Our Story in Japan and other news

News and updates on Aliseo Japan's translation and interpreting activities

Aliseo Japan news and updates


This page summarizes in chronological order the most important news on our activities, describing the major events that have marked our lives as translators and interpreters in Japan. Not really critical information for clients, of course.

April 2007 - Ten years of professional translation in Japan

Ten years ago, February 27th 1997, we disembarked from a JAL flight in Japan, carrying with us a PC with all the translations we had previously completed in Italy. To quickly set up a temporary office near the famous Hachiko statue in the immense and fashionable district of Shibuya, Tokyo, we rushed to Akihabara to buy a computer monitor, modem, and fax machine and to sign up for service from an Internet provider.

At that point, we had not yet established contact with any local translation companies; we only had a couple of direct clients we had been working with in Italy. Our first order of business then was searching out the main Japanese translation agencies—a process which took almost a week, as we didn’t expect there to be so many such companies in Japan. However, the search soon yielded good results. Perhaps at that time there were few Italian translators living in Japan, which proved to be an ideal situation for us. Our website (www.aliseo.com) was also already in place, although still somewhat primitive. Yahoo! Japan was the only search engine worth using at the time (Google was not very well known in Japan yet), and any searches performed using keywords such as “Italian translation” or “Italian interpreting” almost invariably ranked us in the top positions. Ah, the good old days! After ten years of professional translation and interpreting in Japan, we can safely say that the Internet itself was an important factor in our success, as it allowed us to discover many of the translation companies we are still working with to this day.

Naturally, the competition has intensified considerably over the years, and these days almost all translators have their own websites. As we relocated from Shibuya (Tokyo) to Myorenji (Yokohama) and then again to another Yokohama locale near Sakuragi-cho, in the Minato Mirai area (with a beautiful view of the famous Landmark Tower), our enterprise has been developing steadily—from the single PC we carried with us from Italy to a network of several PCs complete with full suites of up-to-date software that support an ever-increasing number of new clients. In 2003 we made the decision to purchase a house far away from the big city, electing to live in Shizuoka's beautiful Izu Kogen, where the blue ocean, invigorating air, and exquisite cuisine serve as our new translation companions.

March 2008 - The Izu Kogen page

Our website has a new page about the Izu Kogen area of Shizuoka prefecture, which we moved to in 2003. Abundant with coastline, mountains, and spas, the region is a paradise that just about anyone would find agreeable as a home. Its distance from the chaos and urban noise of Japanese cities inspires more creativity, but it remains close enough to Tokyo to allow us to return on the same day when we travel there for interpreting assignments. Finally, it is a locale which greatly resembles our beloved Liguria, the region of Italy we hold most dear.

August 2008 - Terms and Conditions changed

We usually set our translation rates based on the precise count of source words (for Italian or English) or source characters (for Japanese). This is an easy operation with files originating from modern editing software such as Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, and some others, provided that the source document is actually an editable file. Using this method, we can provide clients with an exact and fixed translation quote. However, if the source document is available only as a printout or in some other format that does not permit the automatic tallying of words or characters, we can only provide clients with a rough cost estimate and then invoice based on the final target word or character count. Depending on the nature of the source text, we may also sometimes opt for quoting based on the number of hours that the job requires.

January 2009 - Launch of our new website

Our website is now built entirely using CSS. The change may not be immediately obvious to our visitors, but the faster loading times will make browsing the site a more pleasant experience. The graphics and layout have changed too, resulting in a website that is more appealing and enjoyable to visit.

April 2010 - From Izu Kogen to Atami

In April 2010 we moved from Izu Kogen to Atami, which is also located in beautiful Shizuoka but closer to its border with Kanagawa. Being 40 kilometers closer to Tokyo shaves an hour off the train ride to the city, making traveling there to provide interpreting services less tiring and more importantly allowing us to make it to important engagements when the Izu Kogen–Atami railway company shuts down due to summer typhoons.

May 2014 – First mobile version of the site

Times have changed and so have the ways in which people access the Internet. According to the most recent statistics, the percentage of users accessing the Internet through mobile devices instead of bulky desktop or laptop PCs has already reached 30% and is expected to reach parity relatively soon. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are poised to become the major platform for navigating the Internet. This is why we have finally decided to modify our website to make it available on such devices too.

February 2017 – Twenty years in Japan

We arrived in Japan on February 27, 1997, after an exciting business-class flight. Although we had purchased tickets for economy seating, shortly before boarding a nice JAL officer at Malpensa in Milan decided to present us with an upgrade. We don’t know why he chose us; perhaps he was moved by our almost childish excitement as we embarked upon a new phase in our life. “This is great!” I remarked to Taeko, and in fact it was just so. Looking back now, we can honestly say that we have done very well.

While these past twenty years have elapsed far too quickly (time flies when you are having fun, or 長かったですか、短かったですか, as the Japanese say), we have at least enjoyed very intense lives. To be sure, our careers as translators and interpreters started off quite well from the very beginning. But this was back when we were on the short list of translators with their own business websites, something which allowed us to rapidly establish ourselves in the market. It was an era before international translation hubs made it possible for, say, an individual in a rural village in the far north of Japan to locate a translator in the Bantu language who lives Tierra del Fuego—not to mention the luxury of selecting from a pool of similar translators to arrive at the cheapest solution.

We still work for some of the clients that found us twenty years ago. How many words have we translated so far? A few million, maybe, but going through the trouble of counting them has never crossed our mind. We do not even keep a list of our most important jobs because there is little use in doing so. Like most professions, translators improve their craft by continuously practicing it, and if we were to see the translations we did at the beginning of our careers we would probably smile.

In these past two decades, the translation business has certainly undergone a major transformation. There are several reasons for this, including the galloping globalization which has brought the country of Japanese much closer to the rest of the world, the spectacular growth of the Internet, increased competition, the astonishing increase in the number of translation agencies (including many that have no idea what translating means) and the increasing number of people who speak and write in the common tongue of English and are therefore less willing to pay to communicate in another language, whether via translation or interpretation. Back then, people didn’t hesitate and linguists were paid higher rates; clients now know how to seek out cheaper rates, although doing so is not always in their best interests.

Until about a decade ago, many translators (ourselves included) were concerned that machine translation would soon eradicate the need for any of us. While the use of that technology is increasingly common and it is able to meet certain needs within the market, it is in no danger of replacing any human translators except perhaps those at the bottom of the barrel, which is somewhere we have no desire to be, anyway. Machine translation has made great strides in converting between common languages that share many similar features, but we believe that English/Italian-Japanese translators have nothing to worry about—at least for the time being. Just try it if you aren’t convinced!

Our sights are now set on 2027, but nothing is guaranteed in this life. If we are lucky enough to still be here doing what we love, we will undoubtedly be white-haired and physically unable to work long hours anymore, and will simply whittle away on mundane translations like the ones we often receive nowadays. We will most likely leave the translation business gradually and begin to enjoy our lives after retirement. Better late than never. But until then, we will be still kicking around!

March 2017 – New version of our website

It’s time for some spring cleaning—for our website, at least, because we have no major news to report other than the fact that our work is proceeding smoothly. Internet technologies are constantly evolving and the now-ubiquitous HTML5 protocol empowers webmasters with new tools for creating complex and effective websites. And let's be honest: we were a little bored of our old site. So, here is some fresh air!