Emerging Open Source Translation Projects in Japan

2 min read

Mr. Mochio Umeda, a Silicon Valley-based Japanese IT-business consultant and author of several successive best-seller books, which made him one of the most influential voices regarding the Japanese web, recently allowed anyone to translate his latest book “Watching Shogi ‘the Japanese Chess’ From Silicon Valley” into any language without a permission from him or the publisher.  (Some information of shogi can be found here)

4 days after the book was published, a 20 year old Japanese college student started an English translation project, which immediately attracted many collaborators. They formed an online group, which consisted of around 10 initial core members, and closedly proceeded with the project (this closeness at the initial stage was based on the leader’s idea that in order for an open source project like this to work, the foundation on which late participants can easily add new values must be solidly built). A French version of this project soon emerged, and this project, contrary to the English one, is being proceeded in a completely open environment by making it possible for anyone to discuss and collaborate on the leader’s blog.

Only within a week since its birth, the first round of the English translation project was finished and made public (it was done is such a short period of time that even the author himself has not read it yet). Now that it’s public, anyone, from anywhere in the world, can join and collaborate to make it better (ex: An american shogi lover might make a film explaining in English some difficult shogi moves in the book and post it on YouTube. A chinese genius scientist might get motivated to create a computer shogi which is stronger than human (as it happend in chess!). The Wikipedia page of Yoshiharu Habu, the best shogi player, might be richly written in English.). This is truly a sign of open-source-mindness emerging in the Japanese web.


Japanese cultures, despite having long attracted so many people from the world over, are actually only superficially understood and there is actually much more that people from all over the world could enjoy. However, since only a few Japanese people are capable of delivering their messages in English, which has become the most influential and dominant language, or other languages, it was thought to be impossible for people outside Japan to truly appreciate, or even vaguely understand, Japanese cultures (except mangas and animes, which are widely appreciated around the globe).

I don’t believe it only applies to Japan –there are many countries which cannot spread their cultures because of language barriers. I hope this project, which accumulates the wisdom of crowds and works as an open source translation project, will become a role model for writers, musicians, and artists etc, from all over the world. I also hope that a time will come when more and more diverse cultures can be fully appreciated through the use of the internet.


Open-source style translation project “Shogi” book