No. 4 — August 3, 1983

We've made it to our fourth issue. The newsletter is getting a good response and I hope it is helping to fill some of the needs for better communications in our field. The newsletter includes useful facts and figures about translation, the information sciences, and technology in general as they relate to Japan, paying special attention to the requirements of professional technical translators working between Japanese and English. Issues are published occasionally, that is, whenever there is anything to communicate. That has been about once a month so far. The publication is uncopyrighted and free, but some day I may have to charge readers at least for postage. (If you want to help, you can send a contribution to pay for the postage.) My hope is that the newsletter will grow eventually into a sort of networking agency. I wish I could reach more translators working in the field. If you know any others, please share your issues with them. Again, your contributions are most welcome and will help others.

Partial contents of this issue:

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The MITI-sponsored project for developing a "Fifth-Generation Computer," which was inaugurated on April 14, 1982 with the foundation of the Institute for New Generation Computer Technology (ICOT) (see our issue No. 2, pp. 8–11), has been hitting snags, and a mood demanding its "review" has been gaining ground, especially among the reluctant participants from the Japanese computer industry. The project is intended to be an ambitious, high-risk project costing ¥100 billion (around $414,937,759 at a recent exchange rate) and structured over a ten-year period. Its participants include the government (MITI's Electrotechnical Laboratory), the computer industry (eight firms: Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Mitsubishi, Matsushita, Oki, Sharp and Toshiba), and academics (the researchers in charge of theoretical research). According to Hidetoshi Narahara, writing in the Nikkei sangyō shimbun of July 28, 1983, the computer industry is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the way the government bureaucrats and academics are running the project, and MITI itself is experiencing some anxiety about what to do about it. This upsurge of dissatisfactions and second thoughts comes at a time when the Project is attracting more and more international attention. E.A. Feigenbaum and P. McCorduck have written a whole book, The Fifth Generation about it. Their book was published in March, and a Japanese translation of the book was published with much fanfare in Japan by TBS Britannica on August 2. The August 1 issue of Time magazine devotes a full page to describing the Project. What is going wrong?

MITI has been aiming at developing the Fifth Generation Computer under a system of exchanges of specialists with foreign countries, and it decided recently to work closely with the English. England, it seems, also has a government-sponsored plan to develop a similar computer, and it was decided that it might be advantageous for both countries to coordinate their efforts. However, the Japanese industry participants are all objecting loudly to the choice of England as a partner because they regard the British computer industry as being far weaker than Japan's, and they would prefer some other, more advanced country — the U.S., for example — to be their partner. But MITI is promoting a line of Japanese-British collaboration. One of the main reasons why MITI decided in the first place to adopt a line of international collaboration in developing the Fifth Generation Computer was evidently in order to deflect what MITI perceived as rising overseas criticism of Japan's policy of governmental subsidizing of industries. (Incidentally, Feigenbaum devotes several chapters in his book The Fifth Generation to a generally unfavorable, although cautious, discussion of England's present place in artificial intelligence development, which at one point is called a "tragedy." See The Fifth Generation pp. 154–166. However, Bro Uttal says that the British are "regarded as excellent programmers." Fortune, October 4, 1982, p. 90)

In the meantime, of course, the Americans have been quietly establishing their own research projects, such as the MCC (Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation) headquartered in Austin, Texas. According to Time magazine, "dozens of U.S. firms, from Westinghouse to Atari, have started AI departments," and the Defense Advanded Research Projects Agency expects to spend up to $95 million annually for advanced computers for military uses. Time magazine quotes the director of Carnegie-Mellon's Robotics Institute as saying: "The Japanese may have awakened a sleeping giant." (Time, August 1, 1983, p. 57)

According to the reporter Narahara of the Nikkei sangyō shimbun, although the Japanese computer industry participants in the Fifth Generation Project would like to collaborate with MCC, the Americans have refused to share their research with any foreign countries, claiming that this is a highly sensitive high-technology area. The American coolness also was part of the background situation pushing MITI to embrace collaboration with the British, but Japanese industry sources also place much of the blame on the Japanese stance in the project, which they criticize as being much too "theoretical" for the Americans' taste.

Academics, supported by government bureaucrats, have held the initiative in the project since the beginning, with the Japanese computer industry participants following along reluctantly. Top industry leaders have maintained from the start that the development work in the project has been organized too narrowly. The final goal of the development, they complain, was already laid down at the initial stage of fundamental research, and no attention is paid to any alternative arguments. The Japanese industry has nothing at all against international co-operation, and all concerned would welcome U.S. participation in the project, but the Americans have remained consistently cool towards it. Industry sources think that this is because the Americans dislike the narrow-minded, theoretical orientation of the bureaucrats and acdemics running the project, and now industry's dissatisfaction is reaching the exploding point because the bureaucrats have swerved towards collaboration with the British.

Another reason for the unenthusiastic attitude of the Japanese computer industry is that they think the ten-year period of the project is too long. As we can see from the IBM industrial espionage scandal of a year ago, Japanese computer manufacturers are mainly interested in short-term technological developments. Technology changes so rapidly in this field that it is impossible to foresee the state of the art even one year ahead, let alone to plan for something ten years in the future.

It has been claimed that machine translation would be unrealizable without using an intelligent computer such as the Fifth Generation Computer, but this has seemingly been disproved by recent systems developed independently by medium and small software-development companies which can reportedly make machine translations with 80% to 90% accuracy. These smaller venture businesses, with their unique capacities for innovation, are denied all participation in the Fifth Generation Project, which is monopolized by the bureaucratic and academic types, and this is another underlying source of dissatisfaction in industry circles.

MITI's 100-billion-yen project definitely appears to be hitting a number of snags, but the project was always known to be risky. No one said it would be easy. A careful reading of Feigenbaum's The Fifth Generation ought to shed light on the reasons why American participation in the Japanese project has been nil. The Americans may indeed feel that the Japanese project is too "abstract," but if I read Feigenbaum correctly, this is not their fundamental reason for non-participation. The main American motive, emphasized over and over in Feigenbaum's book, is a sense of crisis, similar to that of the Sputnik scare, a fear of sinking into second-rate status as a nation. When awakened, a "sleeping giant" is capable of great feats, especially when military security is perceived to be involved.

Fiscal year 1983 is the third and final year of the Fifth Generation Project's first stage, devoted to fundamental investigations. In fiscal year 1984, the project is to enter its second stage of applied research on element technology and hardware designing. The recent talk about "reviewing the plans," as reported in the Nikkei sangyō shimbun is clearly aimed at next year's budget. Reading between the lines, we can predict one or two possible scenarios. One might involve a full-scale withdrawal from the project by industry, budget cuts, and a sharp scaling-down of the project, which would be let out to pasture to dodder on as a joint Japanese-English academic project. In that case, MCC would have little to fear. But who knows? MITI might, on the contrary, surprise everyone by deciding not to mothball the project and to give MCC a real run for their money. After all the hoopla — the Feigenbaum book and the article in Time magazine, it would be extremely awkward to mothball it. It will be interesting to see how the Japanese computer industry reacts if the Japanese government decides to adopt a hawkish pro-Fifth Generation stance. If that happens, I predict that we will begin hearing some cries of alarm from Austin and from the Pentagon. The giant will be wide-awake and screaming.

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A special research report by a working group in the Japanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications published on July 16 proposed the adoption of a national policy aimed at the creation of databases of Japanese business and governmental information to be exported overseas. The report was issued by the Working Group to Promote Overseas Dissemination of Databases, headed by Yukio Nakamura, chief of the Japan Documentation Society. This is said to be the first full-scale report to analyze the current state of Japan's databases and their future development.

The report states that, in the "information society" of the future (the 21st century), databases containing collections of statistical data and documents will not only be helpful in organizing information and in rationalizing work, but they will also be a national economic resource, the third such resource following after energy and food, and will add to the nation's international bargaining power.

The current situation is one in which Japan is heavily reliant on American and European databases and is a top-heavy importer of information. Of the 269 commercial databases which can be utilized by domestic data communication channels, only 33 of them (12% of the total) are of Japanese origin.

The report states that this reliance on foreign databases means not only that Japan is lagging behind in the international war for information resources, but also that Japan is exposed to the constant anxiety that Japan's access to certain databases may be cut off at any time. (See below, jōdan "New Words and Phrases.") An urgent task is to promote domestic databases and to promote their dissemination overseas.

The report recommends that, instead of competing with existing American and European databases, Japan ought to create its own distinctly Japanese databases, those which can be created only in Japan and which would have international competitive power. Since there are increasing needs overseas for information about Japanese enterprises and high technology, and for economic and investment data, Japan ought to organize its own information of. various types into databases. The databases should not only include information from private industry, but should also draw on data from Japan's largest information source, the government, which makes available various statistical documents and white papers and has numerous governmental agencies and research institutions. Business data from companies also ought to be made available on a commercial basis, creating databases of world-wide value about areas in which Japan excels such as electrocommunications, steelmaking, earthquakes, shipbuilding, and environmental pollution.

When such databases are created, it will be necessary to organize them into a database VAN (value-added network) which can be easily used from overseas. This VAN will be provided with advanced communications functions so that different types of computers and terminals can be connected to it. VAN businesses such as TYMNET and TELENET are already providing such services in the U.S. The report recommends setting up joint sales agencies overseas for selling Japanese data.

The report also proposed adding to the network clearing functions by which users can obtain guidance about the location, contents and charges for the databases meeting their needs. It recommends connecting databases to new-media networks such as the CAPTAIN (videotex) system (see issue No. 3, p. 6) or bidirectional cable television so that they can also be used in homes and businesses.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is scheduled to begin soon to make studies of technical and institutional questions based on this recommendation, including also the question of mutual connections with international networks. Full-fledged tests of connections with the "new media" are to be carried out in fiscal year 1984, including also studies of their social impacts. (Nihon keizai shimbun, July 17, 1983, p. 3)

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The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has adopted a policy of taking steps to promote database services which will build the foundation for the building of a sound "information society" of the future. Its policies are:

  1. To increase greatly the number of Japan's databases, which lag behind in comparison with America and Europe, and to promote vendors engaged in processing and supplying of information.
  2. To establish a clearing center which will act as the nucleus for forming database networks.
  3. To utilize the financing systems of the Japan Development Bank to strengthen businesses engaged in the collecting, organizing and compiling of data.

Japan's database service industry is said to be lagging some 5–7 years behind the American and European industries, and a strengthening of the database foundations is regarded as inevitable. In addition to the above, MITI also has a policy of studying topics such as making governmental data available to the public and liberalizing communication channels. In view of the importance of the area, MITI has decided to adopt the consolidation of the foundations of the "information society" as the main point of its 1984 policies.

MITI will adopt, as the mainstays of its policies, the protection of software, management of system security, and promotion of database services. This is important because of the backwardness of Japan's databases in comparison with America and Europe:

  1. Japan's information-supplying services have sales of ¥40 billion (at ¥239 = $167,364,016), which is only one the sales of American services, said to amount to ¥252 billion ($1,054,393,305), and one-fourth the sales of European services, amounting to ¥151 billion ($631,799,163).
  2. At the present time 42 organizations in Japan are providing 456 separate databases. The organizations include governmental agencies such the Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST) and the Japan Patent Information Center (JAPATIC). The number of Japanese-produced databases is 122, which is less than the numbers in America (570) and Europe (264). Since the total number of databases distributed in Japan is 456, only one-third of the databases in current use in Japan are of Japanese origin.

Fearing a disorganized flood of information, MITI has decided to consolidate the nation's databases. The first step in this direction was the completion of a list of databases which MITI completed at the end of March, 1963. (See issue No. 2 of this Newsletter, p. 1) (Nikkan kōgyō shimbun, July 6, 1983; Dētā tsūshin June, 1983, pp. 30–35)

Electronic information vendors have mushroomed into a $1-billion-a-year business, according to Link Resources Corp. Link predicts a 23% annual growth rate for the industry over the next four years, in part owing to the tremendous demand from the financial services industry. Cuadra Associates of Santa Monica reports that 700 organizations produce 1,450 separate data bases, a 53 percent increase in the available universe since 1981. ("The data base explosion" by Larry Marion, in Institutional Investor, July 1983, pp. 161–165)


As part of its efforts to create a system for assisting research in advanced technologies such as life sciences and biotechnology, the Science and Technology Agency is studying the possibility of organizing into a network the scientific databases which are currently operated independently at various Japanese research institutions. Concretely, the network would be centered around the experimental biology information system organized by the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Rikagaku Kenkyūjo) but would also link the biological information databases organized at the Fermentation Research Institute of the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology and the the Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST). The Agency wishes to include funds for development of this system in its budget for next year.

With the rapid progress of life sciences and biotechnology, the imoortance of information concerning test animals, microorganisms, and cultured animal and plant cells has been increasing year by year. Future advances in research and development will be governed to a large degree by the availability of information collected and organized in each field.

Japan's system of biological information is currently very weak. In countries such as the U.S. and West Germany there are databases of information on biology and DNA which are serviced from computer terminals, but in Japan only the JICST provides biological data as part of its scientific and technical information services.

Japan's largest collection of biological information is that of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research. Its data is for in-house use and is not available for on-line service. Biological information is also stored by the Fermentation Research Institute of the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology and by the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (Nōgyō Gijutsu Kenkyūjo) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, but these institutes do not actually make their data available.

The Science and Technology Agency is studying a plan to organize these separately supported databases of biological information into a network so that they can be shared. The experimental biology information system of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research would be the nucleus to which the databases of the Fermentation Research Institute and the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences would be connected by communication lines. Finally it would become possible to use terminals of the JICST to access each of these databases. (Nikkan kōgyō shimbun, June 25, 1983, p. 20)

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An agreement has been reached between the Japan Patent Information Center (JAPATIC) (Nihon Tokkyo Jōhō Senta), a shadan hōjin operating under the Patent Office, and the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation (JIII) (Hatsumei Kyōkai) to establish a new corporation (zaidan hōjin) which will carry out the on-line patent information retrieval services which are currently divided between JAPATIC and JIII. JAPATIC will be disbanded, and the new organization will carry on all the work of JAPATIC as well as the on-line work now being performed by JIII. The date for the establishment of the new corporation has been set at March, 1985. A committee has been set up to decide the name of the new corporation, its organization, and the concrete details about which work is to be transferred to it from JIII. (Nikkei sangyō shimbun, July 23, 1983)

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The Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Public Corporation (NTT) has developed a new system by which Japanese texts such as newspaper articles can be retrieved by keywords. The system was developed by the NTT's Yokosuka Electrical Communication Laboratory using a minicomputer. In this system, a list of main words is first input into a thesaurus housed on magnetic disks. Then articles on magnetic tape are read into the computer, which performs a series of jobs such as (1) extracting all the nouns; (2) analyzing the affixes; (3) collating the extracted nouns with the thesaurus; (4) collating with the list of main words; and (5) compiling a list of keywords.

The work of entering newspaper articles into magnetic tape in Japan lags behind that of Europe and America, and locating articles by keywords is time- and labor-consuming. The new system will make it possible for a computer to perform all of the tasks previously performed laboriously by indexers, and keywords can be added and deleted more easily than was possible in indexing systems used in the past.

This system is still in experimental use, but in about a year it will be perfected as a full-fledged practical system for use with a general-purpose computer. (Nikkei sangyō shimbun, June 23, 1983, p. 4)

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A learned society called the Jōhō Tsūshin Gakkai (Information Communication Society) was founded on July 19 in Tokyo. Its purpose is to study problems connected with the "advanced information society" (kōdō jōhōka shakai) and communications policy from a comprehensive, interdisciplinary standpoint, and to publish its recommendations in these areas. The Society plans to function in the future as a foundation (zaidan hōjin). Nichio Nagai, a former Minister of Education, was elected president of the new Society. Other officers include Hiroshi Inose, a professor at Tokyo University, Masaki Ikuta, a professor at Keio University, and Takumi Yoshimoto, director of the Research Institute of Telecommunications and Economics. (Nikkan kōgyō shimbun, July 15 and 20, 1983)

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University Microfilms International, 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 46106 offers free subject catalogs of dissertations and masters theses. One of the catalogs offered is "Japan and the Japanese." A soft-cover copy of any dissertation or thesis listed in the catalogs can be ordered from UMI for $20.00.

The Dempa Shimbun, a daily electronics newspaper, has begun publishing an 8-page weekly summary in English. The weekly in newsletter format is called Dempa Digest and is published every Friday. An annual subscription costs ¥45,000 (in Japan) or US $250 (overseas) including postage. The newspaper's address is:

Dempa Publications, Inc.
11-15, Higashi Gotanda l-chome
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141 Japan.

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Two visitors from a leading Japanese translation agency, Toin K.K. of Tokyo, were visiting here during July. They told me that the object of their visit was to conduct a fact-finding trip about the translation industry in California. Depending on the results of their feasibility study, the company may decide to establish an office here. The company's address is: Shiba 2-14-6, Dai-2 Shibaki Bldg., Minato-ku, Tokyo 105. Tel.: 03-455-6711

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One of the reasons behind the current revolt against the Fifth Generation Project is this: One of its research targets for the 1990s is to perfect an automatic translating machine capable of translating Japanese into other languages with 90% accuracy. (See Time magazine, August 1, 1983, p. 57.) However, the real action in machine translation appears to be taking place elsewhere, as some similar systems developed by small-size venture businesses are becoming available now. (See the article on pp. 1–2 of our issue No. 1.)

I saw an announcement in the Nikkei sangyō shimbun (July 20) that the Soft Research Center was planning to hold a two-day seminar in Tokyo on August 25 and 26 about machine translation systems. The scheduled speakers are Takehiko Yamamoto, president of Bravice International ("Functions of a Japanese/English two-way machine translation system and its technology") and Hitoshi Isahara, a researcher at the Electrotechnical Laboratory ("Functions of a machine translation system of the fusion system and its technology"). If any of you Tokyo readers can attend the seminar, please send in a report for the rest of us. We'd like to know what the speakers have to say.

It would be interesting to know whether any of the larger translation companies in Japan are planning to introduce these machine translation systems any time soon. Or have they done so already? Can anyone tell us?

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My spies in Japan inform me that Pentel Co., Ltd. plans to sell its LETACON Japanese electronic typewriter (see issue No. 2 of this Newsletter) in Southern California later this year. I think this product, which is far less expensive than a full-scale word processor, would be extremely useful to many of us, and the manufacturer ought to be encouraged to make it available in this country. I urge everyone to write to the company with requests for information.

Inquiries should be addressed to:

Pentel America, Ltd.
2715 Columbia St.
Torrance, CA 90505
(213) 775-1256

Pentel Co., Ltd.
Nihon Bldg., Kudan Bekkan 7F
4-1-3, Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 102, Japan

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I would like to know the opinions of readers about whether Japanese-to-English technical translating is a rewarding career. One reader in England writes: "...the rewards to be earned here from a language requiring such high skill as Japanese are hardly commensurate with the effort put into it. I have to handle 5 European languages (Russian, German, Italian, French & Spanish) in addition to Japanese in order to make a living, and even then working only about one day in four ... And this in spite of having reached the highest peaks of this profession in terms of academic achievement and recognition. But I am not bitter about this — would just like rather more work." Is the situation in the U.S. different from that in Europe? A reader in Denver, Colorado writes: "I doubt that you remember me, but I wrote to you several years ago asking for suggestions on how to get started in the translating business. I took your advice and am now translating full-time on a free-lance basis and love it!" Others have complained that they were unable to get enough steady work to support themselves and their families. Let's hear it from the readers. Do you think that the peculiar difficulties of technical Japanese are sufficiently recognized (by agencies, clients, etc.)? Have you noticed a pay differential? Are translators of technical Japanese paid more than translators of technical Russian or German? And do we deserve more pay than they get? If there are disadvantages in this line of work, are there also some advantages which compensate for them? Could we please hear some more opinions about this subject from all of you full-time translators (and part-timers too if you care to contribute)? (Of course; if those machine translation systems ever get started, we may all be working part-time... as editors!),

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Sara-kin is a loan shark. The word is, I think, an abbreviation of sarariiman kinyu (salaryman finance). That is, a financial institution loaning money to salaried people.

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Mono-banare refers to a turning away from interest in consumer goods by the Japanese public. Now that Japanese consumers have their 3 C's (car, cooler, and color television), they are becoming less excited about buying additional material goods, and their thoughts turn more towards luxury goods or immaterial commodities such as travel, self-improvement or leisure-time activities (aerobic dancing is mentioned as one of those). Thus, mono-banare, far from denoting a revolt against materialism, implies on the contrary the attainment of a higher state of satiety.

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Speaking of banare, soko-banare means "bottoming out." That seems to be what is happening now in some industries. That is, the recession has reached its nadir and conditions are hopefully going to start improving soon.

In jōhōka shakai or kōdō jōhōka shakai the word jōhōka is a translation of the French word informatisation. The book L'informatisation de la Société by Simon Nora and Alain Minc was published in France in 1978 and translated into English as The computerization of society. There is a book in English by Yoneji Masuda on this subject, called The information society as post-industrial society (Tokyo, Institute for the Information Society, 1980).

Shiro-mono (shiro is the kanji meaning "white," and mono is written in katakana) is a word used by electrical manufacturers to refer to household electrical appliances such as microwave ovens (denshi renji) air conditioning equipment, refrigerators, and washing machines. Why are they called "white things," I wonder? Is it because refrigerators and washing machines often are of that color, while television sets, cassette players and VTRs are often black? Or is it because the manufacturers regard them as their mainstay, their old stand-bys? Rice, the main staple in the diet, is white. Anyway, exports of such appliances are doing well, according to the Nihon keizai shimbun, (July 29, 1983).

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AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in Japanese is kōtensei men'eki fuzen shōkōgun

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jōdan is a neologism meaning "data cut-off." It is written with the of jōhō meaning "information" and the dan of setsudan meaning "cutting."

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My biggest bugbear is the profusion of what the granddaddy dictionary calls "non-native KANA words": those unredictable, bastardized katakana words derived from English, and sometimes other foreign languages, which are twisted and maimed until they are nearly unrecognizable in their kana spellings. Who has not suffered hours of frustration over the baffling phonetic spellings of names of foreign persons and places? Some of the bastard words mean different things in Japanese and in English. For example manshon in Japanese means a high-class apartment, not a "mansion." Hotchikisu means a stapler (I suppose there once was a Hotchkiss brand of staplers). Who would think that angura is the English word "underground?" Or that pasokon is "personal computer": And the names of plants and animals sometimes become very garbled. I remember getting into serious trouble once, in my early days, when I was roped into translating a film scenario about race horses from Japanese into English. In my naïveté, I supposed that "sara" when applied to a horse meant "Saracen." It was too late when I found out that sara really is supposed to be the English word "thoroughbred." Pity the poor translator who, when confronted with automobile parts for the first time, thinks that akuseru is "axle." (It's not too implausible, really.) Actually, that is an abbreviation standing for "accelerator," and to translate it "axle" would be completely wrong. If you have committed any boo-boos with these bastardized words, send them in and share the titters with your fellow readers. (Anonymity guaranteed)

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That rapidly growing little company with the ugly-sounding name, Sord Computer Corp., is named after a combination of our two old friends "Soft" and "Hard," as in "software" and "hardware." Put "Soft" and "Hard" together and you get Sord, or rather Sōdo in Japanese. No doubt you already knew, by the way, that there is also a new-fangled kind of hybrid ware halfway between "software" and "hardware." It is called "firmware," or rather fāmuweā.


This is such a new field that even dictionaries can't decide whether to call it electrooptics or optoelectronics. As far as I know, there does not exist a J-E dictionary on this subject, but there are some textbooks written all in Japanese which have indexes and some English words. A good text on ceramics and fibers is Koogaku seramikkusu to hikari faibaa [Optical ceramics and optical fibers] by Toda and Ishida, 1983, Gihoodoo (¥2,800). The electronics and communication dictionary and the all-English dictionary on communications which I mentioned on p. 4 of issue No. 3 might also be useful. Translators working in this field will have to use some guesswork at the beginning but should begin immediately to build up their glossaries and send them in for publication in future issues of this newsletter. Make the entries as specific as possible and label the English equivalents, giving some indication of the authority (author of article, title of article, a dictionary, your own guesswork). Co-operative work through this newsletter may help to solve some of the problems.

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The Japanese are literally OD-ing with English acronyms. They even create their own, sometimes with rather odd results. Japanese newspaper pages these days are literally sprinkled with alphabet-soup combinations, and you can hardly read a single article without coming across references to OA, WP, VC, VAN, TQC or some such thing.

OA is, of course, Office Automation, which includes business computers, word processors (WP), facsimile machines, plain paper copiers (PPC), and so on. FA is Factory Automation, where numerically controlled (NC) machine tools and robots are prominent. HA is Home Automation, which includes home security systems, home banking, energy controls, etc. I have even seen mention of PA, for Personal Automation. The exact contents of that elude me, but it might be where you automate your own personal life, becoming some kind of a robot. (I know some people like that.)

VB and VC are Venture Business and Venture Capital, respectively. VAN is a Value Added Network. FMS is a red-hot item called a Flexible Manufacturing System. FD is Floppy Disk. CR is Clean Room. CC is Computer Graphics. DDC is a Direct Digital Controller. FRP is Fiber Reinforced Plastic. You will recall, from many years ago, that ZD is Zero Defects and QC is Quality Control. Now there is TQC, or Total Quality Control. Some QC circles engage in what they call "TG katsudō." TG stands for "Thinking Group," evidently a group engaging in collective cogitation.

It seems as if any self-respecting Japanese manufacturer nowadays, in order to be taken halfway seriously, has to have a product with an alphabet-soup name. NEC basis its entire corporate identity on something it calls "C&C," which is short for Computers and Communications. Even the companies are calling themselves by acronyms nowadays (TDK, YKK, NEC, SEH, YEW, etc.)

But some of the Japanese-produced English acronyms have been unfortunate. Many of us ill surely remember the uproar a number of years ago about BG (Business Girl), which used to be universally applied to employed women. Some erudite individual pointed out indignantly that, to English-speaking people, a Business Girl meant a prostitute. No one was really sure about whether or not that was true, but the acronym was quickly abolished and replaced by the less offensive OL (Office Lady), which still remains in use today. I'm not so sure that English-speaking women would especially like being called Office Ladies, either. The worst acronym I have seen lately was VD, standing for Video Disk. It's a shame that no one tells the poor video disk manufacturers what an extraordinary impression that acronym would make on just about anybody who knows English.

Imagine what would happen in advertisements if ... well, never mind.

Here is a little quiz to test your familiarity with acronyms (answers on page 12):


Here is another quiz to test your omniscience of medical Japanese. Without looking at the answer on page 12, romanize the following two words and explain why they are unusual: 壊死 and 壊疽

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This month's chuckle is about the toire kakumei or "toilet revolution." Yes, dear readers, the microcomputer revolution has finally gone to the toilet, literally. Toto Kiki K.K. manufactures a series of warm-water heated toilet seats called "Washlet." The latest model, the "Washlet GII" or Micon Washlet, has a built-in microcomputer controlling its various functions. It washes with warm water, dries with warm air, has a heater, is equipped with a timer to turn if off automatically if you forget, and also features bidet functions. The use of toilet paper is nearly eliminated. The computerized toilet comes in three different colors: ivory, wine red, and blue. The price is ¥149,000 ($620.63 at a recent rate of exchange). Another warm-water toilet product is manufactured by Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. It's called "Shareeru." The name, I gather, has some connection with the slogan oshiri ni mo oshare wo and isn't that a catchy little slogan? This one isn't computerized, stands by itself next to an ordinary toilet, and costs only ¥26,500 ($110.42). Now, you would be forgiven if you thought that I am making this all up, but just to assure you that I am not pulling your leg and that the Japanese manufacturers are (apparently) entirely serious about their toilet revolution, I am reproducing the clippings for you to read, even including a recommendation from a proctologist.

[Scanned Image No. 1]

[Scanned Image No. 2]

Answers to the acronym quiz on page 11:

VTR Video Tape Recorder

INS Information Network System (see our issue No. 3)

OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer

POS Point of Sale

CD Compact Disk

PC Programmable Controller

The correct answers to the medical quiz are;

ESHI, meaning "necrosis," and ESO, meaning "gangrene," are unusual because the first character is read E (go'on) instead of KAI (kan'on) . If your answers were KAISHI and KAISO, you lack omniscience. See page 242 of Kenkyusha's New J-E Dictionary, 4th ed.

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This month's bonus is a "glossary of out-of-the-way medical and pharmacological terms" compiled by D. A. Fraser of London, England, who writes: "I have dredged the meaning of these terms up from many sources — Japanese papers where the Japanese term and English translation are given side by side, my own guesswork etc. — and cannot guarantee the meanings or readings are always authentic ... but I can assure you that all these terms have acually occurred in documents." He says that the terms are not listed in Kanehara's Medical Dictionary. I am reproducing the glossary just as I received it (pasting the pages to fit appropriately), but must note two points:

(1) Some of the terms do appear, after all, in dictionaries and are not as mysterious as all that. For example, fukeizai and kizai appear in the Gakujutsu yōgoshū "Japanese scientific terms: Chemistry," 1974.

(2) A few of the terms in the list have been given incorrect readings, although it is difficult to tell without the kanji. Kainetsu-zai is, of course, genetsuzai which is listed in Kanehara. Datei is probably dajō, a verb meaning "to tablet." Da is "hit" and "" (which looks like it might be pronounced tei) is the first character in the compound jōzai meaning "tablet." I have in my files a compound dajōki meaning "tableting machine," also dredged up from some ancient paper or other. "Datei (or rather dajō) seikeisei" might mean something like "tablet compactibility' or "formability into tablets."

We will publish the second part of the glossary (up to Z) in our next issue. Do readers have any other comments or corrections to make?

(Naturally all these Rōmaji terms should have characters for complete clarity, but these would cause you obvious problems of reproduction so I left them out) Some of my readings are guesses, e.g. datei, dachō but I can assure you that all these terms have actually occurred in documents.):

atsu puncture (in injections)
baidoku-kin Treponema (Spirochaeta) pallida
bifunka seizai micronized powder (pharmaceut.)
bitai ear bandage
biyō kodanki nasal snare
biyō senjōki antrum bulb syringe
bukin. Appears to be abbreviated form of budōjō-kin staphylococcus
bunbenkanshi sōchi tocomonitor
bunsetsu kōchūkyū segmented neutrocyte
bunyōkaku kōchūkyū segmented nuclear neutrophil leukocytes or polymorphonuclear neutrocytes
dakkōtai anal supporter
datei seikeisei compressibility (of tablets), (dachō ?) [打錠(だじょう) DLP]
deburidoman débridement (surg.)
dendō masui conduction anaesthesia
denki kyūinki continuous suction unit
denki-shigeki chiryōki electronic stimulator
dennetsuyoku sōchi electric hot pack
denji ketsuryūkei electromagnetic blood-flow meter
DNA fukusei ni okeru seikakudo fidelity in DNA replication
dōkotsu radius (bone of forearm)
dōmyakukōkayōzai antiarteriosclerotic agent
dōsoku kukkin hansha ipsilateral flexor reflex
dochō overswelling (of a blood vessel)
eisei bando sanitary band
eisei masuku sanitary mask
ganka oncogeny, oncogenesis
ganshukkin Agrobacterium tumifaciens
gantai eye patch
gurasuyō enchū hyaline cast
gasuryūryōkei gas-meter
gasukyūshūkan CO2 absorber (anaesth.)
Go-si fukuboku Go's wooden splint
Gu-shi shō (saya) Glisson's sheath (in liver)
gurasu naifu glass knife (for preparing ultrathin sections)
gyaku kōsen retro- or trans-illumination (in ophthalmoscopy)
gyakusei sekken antiseptic or invert soap
haigō seizai compound preparation
haikinryokukei back dynamometer
hakuriki raspatory
hakushitsunankashō leukoencephalomalacia
hakushitsunakashō leukoencephalitis, leukodystrophy (?)
hankonki cicatricial stage (in blindness)
hasui rupture of the fetal membrane (?)
heisa junkan-shiki masuiki closed circuit anaesthesia apparatus
henpeisoku kenshinki splay-foot examining stand
hikanjū hepatosomatic index (in animal expts)
hi-adorenanin dōsakusei shinkei non-adrenergic nerve
hi-korindōsakusei shinkei non-cholinergic nerve
hikayō chūshakei hypodermic needle
Hōiken abbrev. for hōshasen igaku sōgō kenkyujo Combined Radiological Laboratory
hokō hojoki wheel chair
hōri embedding (e.g. in paraffin, resin)
hōshasei busshitsu ōyō sōchi radio-isotope equipment
hōshasei busshitsu sōchakukei Ra-needle
hōshasen shōgai bōgyo sōchi radioactive protective equipment
hozon ketsueki hokan setsubi citrated whole blood cabinet
hōjō kitai hydatid or vesicular mole
Huaro si-chōshō tetralogy of Fallot
fuirumu kansatsu sōchi film viewer
fukeizai excipient
fukusei replication (of DNA molecules)
fukusoku higaiya ventromedial tegmentum (mesencephalic)
fukujin horumonzai adrenal hormone preparation
furinka phosphorylation
fuseimyakuyōzai antiarrhythmic agent
hyōshiki labelling (of radio-isotopes)
ibunka dis-differentiation
ibo no uirusu (hito no) human papilloma virus
inpidans purechisumogurafu impedance plethysmograph
issoku jintekishutsu ratto uni-nephrectomized rat
ichiyōso shindenkei single-channel electrocardiograph
ichōzai gastrointestinal agent
ichō hogōki gastrointestinal suturing instrument
Kabirusuki sanpuki Kabierskie's powder blower
kaibōyō nokogiri amputating saw
kaibōdai dissecting table
kaidoku mycotoxin
kaikōki retractor (also kaisoki)
kainetsuzai antipyretic
kakuseizai central nervous system stimulant, stimulant, pep pill
kakutan yōkaizai mucolytic
kamihari fukuboku coated paper splint
kandenkyoku active (as posed to indifferent) electrode
kandan sakkin fractional sterilisation
kandōmyaku saikenjutsu aortocoronary bypass graft
kanemi yushō Kanemi rice-oil poisoning (by chlorinated biphenyls)
kankekkan kakuchōzai coronary vasodilator
kankō sanpuki calomel blower
kanja unpansha wheel stretcher
kanja kanshi sōchi patient monitoring instrument
kanjōkaku kōchūkyū stab nuclear neutrophil leukocytes
kanjusei sōkan cross sensitivity (of bacteria)
karekusa-kin Bacillus subtilis (hay bacillus) [枯草菌 see Kawahara p. 576 DLP]
karushiumu saika jikan recalcification time
kashi hojoki supporter for lower extremity
kassei seikin seizai viable bacterial preparation
katatataki kneader
keidai sesshu sub-inoculation
keiheki transmural
kekkan hokyōzai capillary stabilizer
kekkan kakuchōzai vasodilator
kekkan-nō kanmon blood-brain barrier
kekkanshu-kesshōbanshōkōgun hemangioma-thrombocytopenia syndrome
kendakusei kizai suspension base
kenkizai repellant
kenmō brush border
kenjikutai bandage roll
kesshō bunkaku seizai plasma partition preparation
ketsuatsu kōkazai antihypertensive (noun)
ketsueki daiyōzai blood substitute
ketsueki hantei kigu blood group decision instrument
ketsueki seibun seizai blood component preparation
ketsueki seizai human blood preparation
kikaidai instrument rack
kikai hokan setsubi instrument cabinet
kikeigan teratocarcinoma ?
kinmaku pellicle (of bacteria)
kinnikuyō chūshakei hypodermic needle
kinsetsu gangen busshitsu proximate carcinogen
kinsō bacterial flora, microflora
kizai base (supporting or carrying ingredient of medicine or ointment)
ko-arudosuteron seizai antialdosterone preparation
kōakuseishuyōzai antitumor agent
katsuzai hypotensive agent
kōgen-kyūnyū yūhatsu hossa reaginic antibody-mediated hypersensitivity reaction
kōgen chūzai antiprotozoan agent
〔光)kōgyōko photocoagulation ?
〔抗)kōgyōkozai anticoagulant
kōhizai antihistamine (agent)
kōfunzai stimulant
kokushitsu issenjōtai dopamin-kei nigro-striatal dopamine system
kokyūhojōki respirator
kokyū ryūryōkei electro-pneumotachograph
kokyū shōgai shōkōgun respiratory disorder syndrome (RDS)
kokyū teikōkei respiratory resistance
kōnetsu mekkinki light sterilizer
konryūkin Rhizobium leguminosarum
kesahō cross-over design (of expts)
kōseishinbyō sayō neuroleptic activity
kōshigeki chiryōki photic stimulator
kōshinkin antifungal
kōtenkanzai antiepileptic
kotsumen shōhōtai smooth-surfaced endoplasmic reticulum
kotsusetsugō kikai kigu bone-setting instruments

Let me know if any of you turn up information which might be of interest to fellow professionals working in the field, and I will incorporate it in another issue. August 3, 1983.

Donald L. Philippi
715 Tenth Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 752-7735