Posts Tagged ‘Samurai’


David Groff is an American expatriate living in Japan, where he studies martial arts and translates classic samurai texts.

Wow. I feel like just typing that sentence made me cooler.

Anyway, I recently reviewed his translation of Miyamoto Musashi’s 17th Century work, The Five Rings. You can see that review here.

David agreed to a follow-up interview where he discusses his martial arts training, the challenges of translating a work like The Five Rings, and the always contentious issue of samurai vs. ninjas.

How did you end up in Japan, and handling this translation?

I came to Japan in 1997 as an English teacher. I’d been kicking around doing a variety of jobs since college, and did a brief stint teaching Italian at Penn State, where I realized I really enjoyed teaching. I thought about doing graduate study in Italian and pursuing teaching that, but then I thought, “Hey, my Italian is decent, but my English is really good. I bet I could teach that somewhere…” I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust, anyway, so I got an English-teaching certification and started looking for places to go, and I’d been interested in Japan for a long time… there were a lot of jobs here, and they paid well (I had a bit of debt at the time, and with the exchange rate a salary in Colombian pesos was just not going to make a dent in that); I had an interview in New York, and a few months later I was on a plane. (more…)

groffWhenever I host a get-together at my place, my friends always find it amusing that I own so little.

I’m 46, and I’ve never owned a couch or a kitchen set. A matching set of glasses, plates or silverware. I just don’t like being bogged down with a lot of stuff.

The one exception is books. I’m a borderline hoarder when it comes to books.

A friend of mine recently asked me why I don’t own an e-reader, since I like books so much.

Actually, I do plan to get an e-reader one of these days. But as I told my friend, books are about more than just the content for me.

It’s great that we live in a society where most people are literate and books are so readily accessible. But sometimes I think it’s a shame we tend to think of books as disposable objects to pass the time in an airport, rather than the precious artifacts prized by bibliophiles of previous centuries.

David Groff’s translation of Miyamoto Musashi’s 17th Century Samurai classic The Five Rings is the type of volume that gives you an idea of how it must have felt for some book collector from a past era fondly looking over his personal library. (more…)