かる訳ない。分からないものを載せても意味がない。
  • サイクリングロードも色付きで表示するとより使い物になる。(この他の指摘は上記。)



  • “Hikone Castle”にある”350,000 koku”と言ってもkokuの説明が必要。”Hikone Castle is considered”もおかし。2007年の400年祭(開催中)のこともまだ載っている。
  • Enryakujiに”registered as a world inheritance”はWorld Heritage Site。
  •  Sightseeing Guidance of Shiga PrefectureとMajor Tourist Sightsの違いが分かりません。同じことですよ。


  • 旧版の地図と比べるとA4版は不便。例えばサイクリングしているとき。
  • 地図には観光スポット、ホテルなどの紹介は大津に片寄っている。湖北の方が湖が奇麗のにあまり強調されていない。大津に関しては大津市観光協会の英文パンフで十分。
  • 英文地図や外国語パンフは県内の全ての観光案内所へ配布するべき。大津駅の観光案内所だけに置くことは不公平と不便。
  • 観光案内所に外国語でEnglish map availableのような標識も置くか外国語パンフレットを誰でも見えるところに置く。
Map of Shiga

Map of Shigaの裏面。クリックすると拡大できます。


Happy 2012!

Wishing everyone in Shiga a Happy New Year.

Praying for a safe, healthy, and prosperous 2012.


(Dragon photo was shot at Taga Taisha Shrine’s lantern festival in Aug.)

1 2 3 4