Hiroshima, Mokusatsu and Alleged Mistranslations

Keywords: translation mistake, translator responsibility, context, mistranslation, myth


This paper revisits the issue of the importance of context and critical thinking in translation and translation training by examining the linguistic controversy over the translation of the word mokusatsu in the statement of Japan’s Prime Minister Suzuki in response to the Potsdam Declaration. There is a widespread belief that the bombing of Hiroshima in August of 1945 was caused by a translation mistake. The author sides with the opposing view, i.e. that such an approach takes one word of the statement out of context in order to shift the focus of the problem from politics to linguistics. The message of the statement is unambiguous when analyzed in its entirety. As a result, it is obvious there was no translation mistake and the bomb was dropped for reasons other than translation quality. Sadly enough, the myth lives on as a textbook example of ‘the worst translation mistake in history” whereas it should be taught as an example of probably ‘the worst translation myth in history’.

Author Biography

Boris Naimushin, Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Boris Naimushin, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Translation and Interpreting in the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures at the New Bulgarian University. His main research objective lies in the advancement of interpreter training methodology, especially with relation to issues of performance anxiety, public speaking and audience interaction in consecutive and community interpreting. He is the Editor in Chief of English Studies at NBU.


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How to Cite
Naimushin, B. (2021). Hiroshima, Mokusatsu and Alleged Mistranslations. English Studies at NBU, 7(1), 87-96. https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.21.1.6