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Densha: train or tram?

karenk

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Hi, I've been translating japanese texts from the first decades of the 20th century and always have a hard time deciding if i should translate "densha" as train or tram because nowadays they seem to be same thing. What about in those days? When a character took a train in those days in Tokyo or Kyoto, was it in fact a tram and not a train? Any idea? Thank you!
 

mdchachi

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Hi, I've been translating japanese texts from the first decades of the 20th century and always have a hard time deciding if i should translate "densha" as train or tram because nowadays they seem to be same thing. What about in those days? When a character took a train in those days in Tokyo or Kyoto, was it in fact a tram and not a train? Any idea? Thank you!
What is the difference in English? Is a tram a streetcar? I think if it doesn’t say 路面電車 or mention a line that was a known streetcar (like 東電 in Tokyo) then it’s a train. But to your point if all the trains in a given city were streetcars the contemporary text might not differentiate.

As an aside how would you translate “I took a train from Detroit to Chicago”? Would you use 電車 even if you knew all trains on this line are diesel powered?
 

karenk

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What is the difference in English? Is a tram a streetcar? I think if it doesn’t say 路面電車 or mention a line that was a known streetcar (like 東電 in Tokyo) then it’s a train. But to your point if all the trains in a given city were streetcars the contemporary text might not differentiate.

As an aside how would you translate “I took a train from Detroit to Chicago”? Would you use 電車 even if you knew all trains on this line are diesel powered?
Yes, I think that a tram is a streetcar in English, I translate into Portuguese, so I'm not so familiar with the terms.

I see your point about the "train from Detroit to Chicago". It is just that in Portuguese, trains are not so commom in cities, and in some Japanese texts I've translated, the "trains" were running on the street, so I had to call them streetcars instead of simply trains...
 

Toritoribe

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I think you need to interpret it depending on the scene where the word is used, after all. 電車 wouldn't be used for a long trip, like from Kumamoto to Tokyo.
 

karenk

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I think you need to interpret it depending on the scene where the word is used, after all. 電車 wouldn't be used for a long trip, like from Kumamoto to Tokyo.
Yes, I think that is the case. Most of the scenes are in an urban area, not going from one city to the the other. Would "kisha" be used in a longer trip (in those days)? "Kisha" corresponds more to my ideia of a train, while "densha" in the 1920's seems more like a streetcar, they were shorter, a wagon or two, and runned on the city streets, I suppose?
 

Toritoribe

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Yes for 汽車, but 電車 is not used only for a line in an urban area, but including a line to the suburb or between nearby cities like Tokyo and Yokohama. I think these lines are not "streetcar", and characters could use these lines even in their daily life. That's why I wrote "depending on the scene where the word is used."
 
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