Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by akuto, Feb 21, 2013.

  1. akuto Member

    French-France / English-Australia
    hello all,
    I am working on a text about Japanese islands, and having a hard time with the translation for the word 離島 used in the text.

    If I look at a dictionnary, I get "[a solitary / an isolated] island" or in Japanese 「陸地から遠く離れた島。孤島。りとう。」

    So this would something like "remote islands" "isolated island" in English.

    The problem is, this doesn't seem to correspond to the actual reality, and some people are actually are having problems with this.
    For instance, a lot of 離島 are not "far away", or even "remote", and really not 陸地から遠く離れた, or actually "isolate.
    The islands of 瀬戸内海 for instance... a lot are classified as 離島. Apparently even a touristy place linked by a JR Ferry like Miyajima is classified as 離島.

    So it seems we have a difference between an administrative definition / status, for which I found on theses sites



    which define 離島 as 258 inhabited islands not connected by a bridge or any other way :

    here is an extract

    離島の定義について知りたいのですが?島嶼という用語はあるのですが、これが離島という明確な定義はございません。海上保安庁水路部が昭和61年に調査した『海上保安の現況(昭和62年版)』 最大縮尺海図と陸図を用い、以下のような条件をあげています。

    • 周囲が0.1km以上のもの。
    • 何らかの形で本土とつながっている島については、それが橋・防波堤のような細い構造物でつながっている場合は島、それより幅が広くなっていて本土と一体化しているものは除外する。
    • 埋め立て地は除外する。

    Ok, so this seems slightly different from "remote" or "far away". It doesn't even seem very "isolated"... ie not 陸地から遠く離れた島 or 孤島

    The problem remains, how do I humbly translate 離島? On what aspect should I focus if it's not distance or isolation? What's a difference with "non 離島” islands?

    Most texts I found use the word "remote", or in French "îles éloignées", but this is slightly problematic if we're actually talking about islands which are just "not connected" to the mainland but can be just next to it (ie not remote or far away, but just not physically connected).
    It seems there is a slight issue between a common meaning (most people I asked wouldn't consider Miyajima a 離島, and an administrative / postal division which is not linked to distance (ie, a "real" island?) I'm trying to make sense of it, and find a correct translation, since "remote" or "far away" seems a little off. . For example the texts of Yanagita Kunio use the word 離島 a lot. What would be a precise translation?

    I would love some thoughts and advice.


    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013
  2. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    What a definition lol
    If the junction is narrow, it's an island (not 離島). If the junction is wider than the diameter? of the island, so that is it connected to the mainland, it's not an island any longer. They 海上保安庁 really don't have a definition of 離島.

    When we 'usually' say 離島 and 孤島?As you may have already noticed, 孤島 is focusing on being isolated; see kanji 孤 is especially used. Due to its long separation/distance, it's isolated. Haven't you ever heard of 陸の孤島? I think 孤島 is easier.
    Then 離島?This is more problematic. For details, later! I have a rough idea though, I haven't clearly decided how to explain.
  3. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
  4. mikun Senior Member

    Chiba Japan
    'koujienn' dictionary says 離島 is a far away separated island as you mentioned and similar to 孤島 concet as frequency pointed out.
    Usually this concept is closely related to unconvenience of life, no medical facility, every weekly newspaper distribution, limited access to mainland, etc. We use 離島 or 孤島 when convenient access is difficult.
  5. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    結論を先に言うようで申し訳ないけど、I see 離島 a standard (or technical) term, and therefore it covers 離島 itself and 孤島―covering a wider range.

    Do you know the Yonaguni Island? (leftmost, a small one, next to Iriomote)? I see this one an isolated island. Other islands? I'd call them 離島 (of 沖縄本島)・・notice I'm roughly speaking not based on definitions in a dictionary. 離島 is one separated from the mainland/main-island (of Okinawa), whichever one is close or one is far. There is a distance more or less.
    Yonaguni is one of 離島 of the Okinawa Island but looks more isolated because of its distance and location.

    In addition to 'being isolated', 孤島 sometimes implies the status made by its poor conditions as shown in 陸の孤島. 離島 doesn't do. So usage of 孤島 is limited: in academic documents or else, 離島 is better. By the way, you have to say it in French? 離島 is a separated island, a neighbour island, a satellite island as seen around Okinawa? Or just an island? Depending on case, 'island' may be enough understandable. Make 離島 the most adequate according to 'your' text!

  6. Schokolade

    Schokolade Senior Member

    (I too believe it'd be the best choice... IMHO...)
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2013
  7. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    That my post has allowed such a comment shows my post isn't enough yet.

    You mentioned about 瀬戸内海―you know that we have countless small islands that are the pieces of a plate scattered on the sea when it had broken.

    A〇  〇 〇 〇 〇D
    You're at island A. How do you call island D? 隣の隣の隣の島?Using 離島 is convenient, isn't it?
    I feel like that we occasionally call various islands 離島 in batch whichever it's nearby, far, or next to yours. Why? めんどくさいからね。

    When you specially focus on 'next to', 隣島 is allowable, and if the island is far/ have a certain distance, 離島 is of course good. I don't mean that 離島 is always a remote island as you see islands in 瀬戸内海. You can call it what you want; therefore, I just added various possibilities and recommended akuto to find any good one according to his text.
  8. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    If you want to know the official translation of 離島, akuto, the most convenient place to look is Japanese Law Translation, an official collection of translations by the government. This is the search results for 離島.

    As you can see, ”isolated island” and "remote island" are the standard translations.

    As for remote islands not so remote from the mainland, they are the results of the enthusiastic pursuit of a national gymnastics called sense stretching. Local bosses, bureaucrats, residents, and politicians often stretch the definition of a term, compliance to which could earns them more budget or subsidiary to further their interest. Ah, maybe it's an international practice.
  9. akuto Member

    French-France / English-Australia
    Hello all and thanks for your input, it's really helping. I actually also contacted the 日本離島センター asking them for advice and got a detailled answer, which also helped clear things up.
    I'll post it below for reference. The focus is really on potential isolation, so "Isolated" is really the most accurate, though "ile isolée" sounds a little strange in French (it's more often than not translated as "îles éloignées", refering to distance, which is actually slightly off in the current definition).
    "Péripherique" is really interesting, but i'm not sure it could really apply to islands on the inner sea for instance, but I'll give it a try as well.
    Stretching, yes it really does feel that way :)

    thanks again for your help


    What follows is an extract of the great answer I got from 日本離島センター :












    Last edited: Feb 24, 2013
  10. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I'm afraid I'm more confused than ever :(

    On several different sites, upon looking up 離島, I have come across definitions such as:

    1. 日本国内では、本土とされる北海道、本州、四国、九州それに順ずる沖縄本島を除く島の中で 本土とされる島と橋などで繋がっていない島の事を指す。
    2. 北海道本州四国九州沖縄本島5島を「本土」、これら5島を除く6,847島を「離島」としている。
    3. 離島とは北海道、本州、九州、四国、沖縄本島以外の約6,800の島々です。

    Is it correct to say that these 3 examples refer to the administrative/postal definition? Or are these definitions simply incorrect? I cannot comment on 離島 in general as I do not understand all the nuances of the word, but "remote" and "isolated" seem too specific if 離島 in the context of the OP's text simply refers to every Japanese island outside its 5 main islands. That is, it seems unfair to classify all islands outside the 5 main islands as "remote" when some of them may not be very "remote" at all. However, it is certainly possible to classify all these islands as "outlying".

    Akuto, can you supply any context for the uses of 離島 that you wish to translate? Is it the administrative definition or the "common meaning", or somewhere in between?
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  11. akuto Member

    French-France / English-Australia
    I'm working on a translation (to French) of extracts from 「日本の民俗」by 小島孝夫著. The word is used everywhere :
    Chapter's title itself is「離島という視点」for example. First reaction was to look up translations of the word in specialized lit., and which gave us "îles éloignées", but this felt a little odd since some islands were really not really far from 本土.
    context isn't very clear, but it seems to lean more on the administrative side, ie focusing on physical isolation rather than remoteness.

    Here's an example :


    I'm translating to french, so it's something like :

    "Les îles principales de Hokkaidô, Honshû, Shikoku et Kyûshû sont appelées hondo.
    Le terme générique de shima est utilisé quant à lui pour désigner les diverses îles et îlots d'une superficie inférieure ou égale à celle de Sadogajima, dont le nombre, île principale d'Okinawa comprise, s'élève à 6848.
    Une île est une masse de terre complétement entourée par la mer, qu'illustre particulièrement bien celles que l'on appelle ritô, "île éloignée", c'est à dire une île isolée, détachée de la masse de terre principale et fortement insularisée. "

    I might just keep this and add a footnote or actually go for something like "isolated island" which seems slightly more accurate.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  12. frequency

    frequency Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Yes it says 'isolated from 内地'. Simply focusing on its separation, not on the status as isolated as to make me wonder 'like' their calendar has already started from the 2000s. I think you already know, those all 6848 islands are not isolated islands.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2013
  13. lrosa Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    This seems like a good translation. If I may take the liberty of translating to English:

    "The main islands of Hokkaidô, Honshû, Shikoku and Kyûshû are (collectively?) referred to as the hondo.
    The generic term shima is used to designate any of the country's smaller islands and islets, comprising an area less than or equal to that of Sadogajima, which, including the main island of Okinawa, number 6,848.
    A shima is an area of land completely surrounded by the sea, as is the case with those islands referred to as ritô, that is a remote/isolated? (隔絶した?) island separated from the naichi (mainland Japan)"

    This use of the term 離島 clearly focuses on this definition: 内地から隔絶した離れた島. I am not sure of the precise connotations of 隔絶した - if it means "remote", "isolated", "far away from civilisation", etc., or if it simply means "separated (from)"? But in any case I would be inclined not to translate ritô at all! There doesn't seem to me to be any satisfactory translation in this context because 内地から隔絶した離れた島 implies a meaning that is more specific than "outlying", while the use of the English words "remote" or "isolated" (and, I believe, the French "éloignée" and "isolée") carry connotations of an extreme distance from civilisation.

    If 離島 is an important concept in your text, perhaps it would be more faithful to the text if you were simply to offer a definition of "ritô", without actually assigning it a direct French equivalent (since none seems to exist)?

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