IJET-31 (June 24-25, 2023)
Adventures of an Accidental Interpreter to the Stars (JATINT)
Documentary maker Mary Corbett grew up on the Old Bluff in Yokohama with a passion for history.
She enjoys envisioning the moments when people with no common language met and made history, such as the miracle and hilarity of Tokugawa's samurai and interpreters meeting with Commodore Perry for the first time in Yokohama. They spoke only Dutch, having been told by the Dutch representative it was the lingua franca of the day. Were it not for a skilled sinologist on board Perry's ship, there would have been little discussion of any sort that historic day. It's a wonder that Perry returned home with any treaty at all.
As an intern at a San Francisco radio station, Mary was asked by the producer to pick up some interviews while on holiday in Japan. Though not a radio personality, the station was well known, and she ended up interviewing 20 of Japan's biggest recording stars, including Yumi Matsutoya, Inoue Yosui and YMO. Similar chance occasions in sports led to stints with Osaka Naomi, Matsui Hideki, the late F1 superstar Ayrton Senna, and many others.
Perhaps the craziest accidental assignment was for a Japanese producer who asked her to source a famous European psychic for Japanese t.v. while in the UK on a BBC project. The woman she found made such a dramatic impact on live t.v. that the executive was inundated with requests from sponsors, politicians, and celebrities to arrange urgent readings. It was Mary who delivered the oracles. Secret mega mergers, celebrity divorces, and scandalous secrets of the famous were revealed, leaving Mary, the bewildered ad hoc interpreter, astounded by the complete absence of security clearance.
Mary's accidental non-career continues to bring much joy and spontaneity to her life.