Aliseo Japan news and updates
“News and Updates” — Contents
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 for our rent in Shibuya, not far from the famous Hachiko statue, the symbol par excellence of this immense district from which we were soon to move away. In a few hours our new home office was up and running. Italy was now behind us and the thrill of our new life was unbelievable.
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 “Japanese and Italian translation” or “Italian-Japanese 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 hardware and software that support an ever-increasing number of new clients.
At that time Minato Mirai was crowded only during weekends, but we were living it especially in the evening on holidays, often spending our night time lying on the sweet teak planks of the new and futuristic Osanbashi Pier. But, with the imminent start of the construction of the new subway line, the whole area would soon be very developed, encouraging a new influx of tourists from nearby Tokyo and the construction of new skyscrapers. For us, Minato Mirai was losing some of its original appeal as a nostalgic port city. Moreover, we were beginning to feel the need for a house of our own, possibly in the middle of the green and far from the increasing crowds. It didn't take long to locate it. In fact, since 2003 our home base of living and working has been in the natural setting of Izu Kogen, in the beautiful Shizuoka prefecture.
Then, 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 move in 2003 to Izu Kogen, Shizuoka Prefecture, was dictated by the decision to move away from the ever growing metropolitan confusion. 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
Non knowing what topic to pick up this time, let's talk about translation rates. We usually set them 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 hopefully 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
We liked Izu-kogen immensely. However, at times we risked arriving late, or not at all, in Atami to take the high-speed train to the interpreting venue. The Izu Kogen station is located some forty kilometers from Atami (which in turn is about eighty kilometers from Tokyo) and can be reached by car or train. During typhoons or heavy rains, however, the road and/or the railway can become inaccessible, putting at serious risk the punctuality of a business appointment, interpretation in our case, in the capital or in a more distant city that can be reached only by plane or by high-speed train. That's why we decided to get closer to Tokyo, which is only forty minutes away from Atami by Shinkansen or an hour and a quarter by the normal Tokaido line.
This time, however, we chose to live in apartment. In Izu Kogen, living in a single house with a relatively large garden was a real delight for us—beautiful sea and mountains just outside the house, private spa, incredibly delicious fish and so on—but it required a lot of time for maintenance, especially to keep it free from weeds that in this very fertile but humid land grow fast and thick to the point of becoming a source of stress when we could not find the time to cut them because of our translation work.
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 from Milano Malpensa. We were supposed to fly in economy class, but shortly before boarding a nice JAL officer at the airport decided to present us with a free upgrade. We don't know why he chose us. Was he maybe moved by our almost childish excitement as we embarked upon a completely new life in a completely new and almost unkwon (to me) country? “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 pretty well.
While these past twenty years have elapsed far too quickly—time flies when you are having fun, they say—we have enjoyed very intense lives so far. 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 a personal business website, something that allowed us to rapidly establish ourselves in the market. It was still 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 in 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 on the Internet 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 an updated list of the most important translation jobs, for there is little use in doing so. Like in most professions, translators improve their craft by continuous practice, and if we were to see the translations we did at the beginning of our careers we would probably flush.
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 Japan 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 ever increasing number of people who speak and write in the so-called common tongue—English—and are therefore less willing to pay to communicate in another language, whether via translation or interpreting. Back then, people didn't hesitate much to pay high rates for a translation, but now clients 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's quite able to meet certain basic linguistic needs, it's in no danger of replacing human translation entirely. Machine translation has made great strides in converting between languages that share many similar features, but we believe that Italian-Japanese translators have nothing to worry about—at least for the time being. Just try to feed Google Translate with a long, complicated sentence if you are not 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 compared to twenty years ago, 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 a pseudo-retirement, because we will never retire. 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!