History of Japanese Bible Translation

When the missionaries were admitted to Japan in 1859, there were no Japanese Scriptures available, for the Gutzlaff work of 1837 seems not to have reached Japan and the Bettleheim work in Luchu was completely useless for the main islands. The missionaries had to begin by learning a difficult language and several scripts or syllabaries. As many of the better educated Japanese read Chinese easily, these Scriptures could be used. Another approach suggested for this group was the use of Chinese text with Japanese signs to indicate the order in which the characters were to be read and the grammatical endings. For a few years these editions were used to a considerable extent, but when the Japanese Bible was completed there was no further call for them.
Gutzlaff Bible

Among the early missionaries were the Rev.J.C. Hpburn, Dr Guido F. Verbeck and the rev. S.R. Brown who immediately devoted their energies to language study. While a number of the missionaries were making attempts at translation even as they were studying the language, the first part of the bible to be printed in Japanese in Japan appeared: the Gospel of Matthew translated by Jonathan Goble, a zealous missionary of the Free Baptists. This edition of Mathew, printed from hand-carved wooden blocks was issued in 1871. He had apealed to American Bible Society in 1865 for money with which to pay writers and printers for Scripture translation, but Dr. Holdich suggested that he join with the other missionaries in the same work so they might produce a non-sectarian version. The translation had many defects but it was the beginning.
Goble's Gospel of Matthew and its wooden block

In 1872, Mark was printed (1,000 copies) under the care of Dr.S.R. Brown and Dr. Hepburn, with funds secured locally, and John was being printed, both from hand carved wooden blocks, followed in 1873 by Matthew. Just after Mark and John were printed, a conversation of Protestant missionaries was held in Yokohama and they made a decision of cooperating on the New testament translation work. After 1876, the work went faster and the whole New testament was published in 1880(the Old Testament was published in 1887). When the New testament was published, it was criticized for its translation. A committee of new translation was formed and started translating from the original Greek Bible in 1910. the Taisho revised new testament was completed in 1917and had been used till 1954 when the Japanese Colloquial bible was published. In 1950, Japan bible Society established a committee of the Japanese Colloquial bible believing that the bible is for all people and should be understandable to them. It took about four years to complete the New Testament and one year later the Old testament was published.The biggest news in 1978 was the publication of the Japanese Interconfessional New Testament. The new version is the product of hard work on the part of the Executive Committee and its sub-committee of the Japanese Common Bible Translation. About 70 translators made a great effort and it took 18 years to complete both the New Testament and the Old Testament( the NT published in 1978 was revised): the whole Japanese Interconfessional Bible was completed in 1987 and it is the most popular in Japan at the moment. This Interconfessinal Bible symbolizes the ecumenical movement of Japan.
The New Interconfessional Pulpit Bible The New Interconfessional Bible _CD version
40-Volume Braille Bible