Nishijima Roshi spent many years translating the Shobogenzo into modern Japanese. He then continued to translate it into English. He described the process on his blog in 2007.
“I have begun to read Shobogenzo, which was written by Master Dogen in the 13th century, for the first time in 1938. But, even though it was written in Japanese, it was so difficult for me to understand it for the first time. However, reading it again and again, I have begun to understand it gradually, and so when I have understood the total meaning of it, I wrote my first book, which is called “Bukkyo – Dai San no Sekai-kan”, or “Buddhism – the third view of the world.” And I have introduced the outline of Shobogenzo by Master Dogen as my first book of Buddhism.
Then I have begun to translate Shobogenzo, which was written in Japanese of the medieval age, into the modern Japanese. I guess that many people feel strange that it was necessary for me to translate the Japanese in the medieval age into the modern Japanese because I am just a native speaker of Japanese, but actually speaking the Japanese in the medieval age was so different from the modern Japanese, and so if I want to make Shobogenzo understandable for modern Japanese people, it was necessary for us to translate Shobogenzo, which was written in Japanese of the medieval age into the modern Japanese inevitably. So I have translated the total Shobogenzo into the modern Japanese first, and I have published “Gendaigoyaku Shobogenzo”, or “Shobogenzo in Modern Japanese” first. The book includes the 13 volumes including the original text of Shobogenzo, comments for difficult words, and Shobogenzo in the modern Japanese, and an index. It was necessary for me to accomplish and publish it for 16 years. At that time I was the head of a section in Japan Security Finance Company, and so I was rather busy. Therefore it was necessary for me to stop smoking, drinking, playing golf and mahjong, travelling and so forth, to write the draft of the book everyday. After finishing the dinner at the 7 o’clock everyday, I worked for writing the draft of translated Shobogenzo into modern Japanese for 3 hours everyday, and on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, I worked for writing the draft almost everyday. And after becoming the consultant of Ida Industry Corporation since 1975, even during the daytime I could work for Shobogenzo, when there was no meeting in Ida company.
It was necessary for me to spend 16 years to accomplish “The modern Japanized Shobogenzo,” and then I have begun to translate Shobogenzo into English. At that time I have become the counselor of Ida Company already, and so usually I could work for translating Shobogenzo even for a daytime in the company for about 5 hours when there was no meeting, and at night I could work for the English translation also for 3 hours at home. And after 6 years efforts I have accomplished my English translation by myself first. Therefore it was necessary for me to accomplish my English translation for 16 years + 6 years = 22 years. ”
When the small group of foreign students began to attend his Saturday seminar in Tokyo, he asked for our help in editing these translations. Following are 36 of the chapters that I completed with him over the six years from 1978 to 1983. The other chapters completed by Jeff Bailey and Larry Zacchi are no longer available. These translations are more interpretive than the later translations that he made with Mike Cross, and therefore not as close to the original Japanese. Nishijima Roshi used these chapters as the basis for his Saturday lectures in Tokyo until the later translation started to be completed.