The Great Passage (2013) Release and Notes

Translation Notes

Fune wo Amu

The.Great.Passage.Fune.wo.Amu.2013.BDRip.1080p.English-8thSin_v2.mkv : [AsiaTorrents] [Public Trackers]
The.Great.Passage.Fune.wo.Amu.2013.BDRip.576p.English-8thSin: [Public Trackers (TBA)]

v2 Patch: MediaFire (only if you downloaded v1)

From YesAsia

Director Ishii Yuya (Mitsuko Delivers, Sawako Decides) pays tribute to the unsung heroes of the dictionary world in The Great Passage. Based on the best-selling novel by Miura Shiwon, this gentle comedy follows a group of dictionary editors and their decade-long effort to create the ultimate “dictionary of the moment”.
Japan’s representative at the 2013 Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Film race, The Great Passage is an inspiring dramedy dedicated to wordsmiths everywhere.

Thanks to my old movie editor Brains who helped me out with the script after my many years of hiatus from movie fansubbing  ^^

Since everything anime is getting licensed now and getting official subs, I’ll be releasing way more live-action releases.

As a translator, it’s pretty hard to hate a movie that’s about obsession with words and coming up with appropriate ways to explain the meaning.  Star-studded and rewarding movie for patient viewers.


Translation notes contain spoilers. Please watch the movie first and read this afterwards, or read while re-watching.

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The official title in English is “The Great Passage”, which is the dictionary (“Daitokai“) that they were making. In Japanese, however, the title is “Fune wo Amu“, means “Weaving/Compiling a Boat”, following the analogy of “sea of words” and “a dictionary is a boat” in the movie. The original Japanese title is pretty much impossible to fully translate in English, because the term 「編む」”Amu” is mostly used to mean “to weave/knit”, but it is also used poetically to describe building something one small step at time like the process of weaving (i.e. taking steps for a new life,  restoring a forest etc). The kanji in「編む」”Amu” is part of the word 「編集」”Edit”, and in extremely rare and possibly obsolete usage, it can also mean “to compile/edit”, as you would for a dictionary.

The literal translation of the title is “Building/Compiling a Boat”, but it works in Japanese because the term “”amu works both ways.

Although it’s not a stretch for a typical Japanese speaker to know “amu” means to build and guess it can mean to edit as well, no one would ever use that term to mean “edit” in everyday speech. I think it’s interesting that even the movie title causes viewers like me to check (online) dictionary to make sure, proving the necessity of dictionaries to truly understand the meaning of a word.

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Daitokai” is literally “The Great Crossing of the Sea” in Japanese. The official English title was definitely done by someone who knew what he was doing, because this is a truly an epic title translation for this movie.

Since “Fune wo Amu” was practically untranslatable, the official translator chose to go with the title of the book instead. Although the title no longer directly suggests building from scratch, it implies the creation of dictionary itself is a great journey (which was suggested in the way protagonist grew in this movie), and it still is in duel-meaning of “boat/dictionary” with “making the great passage (journey) across the sea” and  ”coming up with great passages (portions of written works) to define words.”

I also like how it sounds like double meaning whenever they use the book’s title in a sentence, as it can sometimes be interpreted in Japanese as well. Bravo.


There was little point in typesetting these because they were all random entries in the dictionary, but it should be noted that all of these in the first sequence were all words starting with 「あい」, the first two characters of hiragana (in “alphabetical” order, no word really starts with 「ああ」). This is pretty much why Nishioka (Maakun) complained why it’s so tedious.
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Organization of existing usage collection cards (and also their latter checks) were all done from the top in hiragana. 「切(き)る」”Cut” also falls between 「い-」in the previous scene and 「テ(て)」in the following scene. The story actually takes the hiragana order into consideration.


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A scene outside the “Old Building” of Genbu Books.
Genbu Japanese Dictionary 3rd Edition” – 7 years since the last full revision – To be released in Fall, 1993.

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Tora-san is clearly the reference to the main character in Otoko wa Tsurai yo film series. “Tora” can be read as “tiger”, so it’s somewhat fitting for a cat.

“Torajirou” is the given name of Tora-san, and “-jirou” is a common form of given name for the second boy of a family.

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Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime) is the heroine in The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Since Princess Kaguya was known as an exceptional beauty and came from the “Capital on the Moon”, the heroine’s name in this movie implies she was someone he thought to be an “unattainable beauty” for someone like Majime at the introduction. This is supported by the later sushi restaurant scene where they said she definitely has a boyfriend.

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It was never said directly in Japanese either, but in case you were wondering… yes, that was a phone call from her ex-boyfriend, presumably in Kyoto.

That’s why Majime was flustering when he used “cut ties” and “cut him off (over the phone)” as usage examples for the word “cut”.

Kaguya thanks Majime in the end, because she knows that Majime knew that was a phone call from the ex-boyfriend, and it was an attempt to cheer her up.

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Names under the umbrella is pretty much same as how kids tease a couple “X and Y sitting under a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G”.

I’m sure you’ve seen this on blackboards or notebooks if you watch a lot of anime.

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Kappabashi, the Kitchen Town, is where someone in Tokyo would go to buy Sushi knives and other professional cooking equipment.

Some sushi chefs obsess over the knives, and fine knives can cost thousands of dollars.

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In large Japanese companies and in politics, Someone would have to “take full responsibility for actions” when there’s been a screw up, either through resignation (if in administrative position and it was a severe error) or transfer (for employees or smaller embarrassment).

Nishioka and the Dictionary Department clearly acted against the company’s interest in the earlier scene to keep the dictionary project going, so someone has to take the responsibility on behalf of the department to make example of them to other employees and possibly as leverage when asking forgiveness from whoever they pissed off.

This is why Nishioka says “I’m so lame, huh?” after telling his girl/sex-friend he got transferred, because it was a totally predicable ending for what he suggested. Despite how he ridiculed others for being so passionate and serious about mere dictionary making, as well as claiming to hate it, he himself had become passionate to a point where he would jeopardize his own career to keep the Great Passage going.

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She can only have one drink on this night because they’ll be going to the Tsukiji Fish Market for early morning auctions. Any sushi restaurants in Tokyo that has any self-respect would be attending the auction there every morning, because that’s pretty much where all the freshest and best fish arrive near Tokyo.
Kaguya announces throughout the movie that she’s given new responsibilities, and that’s part of the sushi chef apprenticeship. When she is capable of doing everything, the apprenticeship is complete, and she’ll have the credibility and skills to start her own restaurant.

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Small butsudan for the grandma.

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The name of the new sushi restaurant is clearly a reference to Kaguya’s name. She now owns her own restaurant.

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Yes, they’re talking about Asou Kumiko, the real actress.

The book cover is “The Great Passage”, “A boat crossing the sea of words”, “Words connect people”.
All are concept and themes by editor-in-chief Matsumoto at the beginning of the movie.

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He is of course talking about words missing, but clearly refers to the boat analogy as well, as in you can’t build a boat with holes in it because it’ll sink.

What I really like about this line is that it really shows the general philosophy for pretty much all upstart Japanese companies and creators making any product to sell:
You have to get your product to the quality where “you can sell/serve to your customers” first, because they are being charged for it and deserves proportional return in product or service.

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Black ties and all black suits are usually worn only for funerals.
Given the context, what they are eating is most likely to be toshikoshi-soba, which means it’s on December 31.

Possibly to symbolize the end of an era, but a new era/year will begin regardless. Majime here will clearly follow the former editor-in-chief’s philosophy and keep his will going, to create the a boat in the sea of words.

Extreme subtlety or maybe I’m just over-analyzing things ^^;

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1. Vampires are clearly substituted for “oni” to scare kids to sleep.
2. “Buzen” in the explanation means “displeased”, but I couldn’t think of any word that used to mean “displeased” AND “emotionless” in modern usage, so I had to switch to this choice instead.

I willingly engaged in questionable scriptwriting for these two lines to make sense of them in English. Hopefully all other cases of slang and wordplay etc make sense in English even though I took far less liberty with selection of equivalent words in translation.

13 Thoughts on “The Great Passage (2013) Release and Notes

  1. famitsu1 on November 17, 2013 at 11:34 am said:

    “Since everything anime is getting licensed now and getting official subs, this I’ll be releasing way more live-action releases.”
    Kita!!! Best news all week. Thanks so much for all your hard work.

  2. I’ll watch it over the weekend. Thanks!

  3. Thank you so much for translating this heart felt movie. Just wanted to check with you. When his wife visited his “sensei” at the hospital, she found ont his wife in the room. So in this case, sensei meant the patient himself not as “physician or doctor” right? I was confused a bit.

    • I was thinking they were talking about examinations, so she would want to hear the results from doctor, but it totally makes sense for her to see the Matsushima as well.

      Both would have the title of “sensei”, so it’s hard to say who exactly she asked for, and the wife didn’t answer either ^^;

  4. kukirakurakura on November 21, 2013 at 7:51 am said:

    Um, “Kaguya is Majime’s better half” what does it mean?

    I think a word or two was forgotten here. Try “the higher-ups would have a hard time shelving it.”
    This looks pretty interesting though, might check it out at some point.

  6. 8140david on November 25, 2013 at 10:19 pm said:

    Thanks for this great work!

    I found the movie, subtitled, somewhere on the web, more than a month ago.
    I can’t remember from which website.
    Did you know there was an existing (certainly imperfect) version?

    • I searched around, but I couldn’t find any existing English subs freely available. Are you sure it was that early?

      The DVD/BD just came out last week, so if you really saw it, then it must have been a DVD screener (which is very unlikely because this is not a big movie outside Japan) or a festival CAMrip.

  7. nice movie, thanks for TL. I loved the music in it, is OST somewhere on the internetz?

  8. MatrixM on January 19, 2014 at 7:53 am said:

    I remember this came at the Japanese Film Festival in Australia. I didn’t go to see this one, though. I’ll check it out after this exam i’ve got coming up. Thanks.

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