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Your Japanese Translators
Hello! We are Tom and Mitsuko, your Japanology Translation team.
Mitsuko was born and raised in Central Tokyo, Japan. She graduated from Chofu University, Tokyo, with a University Degree in Japanese Literature. Having lived in Ireland for the past 10 years, she has become a fluent English speaker. As a member of the I.T.I.A. (Irish Translators and Interpreters Association) she greatly enjoys the interesting variety of translation work she encounters on a daily basis. Having lived immersed in English speaking countries for so long, she has translation experience in everything from Bitcoin brochure translation to certified document translation, correspondence translation between English and Japanese businesses, and just about everything in-between.
Tom is a native English speaker, born and raised in Kerry, Ireland. He is a New York qualified lawyer and digital marketing graduate. While Mitsuko performs the Japanese translations, Tom manages the SEO and digital marketing of the Japanology website, along with the day-to-day running of the company.
Working as a team, all translated documents are jointly proofread before they are delivered to the client. It's a far more accurate way to guarantee the quality of the English to Japanese translations than a single translator working on their own- as is usually the case in other translation companies. You can get to know us a little better in our About Us information.
About Japan and the Japanese Language
Japanese Traditional Calendar
There are actually two calendars used in Japan. One is the western format calendar we are all familiar with, and the other is the traditional calendar based on the reign of Japanese Emperors. While the western calendar is used for day-to day activities, the traditional calendar is used for official purposes. For example, the taxation discs displayed on the windshields of cars in Japan are in the traditional format, as are all dates contained in Japanese Family Registers, Japanese Export Certificates etc.
So, how does the traditional calendar system work? Here's all you need to know:
When a new Emperor is enthroned, the counting of a new era begins afresh, starting at year one. Interestingly, year two will always begin on the first of January the following year, meaning the first year in the official traditional Japanese calendar can be quite short. This was the case when Emperor Hirohito ascended the throne on 26 December 1926 (thereby creating the year Showa 1), only for the year Showa 2 to follow automatically the very next week (on 01 January 1927).
You can learn more about the official traditional Japanese calendar and see how each year of theTaisho Era, Showa Era and Heisei Era converts to the western calendar on our Japanese calendar converter page.
Japanese Language- Basic Knowledge:
Japanese is the official language of Japan. Like an orphan, it is a stand-alone language, not related to and having no similarities with any other language. Even among its neighbors, Japanese language differs significantly from most other languages spoken in Asia. For example, while the Vietnamese, Thai and Lao languages are tonal, Japanese is not. Instead, Japanese syllables generally carry the same level of stress. Because of the many dissimilarities, it is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. Perhaps that is why Japanese is not one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Not that this bothers Japanese people, as Japanese stands as the 9th most spoken language globally and the Japanese language is ranked as the 8th most used language on the internet.
The Japanese People:
The Japanese population stands at 127 million, about 30 million of whom live in Tokyo. Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world, which helps explain the very high literacy rate of 99% among both men and women. Not only that, Japanese women have the 2nd longest life expectancy of women in the world (currently 87.26 years), while Japanese men enjoy the 3rd longest life expectancy of men in the world (currently 81.06 years).
The Japanese Geography:
Japan is well known for being an earthquake prone country, recording an estimated 1,500 earthquakes per year. Most are imperceptible to humans, but those that are not can be devastating. Tokyo was mostly destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, while the Fukushima and surrounding prefectures suffered massive destruction in the Tohoku Earthquake (more commonly referred to as the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 by the Japanese people.
Japan is divided into 8 regions, which make up the 47 prefectures in Japan. The 8 regions are:
The Writing Systems of Japan:
There are 4 writing systems used in Japan, namely hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji.
Surprisingly, all 4 writing systems can appear in the same sentence! For example 今朝、台風12号(storm No.12)がオセアニアから日本に上陸しました。(When translated from Japanese to English, that means “This morning, Storm No. 12 arrived to Japan from Oceania”.)
The Japanese Writing System in Greater Detail:
Hiragana was developed in 8th – 10th century Japan and is the most used of the 4 writing systems, with each symbol representing one particular sound. Hiragana comprises of 46 basic characters, but outside of these basic 46 characters, hiragana also has an additional number of characters which are used to describe other sounds not covered by the original 46.
These are Yōon, of which there are 36; dakuon (meaning “murky sound” when translated from Japanese to English), of which there are 20; handakuon, meaning “half-murky sound” when translated from Japanese to English, of which there are 5; 1 soukon (a silent ‘tsu’ sound, written as “っ” in Japanese) along with 6 other characters which were invented in more modern times.
Buddhist monks (and Japanese translators) of the 9th century had a problem. They wanted to learn more about Buddhism but were unable to read or properly pronounce many of the Buddhist texts filtering into the country as they were filtering in from China and obviously were not written in Japanese. To get around this problem, the monks and scholars created the katakana so as to be able to read and pronounce the sacred texts properly. A large number of katakana were created at first, but by the 14th century these were reduced down to the 46 currently in use. We have created a page with tips and advice on how to learn katakana and hiragana.
You may not know this: As more and more learned scholars were beginning to use katakana, court officials also took up the study of katakana, to the extent that it became the default script to use by the time the Meiji Restoration took place in 1868. We are certain this was done to the relief of those providing certified Japanese translation everywhere.
Similarities between hiragana and katakana:
The katakana writing system itself is quite similar to hiragana. Both hiragana and katakana contain 46 basic characters, many of which closely resembling each other. For example, the ka (カ) used in katakana closely resembles ka (か) used in hiragana. Like hiragana, the katakana also has a number of extra sounds outside of the basic 46.
Widely recognized as the most difficult of the Japanese scripts to learn. There are thought to be around 5,000 kanji in existence, although nobody knows the exact number. Japanese students are expected to learn 2,136 kanji during their years in compulsory education.
Each kanji symbol represents some meaning, rather than a sound as seen in the other writing systems of Japan. Sometimes 2 or more kanji combine to form an altogether different meaning, while at other times the pronunciation of a kanji will change depending on the context it is used in or the other kanji which surround it.
This is the easiest Japanese writing script for non-native Japanese to deal with, because it simply is the use of western script in Japanese daily life.
Honorifics in the Japanese Language:
There are 4 different ways of addressing people (using honorifics) in Japan. Depending on the status of the person and your own position or age relative to them, a specific one should be used and the others avoided. The 4 honorifics are:
1- San: This is used with both males and females, but should never be used when talking about yourself.
2- Sama: This is used only very rarely. If you are serving a customer while working in Japan, you would address the customer as by their family name followed by sama, e.g. Miyake-sama. Outside of that, you would only use the sama honorific if talking with or about a member of the royal family.
3-Chan: This is an informal way to address females or female children and should never be used to address a superior.
4- Kun: This is an informal way to address males who are of the same level as you, or male children. Never ever make the mistake of addressing a superior as kun.