A Thousand Leagues of Wind


Chronologically, the “Youko arc” in Fuyumi Ono’s high fantasy series, The Twelve Kingdoms, occurs in the second half of the saga, with the account of Shouryuu (Higashi no Watatsumi, Nishi no Soukai) taking place first. The novels as published essentially begin in the middle and then branch backwards and forwards, a narrative structure similar to C. S. Lewis’s Narnia.

In his afterword to Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi, the literary critic Mitsuyasu Sakai suggests the following ordering of the six core novels in the series (as of January 2000):

Title / Protagonist
Higashi no Watatsumi, Nishi no Soukai (”Poseidon of the East, Vast Blue Seas of the West“)Shouryuu
Tonan no Tsubasa (”The Wings of Dreams“)Shushou
Kaze no Umi, Meikyu no Kishi (”Zephyr Oceans, Labyrinthian Shores“)Taiki
Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi (”A Thousand Leagues of Wind, a Sea of Shadows“)Youko
Kaze no Banri, Reimei no Sora (”A Thousand Leagues of Wind, the Sky at Dawn“)Youko
Mashou no Ko (”The Demon Child“)Taiki

So despite it being out of place in the timeline, Kaze no Banri, Reimei no Sora became my next project for the simple reason that I wanted to find out what happened next (that is, as opposed to the anime version).

The title of Kaze no Banri, Reimei no Sora is often rendered as “A Thousand Miles of Wind, The Sky at Dawn.”

The word banri literally means “10,000 ri,” or 5,760 km (3,580 miles). The term itself comes from the Chinese for the Great Wall of China, or in Japanese, Banri no Choujo (“long castle”). The Great Wall is 6,350 km (3,946 miles) in length, so obviously the literal definition is not intended.

The following note in the Wikipedia article about the Great Wall of China makes the meaning clear:

In Chinese, “10,000” figuratively means “infinite,” and the number should not be interpreted for its actual value, but rather as meaning the “infinitely long wall.”

However, “an infinity of wind” sounds a bit odd. 10,000 ri is pretty close to a thousand leagues, which has a closer contemporary sense to that of a vast distance. The literary antecedent here is from Moby Dick by Herman Melville:

I could have greeted my dear Pacific with uncounted thanks, for now the long supplication of my youth was answered; that serene ocean rolled eastwards from me a thousand leagues of blue.

The chapter heading in each chapter will link to my blog site where I will post the notes I’ve made during translation.

The original Japanese novels can be purchased at Honto (Book 1) and Amazon-Japan. TokyoPop has published the “authorized” English translation of The Skies of Dawn (with which I was not involved). For more information about The Twelve Kingdoms, see this blog post. Additional links to fan translations and resources can be found at C. Tokolsky’s Ranka site.


Translation, as opposed to reading, focuses the mind on what the author actually means, as opposed to simply propelling you along the narrative track. So the real credit goes to Fuyumi Ono for writing some of the most fascinating and creative novels in the high fantasy genre—in any language—that only get more interesting and morally complex and you go along.

What began as an exercise in studying Japanese (and reading a good story) has turned into anything but a solo effort. I have leaned heavily on Yoshie Omura’s Juuni Kokki glossaries. Yuko graciously answers my questions about Japanese syntax and semantics, and I’m greatly appreciative to immi and Anna for pointing out typos and inconsistencies in the translation.

I write initial drafts using JWPce. My primary references are Eijirou and Yahoo’s Daijisen Japanese Dictionary. The OS is XP Pro SP3 with the East Asian languages module loaded. I dump the text into Word (2003) and then run macros to turn it into HTML, and do the final edit in Homesite 1.0 (still working after all these years!).

The cover art is from the 1994 Kondansha X (White Heart) edition. The maps and pagination are from the October 2000 Kodansha Bunko edition. The background graphics are used under a Creative Commons license from Gokuraku Ho-ten.

Copyright Eugene Woodbury. All rights reserved.