It can be difficult for Japanese language learners to find interesting short contemporary Japanese stories to read with English translations online. A novel can be daunting in length and complexity, while children’s stories might not be interesting or relatable.
Enter the literary news site tree, from Kodansha publishers, and their web series, Day to Day. Tree, created with the goal of introducing readers to new Japanese books, released a series of short pieces by acclaimed authors — complete with professional English and Chinese translations — all around a general topic that many of us may be able to relate to: living under quarantine in 2020.
Published daily from April 1 to July 9, over 60 authors from Japan wrote about just how much their daily lives have changed or haven’t. All the pieces are fairly short — perfect for a lunch break — and include portraits of everyday quarantine activities like going to convenience stores and doing giant jigsaw puzzles, as well as accounts of setting up crowdfunding sites and getting sick. Some are not related to isolation at all. The authors range from bestselling fiction writers and essayists, to manga, mystery, and science fiction writers. Each story ends with a short biography of the writer and a list of their recent works.
Open up the Japanese table of contents alongside the English (or Chinese) one, and you’ll be able to test your Japanese reading skills and confirm your comprehension with the translation. If you sign up for an account with the site, you can bookmark your favorite pieces to come back to later by clicking the yellow “お気に入り” button. You’ll then find them listed in the “お気に入り” section, linked in the top menu.
And if children and young adult stories are your thing, you’re in luck too — tree has also published and translated over 60 short stories for children in English, Japanese and Chinese. They can all be found in the Story for you section of their website.