From the What-A-Wonderful-World files: Yiddish-Japanese Dictionary/Yidish-Yapanish Verterbukh/Idisshu-go jiten, compiled and edited by Kazuo Ueda, with the aid of Holger Nath and Boris Kotlerman (Daigakusyorin, 1302 pages, ¥60,000), reviewed by Ross Perlin in (where else?) the Forward. Some excerpts:
Now a professor in the department of German at Fukuoka University (in the south of Japan), Ueda is the compiler and editor of an implausible opus: the world’s first Yiddish-Japanese dictionary. Its publication, in 2010, crowned decades of work, including a book about Yiddish grammar, a bilingual glossary, a cultural introduction to the language and a chrestomathy (a set of model texts). For those keeping score at home, the unidirectional Yidish-Yapanish Verterbukh clocks in at more than 28,000 entries, just beating out Max Weinreich’s classic “Modern English-Yiddish / Yiddish-English Dictionary” and falling only 9,000 entries short of Yitskhok Niborski’s gold-standard 2002 Dictionnaire Yiddish-Français.” But numbers miss the point — the Yidish-Yapanish Verterbukh is serious but accessible lexicography mit ale pitshevkes, or with all the trimmings: in Tokayer’s words, “a lifetime work.”
…Among the dictionary’s virtues are entries based on Weinreich and rendered in the standard orthography of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; apposite example sentences, primarily from the legendary Moscow literary journal Sovietish Heymland (Yiddish for “Soviet homeland”); user-friendly transliteration, YIVO-style, for every entry, and special marking of all Germanisms, Slavisms and Hebraisms. Its cardinal vice is a price tag of 60,000 yen (nearly $770 at the current exchange rate) — not exactly a vilde metsie, or a great bargain, even in one of the world’s most expensive countries.
There’s interesting material on the history of Yiddish dictionaries (this is “the first time that the full wealth of the Yiddish lexicon has been made accessible in a non-European language [Hebrew aside]”) and on the history of Yiddish in Japan:
Yiddish first came to Japan in the early 20th century, when a trickle of Russian Jews, most of them from Siberia, settled in the port cities of Yokohama, Nagasaki and Kobe. After World War I, Yiddish theater superstar Aaron Lebedeff took Japan by storm on an East Asian tour (a long-forgotten Yiddish operetta, “Mendl in Japan,” appears to have resulted). Two decades later, eminent Yiddishists and Bundists, as well as students and teachers of the famous Mir Yeshiva, were among the several thousand refugees saved by Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara. Most passed through Kobe en route to America, Palestine, the international settlements in Shanghai and other havens.
(A tip of the Languagehatlo hat to Jim Bisso.)