Help me translate a book!

Hello everyone and welcome on this unusual topic.
I would like to improve my Japanese by reading a book and I thought it could be a good thing for everyone to see the differents grammar points and to improve the vocabulary. I am clearly a beginner in doing this and I would like you to help me on it.

The book I chose is D坂の殺人事件(Dざかのさつじんじけん) (The murder case of the D hill). Maybe this book has been translated in English but since it’s not my native language I can not compare with it properly. Let’s follow this story together, sentence by sentence.

Alright let’s start with the first sentence.

九月 (くがつ) = september
初旬(しょしゅん) = beginning of the month
蒸し暑い(むしあつい) = hot and wet
(ばん) = evening/night

At the beginning of september, there was a hot and wet night.

I am not sure of this translation, what is the meaning of であった (である?) ?
I searched but I couldn’t find out about it. :frowning:

EDIT: To avoid making every post longer and longer, I will add the already done work on my personal website. Don’t hesitate to send me message if you notice any mistakes.


Yeah it’s the past ta-form of である, which is the formal/literary way to say “is” – so since it’s conjugated to the past form, であった = “was”

–>“It was a hot and humid night in early September”

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Are you already familiar with the である form? Because you may want to look into that first if not - there’s a bunch of words and grammar structures that are pretty much unique to that form.

What made you choose The murder case of the D hill? It’s funny because I was reading about it just this week.

Did you know that Edogawa Ranpo drew some of his inspiration for this book from his experiences working at a bookstore? The D-hill in the title is based off of Dango hill in Sendagi, Tokyo.

–>“It was a hot and humid night in early September”

It’s more like “It happened on a hot and humid evening in early September.”

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Oops that was my bad :speak_no_evil:

Thanks ^^

Thank you for your help @MissMisc , to explain further:
There is です / だ / である to express “is”.
The differences between である and the others are that である is the casual “uncontracted” form of だ.
である → でーあ → だ
である is mostly used in the books, scientific articles and newspapers. It’s used in writings.
The polite form of である is であります which is used rarely, especially in the solemn speeches.

@erebea I chose this book since I like Detective Conan, and the main character full name is “Edogawa Conan” that he made by combining the name of his two favorite writers “Edogawa Ranpo” and “Arthur Conan Doyles”. I didn’t know about the Dango hill ! I may take a look next time I go to Tokyo!

Alright let’s continue.

Previous work


It was on a hot and humid night in early September.

New sentence


私(わたし/わたくし) = I, me
大通り(おおどおり) = main street
中ほど(なかほど) = in the middle ? (not sure)
白梅(しらうめ) = white-blossomed plum​
軒(けん) is used to count houses/buildings
行きつけ = regular/favourite
喫茶店(きっさてん) = tea house

で is the particle of the action. It is used to say you’re doing something in a place or that you’re doing something using something else. (ペンでかく= I write by using a pen, 図書館で読む = I read at the library)

冷し = chilled/cold
啜る = to sip/to slurp


About me, I was in the middle of the main street of the D hill, in my favourite tea house called “The white-blossomed plum”, sipping my coffee which was becoming cold. (bad english in the end sorry).
Is this traduction correct ?

That’s not 冷やす but 冷し. 冷しコーヒー = iced coffee.

Also, just drop the “about me”. And I’d probably call the cafe “The White Plum Blossom”, but that could just be me.

冷し (alternatively, 冷やし) means “chilled”, so I think they’re saying “chilled coffee”, similar to an iced coffee

Also, 白梅軒 draws from the readings of the kanji, so it’d be “Hakubaiken Cafe”

For the English translations, keep in mind that Japanese is pretty backwards in comparison to English, so though you defined each component correctly, I think the more natural translation would be:

“I was sipping chilled coffee at my favorite cafe called ‘Hakubaiken’, which is located in the middle of D-hill’s Main Street”

I think「D坂の大通りの中ほどにある、白梅軒という」is all modifying 行きつけの喫茶店で —> “my favorite cafe, called Hakubaiken, which is in the middle of D-hill’s Main Street…”

You’re doing great though, thanks for giving me some extra Japanese translation practice ^^

EDIT to add: ほど can provide an approximation of something, so the nuance with 中ほど is that the cafe is “approximately” located at the middle of D-hill’s main street ^^


About previous sentences

As you may have noticed, I decided to upload the detailed work already done on my website and the text (There is also a french version here and here). If you have anything to report about grammar mistakes, wrong english or anything, feel free to send me a message and I’ll correct it immediatly.
This being said, we can start with the third sentence.

Sentence n°3




当時 (とうじ) = At that time
学校 (がっこう) = school
まだ = not yet (structure : まだ+Noun or まだ+Vて)
職業 (しょくぎょう) = job
下宿 (げしゅく) = boarding house
ゴロゴロ = sound of something rolling, the storm, the stomach…
それに = Besides, moreover
飽きる(あきる)= to get tired of something, to lose interest in something (intransitive)
散歩 (さんぽ) = stroll
費用 (ひよう) = cost, fees
廻り (めぐり) = going around (intransitif)
毎日 (まいにち) = everyday
日課 (にっか) = daily lesson

bit by bit :

当時私は = at that time
学校を出たばかりで = Just after leaving school
(Vた + ばかり = the action just finished)
(私は食べたばかり = I just finished eating.)

まだこれという職業もなく = I didn’t have what you can call a job yet

下宿にゴロゴロして本でも読んでいるか = at the boarding house, the books were falling (ゴロゴロ?) while I was reading.

それに飽きると当てどもなく散歩に出て = Besides, as soon as I got tired, I went out to take a walk.
( after a verb may express the occasion to do something, here ‘to go out and walk around’)

あまり費用のかからぬ喫茶店廻りをやるくらいが = I was going too much to the tea house.
あまり+Verb = Someone is doing something much more than he should do.
やる = to do
くらい = approximately

毎日の日課だった. = It was everyday during my daily lesson.

Full translation


At that time, I just left school, I didn’t have what you can call a job, at the boarding house all books around me were rolling over (??), I had too much fees and expenses at that tea house that I was visiting too often, it was everyday of my daily lesson.

If English is not your native language, I wonder if maybe you want to concentrate on translating it into the language that is your native language - sure, that’d probably mean we couldn’t take part, but it also means you don’t have to think in three languages at once. There’s some fairly complex grammar going on here, but by the time you’ve reached the end of your post, it’s gotten a little… garbled.

Some of these words have other meanings that make more sense in the context.
ゴロゴロ = idling around
でも (before a verb) = for lack of anything better to do
日課 = daily routine
あまり + negative verb = not very (the verb here is かからぬ)
あまり費用のかからぬ = does not cost much

Lastly, related to @MissMisc’s post above about how Japanese tends to be backwards compared to English, you’ll certainly want to rearrange some of these clauses. Maybe even add a full stop.

My translation:

At that time, I’d just left school, didn’t yet have a job. My daily routine consisted of lazing around at the boarding house reading books for lack of anything better to do, or when I’d get bored of that I’d go out to an inexpensive cafe.


@Belthazar Thank you for your translation! Don’t worry about the thing with 3 languages confusion. My native language (which is French) is very close to the English sentence structure. Both of them are Indo-European languages while Japanese is an Altaic one. Personally I want to master these languages and I don’t want to give on one to another.

Briefing of the translated sentences for now:
During an evening of September, the teller is chilling in a cafe called Hakubaiken. He tells us about the time when he was in boarding house, trying to relieve boredom by reading or walking around and going to cafe.
Full story

Sentence n°4



白梅軒 (はくばいけん) = Hakubaiken (name of the tea house), literally « The white plum blossom »)
下宿屋 (げしゅくや) = boarding house
近く(ちかく) = near
どこ = where
散歩する = to walk around
必ず (かならず) = undoubtedly, surely
前 (まえ) = before
通る (とおる) = to go through, to penetrate
位置 (いち) = place, location
したがって = therefore, thus, consequently
一番 (いちばん) = first, best
出入りする (でいりする) = to go and come back
悪い癖 (わるいくせ) = bad habits
喫茶店 (喫茶店) = tea house, cafe (place)
長尻 (ながじり) = long stay, overstaying


In the part «この白梅軒という» :
With verbs like いう(言う, to say), もうす(申す, to say with respect) or よぶ(呼ぶ, to call), と indicates the name we give to the subject or the verb’s object, or again it defines it by another word.

Exemples :
わたくしはともうします。(« I’m called Tanaka », polite register)
このような状態をインフレ(インフレーション) と呼ぶ。(« We call this state : ‘inflation’. »)
日本人はエコノミックーアニマルと言われている。(« Japanese are insulted of economic animals. »)
Beside these verbs, if we add in front of verbs like きく(聞く, to hear), かく(書く, to write), みなす(見做す, to consider), しる(知る, to know), おもう(思う, to think), or any other verb that its function is to report a declaration or an information, then the sens of the expression is like a citation.

Examples :
彼女は来月結婚すると聞きました。(« I heard she will get married next month. »)
その車はなんとおもいますか?(« What do you think for this car ? »)
Thus we can translate この白梅軒というのは by «About that tea house we called ‘Hakubaiken’. » or simply « About ‘Hakubaiken’. »

For the part « 下宿屋から近くもあり » :
から gives the idea of starting point in time or in space.

何時から働く?(« From what hour are you working ? »)
ここから歩いた。(« I started walking from here. »)

あり is the classical form of ある, thus the sentence is strictly equal to « 下宿屋から近くもある ».
Therefore we can translate « 下宿屋から近くもある » by « From the boarding house, there was another one near. »

Bit by bit
どこへ散歩する に も 必ず その 前を通る ような位置に あったので
どこへ散歩する = Where I walk to
必ず = surely
その 前を通る = cross in front of
ような位置に あった = there was a location
どこへ散歩する に も 必ず その 前を通る ような位置に あったので
Because there was a kind of place I was crossing in front from where I was walking around.
したがって = consequently
いちばんよく出入りするわけであったが = it was the best going and comings.
私という男は悪い癖で = I was a man with bad habits (according to people)
喫茶店にはいるとどうも長尻になる = My stay in this tea house became long

Full Translation


There was also a ‘Hakubaiken’ near the boarding house. From there I could also walk around, by crossing in front of the place. Therefore it was the best comings and goings. I was a man of bad habits and my stay here becomes long.


I am not sure about the もあり part in 下宿屋から近くもあり. I remember from my teacher that り is old writing way for the て form but I couldn’t find any examples on the web despite my deep investigations. Do you know how the り form is called ?

The use of あり is part of the である literary form - I’d like to reiterate my suggestion that you familiarise yourself with the である form and related grammar. This page discribes the use of verb-stems in place of the て-form, but there’s a lot more to である than just that.

The も is referring to the fact that the cafe is also close to the boarding house (as well as being cheap) rather than that there’s another cafe. 出入り also means “frequentely visiting”

Because Hakubaiken was also close to my boarding house, anywhere I walked to, I’d invariably pass in front of it, so I’d often go inside. But because I’m a man of bad habits, I usually wound up staying too long.

I may have paraphrased that a bit…

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I can’t deny that you were right. I will look the form and related grammar with more attention from now on. I notice as well that my sentences are in complete disorder when I compare to yours. I need to train better on arranging long sentences. Short sentences are not so hard to guess but in books they are very long, making it hard to put them in order.
Even though your translation is perfectly readable, I have the feeling that it doesn’t contain the same amount of information than in Japanese, and I found this quite disappointing. I know that some structures with particles may emphasize information and I’m sad that we can’t give it back when translating to an Indo-European language.
Anyway, thank you for your huge help as always, I need to go back to my grammar book to improve myself!

Yeah. It might be good to have a second opinion on exact phrasings - I’m not great at getting the tone in English to be equivalent to the original. @MissMisc? :slightly_smiling_face:

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I actually think your translation is pretty accurate!

“Hakubaiken cafe was also close to the boarding house, and since it was in a location that no matter where I walked I would always pass by in front of it, I’d frequent it the most. And as a man of bad habits, no matter how hard I try, I end up staying for a long time.”

It seems like this is a continuation of the idea from the last sentence talking about the narrator’s habit of going to hang out at inexpensive cafes, so now he’s explaining why Hakubaiken is the cafe he frequents the most (compared to any other cafe)

A couple nuances that played into my interpretation of this sentence came from:

  • わけ (in いちばんよく出入りするわけ)
    → this word denotes a conclusion from reasoning, so the narrator is explaining that they frequent this cafe the most (いちばんよく出入りする) because of the proximity of it to their boarding house
  • どうも (in 喫茶店にはいるとどうも長尻になる)
    → this, with a positive verb, denotes that someone ends up doing something regardless how much they try not to, so it’s explaining that though he doesn’t intend to, he ends up staying for a long time at the cafe
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Sentence n°5




それに : Besides, moreover
元来(がんらい) : Naturally
食欲(しょくよく) : Appetite
少ない(すくない) : Few (Adjective, don't confuse with 少しい)
(かた) : Direction, way, person
嚢中(のうちゅう) : In a bag, in a purse
乏しい(とぼしい) : Poor, not enough
洋食(ようしょく) : Occidental meal
(さら) : Plate
注文する(ちゅうもんする) : To order
安い(やすい) : Not expensive
コーヒー : Coffee (beverage)
(はい) : used to count full drinks
お代わり(おかわり) : One more drink, one more plate
一時間(いちじかん) : One hour
二時間(にじかん) : Two hours
じっと : Without moving

Bit by bit

それに = Moreover

元来食欲の少ない方なので = Since my natural appetite was least

ひとつは嚢中の乏しいせいもあってだが = And my only purse empty

洋食ひと皿注文するでなく = I ordered an occidental meal

安いコーヒーを二杯も三杯お代わりして = I took another not expensive coffee, and a third one

一時間も二時間もじっとしているのだ。= From one to two hours without moving

Complete translation


Also, since my I didn’t have so much appetite and since my only purse was empty, I ordered one occidental meal and from two to three cheap drink of coffee. I stood there from one to two hours, without moving.

I think I got the main sense of this sentence. Am I right ?

Pretty sure this clause is “I did not order a western-style meal” (we don’t use “occidental” any more) - think there’s another quirk of the である form going on here. I wish very much that I still had my である form lecture notes, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere - think they were on my old HD, which died.

Also, because I didn’t have much appetite, and there was nothing much in my purse, instead of ordering a Western-style dish, I’d just get two or three refills of cheap coffee and stay there for an hour or two.

@Belthazar I see ! It’s because である is a mix of で and ある, the negative form of ある is ない, giving でない (why not ではない?), and then since it’s an enumeration the でない becomes でなく, right ?

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