Fallynleaf's study log

Oh, I am extremely doing it as a hobby haha and not professionally at all. The only people really reading my translations are my friends. I sort of accidentally got into it because I lost my source of official translation for a few of my favorite pro wrestling companies, so I started trying to do it myself. I’m very much still a beginner :sweat_smile:. From my understanding, this is how a lot of people start out, though. But I personally don’t have any interest in doing it as more than a hobby.


Actually, I’ve been having a lot of thoughts on translation, and the ethics and responsibility of it, and just the weird place that fan translators occupy in the world, so I guess I’ll make more of a proper post.

I can really only talk about this with regards to translation for Japanese pro wrestling specifically. Other industries/communities might operate very differently!

(cut for length and some discussion of depressing topics)

I’m personally friends with two people who do regular (unofficial) translation for Japanese pro wrestling. One of them is fluent in Japanese, and the other one is not fluent, but is significantly better at Japanese than I am (and her translations have been promoted/approved by the people who provided the original Japanese). I’m also friends with several other people who have dabbled at least a little in doing fan translation work, usually just translating occasional tweets, cleaning up DeepL translations, that sort of thing.

Fan translation with wrestling is weird. I guess I don’t really know enough about other industries to conclusively say that it operates differently, but to me at least, it feels like it does. Obviously translators have a massive amount of power over shaping the narrative that non-Japanese speakers experience, but with wrestling, this especially seems to be the case, because it’s a very global yet also very small world, and the line between fan and actual employee of the company can be very thin.

Lots of fan labor ends up shaping the actual wrestling narratives. A huge chunk of the translation ends up happening in real time on twitter, which means that it’s all pretty public and in the moment, and stuff occasionally goes viral. Translations get wildly spread around to the point where occasional mistranslations will become literally real.

It’s also a world where everything is connected, so even though translators generally have one particular company (or maybe a couple) that they cover, it all ends up getting kind of woven into this huge, messy tapestry of storytelling, where someone provides a few threads over here, and someone else provides a few from another side, and somehow it all combines to form some sort of coherent picture, except no one is getting exactly the same information, and because we’re all working through language barriers, it’s very easy for rumors to propagate. It’s impossible for one person to follow absolutely everything. You sort of just follow the threads that most interest you and let that shape your overall experience.

And because it’s all connected, and because it’s all happening in real time, there are so many twitter beefs. The distinction between official and unofficial translator sort of stops mattering here. The official Stardom translator is notorious for blocking people from viewing the official Stardom account, and NOAH’s unofficial fan translator has gotten into fights with one of my friends before. I’m in a discord server with one person who’s doing sort of sanctioned DDT translation, and a friend of mine met one of the people who’s currently running the official English translation account for one company.

It’s also a world where starting out doing unofficial fan translation can absolutely net you a job at a wrestling company. I’ve literally seen it happen to someone. And I think (though I could be wrong, as it was before my time) Mr. Haku originally got his job with CyberFight because he started out doing translation for them just as a fan, and then was brought on as an actual hire.

Translating pro wrestling is actually an incredibly tough job because not only does it require fluency (if you want to be able to do live translation at least), but it also requires extensive knowledge of the company. You need to know all of the wrestlers very well, and understand and recognize their moveset, and be familiar enough with their history (often stretching years back) that you can talk about it on the fly. It honestly really requires you to be a fan. You have to really truly love it to have that depth of knowledge. And you also have to be extremely proficient in both English and Japanese! It’s a very tough job to fill!

Then there’s, well, all the stuff with Kota Ibushi lately. That has been a whole nightmare for lots of reasons. But two of the people who have really bore the brunt of it are two individual fan translators on twitter who have chosen to translate his tweets into English.

Currently, this is the only way for English-speaking fans to hear Kota’s own words on the matter, as English language reporting on the situation is missing key details or directly contradicting some of the things he’s saying (an early English language report said that he was angry at NJPW for preventing him from returning to wrestling sooner, when he has repeatedly said the exact opposite over and over on twitter).

It’s also uniquely horrific and traumatic for both of those translators, who are suddenly having all of their intentions and their character heavily scrutinized and judged by all of the fans who are following what’s going on with Kota, and who are looking for reasons to absolve NJPW so that they don’t feel guilty continuing to watch the company.

People will say that the fan translators are clearly biased in his favor because they’re fans of him, so therefore their translations are one-sided and not trustworthy, etc. The translators suddenly have to become very careful about sharing personal thoughts on their own personal twitter accounts because some people will hold up the translators’ own biases or personalities as a reason to discredit what Kota is saying about the exploitative labor practices that he’s experiencing.

There are other ethics issues, too, like the choice to translate Kota’s 反社 tweet, and the discourse that followed as soon as that translation spread through twitter and hit reddit and a whole bunch of westerners suddenly became experts on the topic of yakuza :roll_eyes:.

After that, the translator who’d shared that one initially took down his translation and said that he regretted it. There was another more recent tweet from Kota that was similarly scary, which both of the translators initially tweeted a translation of, then deleted their translations shortly after because they didn’t want more panic circulating among western fans while we still don’t have all of the information.

And of course, there has been discourse about the act of translating the tweets itself, and what should or shouldn’t be considered public knowledge, and what liability translators risk by getting involved. I’m in agreement with this thread, personally.

The translator quoted in that thread apparently has some sort of beef with one of the people translating Kota’s tweets, hence the stance he’s taking here. The source of their disagreement was apparently because that translator told him that the way he was translating news about joshi wrestling was giving people the wrong impression because he tends to selectively translate or omit information to look other promotions look better or worse. Which, yeah, I agree that that is irresponsible!

So, yeah, there’s a lot in this post, sorry. There are differing opinions on what it means to be responsible as a translator, and what non-Japanese speaking fans are or aren’t owed, and there are all sorts of attempts at shaping narratives (or trying not to intentionally shape anything, but being heavily scrutinized for it anyway).

I’m particularly mad at Chris Charlton, an official NJPW translator, at the moment, because the way he has selectively chosen to translate random Kota Ibushi quotes on twitter over the years has directly shaped the impression that western fans have of him, and has influenced how receptive (or not receptive) they are to Kota’s very serious tweets now.

I just think these topics are important to think about not only as someone just starting to venture into doing this sort of thing myself, but also as a fan who regularly engages with the work of other translators, both official and unofficial. Translation is a massively important job because it is the lens through which potentially thousands upon thousands of people are viewing the stories and the characters. And with something like pro wrestling, the line between character and real person, and story and real life, is so thin, it means that your work has so much extra weight.


Ooh I see! We’re kind of in the same position, then. Still interesting to hear your thoughts


Oh wow! That’s quite a lot of drama and complexity

It certainly must be difficult to translate with that much pressure on you. It’s completely normal to make mistakes or wrong assumptions every once in a while, especially when translating from a lower-context to higher-context language (+ with translating pro wrestling needing so much knowledge). But in this case, someone else’s reputation is relying on your every translated word.

It must be hard for fans, too. Cause you can’t tell what you’re missing or if you’re missing anything at all unless you can speak Japanese.

At first I thought you were going to talk about more ethics in terms of whether or not it’s ethical to translate works that are themselves morally questionable, but I guess that might not come up as much in pro wrestling.


Yeah, the more Japanese I learn, the more capable I become of noticing the flaws and omissions in other people’s translations, and there certainly are plenty. Sometimes they’re honest mistakes, and sometimes they’re deliberate efforts to shape the narrative. But it’s frustrating to see so many other fans just accepting translations uncritically without considering the possibility of being given misleading or incomplete information, or misinterpreting nuance (or not realizing that a wrestler is or isn’t speaking in character…).

Mr. Haku has a shirt that he made as a joke, haha, which says “I could be feeding you complete BS and you’d never know.” I think his translations are generally very trustworthy, but it’s still a good reminder for fans.

Oh yeah, the question of “is pro wrestling ethical?” is a whole different can of worms, haha :sweat_smile:. There are absolutely people acting unethically in the industry, and there are many storylines that I would consider racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. (especially in WWE…), but the way it all works, it’s a bit different than, say, a fan choosing to translate a morally questionable manga. In wrestling, those storylines (and real life industry things) are happening simultaneously and in context with so many other things, and I think it’s important to be fully aware of the issues so that they can be criticized and talked about instead of swept under the rug. Unlike with translating a questionable manga, I don’t think that translating it means necessarily condoning it.

Pro wrestling is also interesting because it’s a world where translation issues go both ways. I feel like generally, for most media, questions of access to information and translation are fairly one-sided, but in wrestling, Japanese fans run into the exact same problems and barriers that English speaking fans do, except of course with different information.

This was really apparent during the Speaking Out movement in 2020, when wrestlers were getting named left and right on English-speaking wrestling twitter for perpetuating sexual abuse, and Japanese-speaking fans were missing the entire conversation except whatever small pieces of it filtered down to them.

As a result, wrestlers who get outed for abuse in one country can often find work in a different one because the fans missed that conversation due to language barriers. I can name English-speaking wrestlers currently working for Japanese companies after being essentially blacklisted from the industry in the English-speaking world due to allegations against them (some are also working in Mexico for the same reason).

On another level, there’s also the matter of translating really heavy content like personal stories the wrestlers tell about their own experiences, which often involve severe depression, addiction, etc. Hearing those stories is important because they often inform the wrestlers’ lives and their work, and clearly they want it to be talked about if they’re publicizing it, but there’s a little extra pressure on the translator with that kind of thing. I’d want to be basically fluent before attempting to translate that, just because I wouldn’t want to make any mistakes with something with such high stakes.

One example from the English to Japanese side is a translation someone did of Eddie Kingston’s article (here’s his response, links to both versions in the thread), and an example from the Japanese to English side is TJPW’s Hyper Misao talking about attempting suicide before she discovered wrestling, which she herself translated into English. I wouldn’t attempt to translate either of those things, at this point, but am very glad that translations do exist of both.

Basically, wrestling is a world where fan reception can and does make or break careers, and access to translation heavily affects fan perception of wrestlers (both positive and negative).

Interestingly, though, one thing that isn’t much of an issue for wrestling translators is copyright. In many other industries, fan translations have to be distributed via underground websites because they involve the unauthorized distribution of someone else’s intellectual property, but in wrestling, a large amount of translation work is happening quite openly on public spaces like twitter because the content that is protected is the footage of the matches, not quotes from the wrestlers rendered in text form.

There’s a bit of a grey area, though, with translating published articles that are locked behind a paywall (like shupro articles). Technically, this content is not publicly available. This doesn’t really stop people from doing it anyway, though, and as far as I’ve seen, no one has gotten in legal trouble for doing it. Usually it just means that interviews and articles are able to reach an audience they wouldn’t have been able to reach anyway.

There’s honestly a rather long tradition, in wrestling, of people accessing content through semi-illicit means, haha. Occasionally it’s even encouraged by the people producing the content. There’s one fan-run twitter account that is dedicated to keeping the English-speaking world updated on lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), and when AAA had all of their content geoblocked so that it could only be accessed from Mexico (due to a lawsuit they were in over the rights to their content), this twitter user streamed AAA’s Triplemania show on twitch using a VPN.

It was a really fascinating experience because tens of thousands of people watched this stream from all over the world, including many English language wrestling reporters, and everyone was posting openly about it on twitter, but technically none of us were supposed to be able to watch the show. One of the wrestlers who was in the show even tweeted a gif from his match afterward that bore the watermark from that illegal twitch stream. AAA itself was probably very grateful that this fan (illegally) streamed their show and promoted it for them, because they clearly wanted to attract international attention with it, but their own hands were tied due to the lawsuit.

Of course, there are still always potential legal risks with unauthorized translation, especially if it’s affecting someone’s business or career. That has come up a few times as a reason why one fan translator doesn’t want to translate any of Kota Ibushi’s tweets. But again, I have not seen any examples of a fan getting in legal trouble for translating wrestling stuff.

For the most part, companies and wrestlers (and interviewers) actually really, really like it! It helps get their work out there to a new audience, and it usually serves to bring in more fans and boosts interest in what they’re doing.

In that sense, it’s great for practicing your translation skills because you don’t have to do it on the sly. The community is generally very welcoming and eager for whatever you have to offer, and it’s easy to find more experienced people who are happy to mentor you. There are even pathways to go from doing unpaid fan translation to officially working for your favorite company for pay.

But, yeah, there is that other flipside to it, because some of this concerns real information about people’s lives, or otherwise can affect people’s careers. And there’s always the chance that your machine translation of an interview that mistranslates a phrase as “open the forbidden door” could go majorly viral, and then over two years later, it leads to a huge show featuring both companies which is named Forbidden Door :sweat_smile:.


Made it to level 36!

I don’t have a super encouraging follow-up to my last post, but at least I made it. I spent just under thirteen days on the last level.

It’s kind of funny how I do measurably worse on my reviews depending on how stressed I am. I understand logically that stress affects my brain’s ability to function, but it’s amazing seeing it physically represented in my WK stats. Usually there’s a bit of a delay, where I feel like it takes about a week for me to notice it.

But, just like I was able to do before, I’ll slowly recover from it. As long as I keep pushing through, the review numbers will drop back down again, and soon things will be more normal.

And hey, at least this time my study log update wasn’t so late :sweat_smile:.

My burned item count as of the beginning of this level: 2856 (and 2031 on KW!)

Fun encounters with Japanese outside of WaniKani:

Didn’t watch as much wrestling as usual these past couple weeks due to skipping NJPW. I did really enjoy the new joshi freelancer group Nomads’ first show, though! I couldn’t watch it live, but it was nice to see Mr. Haku back for live translation on twitter, and my Japanese has gotten good enough that I could actually figure out the exact moments his translation tweets were referring to just from listening.

Interestingly, from what I could tell from the engagement with the tweets on the Nomads account, the audience for the show seemed pretty solidly split between Japanese fans and English-speaking fans. The numbers on the pair of tweets promoting their next show seemed comparable, at least. There was also at least one Japanese-speaking fan commenting on the English live translation thread and asking for more tweets in Japanese, haha. All of the match graphics onscreen in the venue seemed to be entirely in English. I’m excited for their next event, and am glad that their first show was such a huge success!

Kind of following up on my last study log update (as well as my last few posts on wrestling translation and ethics), there has been a lot of conversation on twitter about, well, translation and ethics. I’m not going to link to the tweet, but one particularly well-known fan translator shared some screencaps of some DMs that a much newer fan translator sent him, which were criticizing his approach to translation because the newer translator found his choice to omit certain information to be unethical. The conversation between them was in Japanese, and I didn’t take the time to attempt to read all of it because I just don’t have the mental energy to spend my Japanese reading time on twitter discourse that I can’t even use Yomichan on, but I was at least able to figure out what the DMs were about by skimming them.

In some ways, Japanese wrestling fan communities differ from English-speaking ones, but in many ways, they’re exactly the same.

There have been a few updates on Kota Ibushi, and the situation with NJPW. See my post in the pro wrestling thread for more about that. Once again, not the most fun or encouraging reading practice.

On a much lighter note, I was delighted by TJPW wrestler Suzume’s excitement upon trying on her new light-up shoes. In this tweet, Suzume said that she recommends light up shoes because they make life more enjoyable.

Suzume and Arisu are also co-parenting some tamagotchi now. Arisu referred to her and Suzume as マン working hard to raise children together. I was a little confused by マン, haha, because the only definition coming up was “man”, but I wonder if maybe she’s saying “mom”?

I was also absolutely thrilled to see Asuka/Veny and Mao win the tag team titles in DDT! I loved this tweet from Yoshihiko afterward. He was especially proud of Veny (she’s the first woman to hold the DDT tag titles), and said that it seems like tears and awe, unbecoming of an inorganic thing, will overflow.

That DDT show also had a moment that touched some unexpected emotions in me. At the beginning of the second match, which was a tag match involving the Pheromones, DDT’s most polarizing faction, an insect flew into the ring. The wrestlers stopped wrestling to attempt to catch it, and Yuki Iino finally managed to capture it. Cupping it gently in his hands, he walked right out of the ring and took it outside. The match resumed without him, and he rejoined it as soon as he came back. I don’t know why it left such an impression on me, but it did.

I laughed at this tweet from a fan after the insect incident. The fan commented on the kindness of the DDT wrestlers—despite the fact that the company shares its name with an insecticide.

みんなの日本語 Lesson 31 – Lesson 32

One of the lesson 31 exercises asked me to talk about my dreams for the future, practicing different ways to talk about things that I want to do or intend to do. I started getting a little more playful with my answers, maybe because doing the senryu translations and the TJPW translations is inspiring me a little. I’m sure this is not the best way to phrase it, and I’m playing a little bit with grammar I don’t fully understand, but here were my last two sentences: “36歳までに、生活したい生活しているつもりです。庭を持っていたり、毎日書いたり、新しいことを続けて習ったりしようと思っています。”

Someone on the forum said, concerning DeepL, that it gives them some peace of mind when they put some of their writing into DeepL and it spits out a coherent sentence that matches what they’re trying to say, because even though DeepL can and does smooth over errors, if it’s able to guess your meaning from what you wrote, it’s likely that a native speaker would also be able to figure it out. Sure enough, when I feed those sentences into DeepL, it does translate how I intend it to, so I’m choosing to interpret that as “good enough.”

I only just barely got through lesson 31 before leveling up, but I did get through it (and have pre-learned the lesson 32 vocab already). There’s another kanji that isn’t in WK: .

I updated the MNN kanji by WK level spreadsheet with the lesson 32 kanji!


Reading in Spanish (Wonder: La Lección de August)

I’m on the last part of the novel! I’m on page 346 currently, so I have like 70 left to go. I think I’m going to come very close to finishing the book by the end of the read every day challenge, but won’t quite get there unless I push myself more than usual.

Still hanging in there with the read every day challenge, though sometimes the only things I’m reading are a few tweets and senryu and not really anything substantial. The Spanish side of things is going pretty strong, though.

I attempted a few more senryu translations! We had some interesting discussion over what determines syllable count in English, and whether or not 17 English syllables is equivalent to 17 Japanese mora (long story short, experts seem to be leaning toward “no” on that one, so we changed the rules for the daily senryu translation thread to aim for 4-5-4 or 3-5-3 in our translations instead of 5-7-5).

Here were the senryu I attempted (links go to my translations):


誕生日 ローソク吹いて 立ちくらみ (mine was actually the translation selected for this one!)

I’ve noticed that some attempts at the senryu are better translations, and some are better poems. It’s a fine line for sure, and not an easy one to walk. I think mine tend to hew closer to the direct meaning of the Japanese, but as a consequence, can come across as rather plain or boring. Maybe as I gain more confidence in my Japanese and more familiarity with the poetic form, they’ll start to become a little better and more creative as poems and not merely translations.

I also ended up trying my own hand at writing a senryu (in Japanese). I shared it in the senryu thread here. Read on for a couple translations and a bit of discussion. Here is my poem:


Is it far too early for me to be attempting to write poetry in Japanese when I can barely string together a sentence? Yes. Will I let that stop me? No. I’ll probably look back at these in the future and maybe wince a little bit, haha, but for now I’m having fun.

Once again, no more progress on 大海原と大海原. It’s my last priority, so as long as I still have work to do on a TJPW translation, I don’t get any of it read, and since my progress on those has slowed down recently, I still have work left to do.

Here is the one TJPW translation I finished (I just have one show left to go, and it’s a short one, so I’m not actually that far behind :sweat_smile:).

2022.05.05 TJPW GO GO DO IT — (15 words added)

In total, my wrestling deck contains 701 words, though I still don’t have all of the cards in circulation quite yet. I held off for several days to go through the next batch of textbook vocab, then when I was done with that, I decided to put a temporary pause on adding new cards in case of the very likely chance that I’m going to come down with covid. I wanted my flash cards to be as easy and painless to complete as possible in that case.

New resources:

A WK user put together a stats aggregation tool for Japanese language learning apps (Wanikani, BunPro, Anki)! The website is here. It’s similar to wkstats, but has a different presentation and offers some graphs and data that wkstats does not have.

My two favorite parts are the review accuracy and total items graphs. I don’t think other tools have offered visualization for this kind of data before, so it’s cool to see! Here are my graphs:

You can really see the benefit of consistency with them. My first few levels were done very sporadically and inconsistently, and my review accuracy was all over the board. As soon as I started doing a consistent number of lessons each day, and timing them according to the first couple apprentice stages, my accuracy shot way up. It has gone down over time as more and more items have entered circulation, but I’m still doing better than I was at the very beginning with the easiest levels, haha.

I appreciated Brave-foot’s post reviewing the Kanshudo program. I think I’m past the point of really wanting or needing an all-in-one Japanese language learning resource like this, but it seems like it has a lot to offer, and I like how well-rounded it appears to be. Maybe it’s something to recommend the next time I have a friend express an interest in learning the language.

Also, here’s a blog and some other articles/videos on gendered Japanese vernacular. Lots of great information here, and it’s explained in a really clear and compelling way.

Next steps:

It has been another stressful past couple of weeks. In addition to all of the stress I’ve been experiencing over Kota Ibushi’s situation, my own family contacted covid, and it’s probably only a matter of time before I come down with symptoms myself.

I woke up on Sunday to the news that my mom had tested positive and she’d gone to quarantine with my dad at my uncle’s cabin, and then I went from that to watching Kyoko Kimura put on a memorial show for her daughter, and then the news about Kota Ibushi’s mom hit right at the end of the show. I think maybe there’s a limit to how much mother-related grief and stress one person can deal with in one day, and I certainly reached it.

But, well, I guess you eventually get sort of used to a baseline level of stress. I’ve been able to get back into most of my usual study habits, and I even started writing poetry in Japanese. I think I like senryu because they’re a bit like a puzzle in addition to being a poem, so my brain enjoys chewing them over.

I’m considering trying to write more pro wrestling themed senryu, if more ideas come to me. It seems like a fun way to stretch my brain a little with regards to thinking in Japanese, as well as a way to possibly document some of the interesting experiences and emotions that wrestling invokes in me. I’m better prepared to come up with actual interesting vocab to use for these (as opposed to non-wrestling themed poems :sweat_smile:) thanks to all of the words I’ve tossed into Anki, and all of the tweets that I scroll past on a regular basis.

Here’s another one that I’m still workshopping a little (I can’t decide if it’s breaking the 17 mora rule a little too badly):


Maybe I’ll eventually make a zine out of them or something, haha. I doubt there’s much interest in extremely niche amateur poetry with probably incorrect grammar, but they’re a fun distraction. I think I’ll probably stop bugging the senryu thread folks with these, but if anyone here wants to attempt a translation or interpretation, I’d love to hear them!

Onward to level 37! 行くぞ!


Maybe this is a problem with how translation tends to be perceived? I’ve heard a lot of people who aren’t familiar with translation think it’s a lot more straightforward and hard to mess up than it is

I love that shirt man

That was all really interesting to read! Thanks for taking the time


Yeah, I think that’s definitely part of it! Though what’s interesting to me is that there are a lot of people on the internet with very strong opinions who are very hostile toward official anime and video game localizations, but there seem to be comparatively fewer people who consider official wrestling translations to be untrustworthy :sweat_smile:.

Not that the opinions of non-Japanese speakers on anime localization are especially valid, but it’s just interesting to me that people don’t seem to consider wrestling translation as similarly subjective, when it totally is. The only time I ever see the translator’s ability or motive being scrutinized is when they’re breaking news that fans don’t want to hear (like the Kota Ibushi stuff).

Here’s another fun example, though, of subjective translation choices having an influence on the wrestlers and the story. A few years ago, when Mr. Haku was still doing translation for TJPW, this was his translation of the backstage comments for one show. Not long after that, Maki Itoh, a TJPW wrestler who had been posting about English words she was learning (almost all of them were dirty words, though she wasn’t clear about where she was learning them, so fans had a few theories), made this tweet. Mr. Haku said in one of the replies that he didn’t think she’d be reading his work, haha.


Oh don’t get me started; the moment you started talking about translation this was what came to mind, heh. Poor translators end up enduring straight up abuse out of attempts to actually localize things. The funniest thing to me is how extremely attached some people are to the name honorifics. I’ve never had strong feelings about keeping or removing them, seems like a choice based on the work somewhat. But at this point it’s just funny – I don’t even know Japanese that well but I do know enough to think that if someone is conviced they are losing too much of the nuance of the original through dropping those, they have no idea just how different these languages are haha. Of course then you have people deciding trying to localize stuff to work better for an English speaking audience is somehow a malicious attack and… blah. People!


Haha yeah, the name honorifics is definitely funny. I personally would like them to be kept, but mostly because I know enough Japanese at this point that they tell me actually useful information about the relationship between the characters. It’s also useful for producing fanworks. For these reasons, I’ve decided to keep them in my TJPW translations. For an audience of non-Japanese speakers, though, I think it definitely does depend on the individual work, because in isolation, it doesn’t really give you a lot of information!

I feel like this is something people have a strong opinion on because even a non-Japanese speaker can hear the honorifics when they’re spoken, and can therefore compare it to the subtitles and see a difference (hence the anger at the translator and the fear that they’re being mislead). I do have to say, I have never once seen a wrestling fan complain about name honorifics being left out, though, haha.


In my experience I’ve seen often fans are the most sceptical of official translations, while having a far more trusting attitude towards fan translations which I find somewhat interesting. But that also leads to some other questions like localisation and how much of the original Japanese should be preserved. With one thing I was into in particular there were two primary fan translation groups (and not really any official translations at the time). Each embodied a somewhat different philosophy. One was focused on preserving as much of the Japanese as possible - they would almost always keep form names in Japanese for instance, and would often do the whole “translator’s note” thing that’s since kind of become a meme. Then the other one was focused on localising - making the subtitles more understandable to those not already super aware of Japanese etc. It’s just interesting how much of a difference that sort of thing can end up making


I can just imagine one translation subtitling true to Japanese that the characters are eating onigiri[1], and the other over-localizing subtitles so they are eating donuts[2], and I’d be thinking, “Why can’t we just call them rice balls?”

[1] Translator’s notes: Onigiri are rice balls.

[2] Well, this probably wouldn’t happen with subtitles as it does in some dubs.


I’m just kind of throwing out thoughts from someone totally unqualified because I know there are proper translation theory books out there and I’ve done zero real research into it, but it feels to me like decent translation has to somewhat consider the audience for the work and estimate what works for them. With the ultimate goal being getting as close as possible giving someone the original “experience” that a native reading that work was meant to get. Of course that involves some large assumptions, and probably puts me into more heavily localizing than a lot of people say they want – but I don’t think just directly conveying the way Japanese is written to people who don’t speak Japanese properly conveys the actual substance being expressed because things in Japanese are fundamentally expressed differently in a lot of cases. Some changes might need to be a little heavy handed to have the proper impact?

But one thing that comes to mind too, is there are works where part of the appeal is, in itself, how authentically Japanese they are. Removing name honorifics or anything from the Yakuza series would be a bad idea for that exact reason.


Majima just shouting KIRYUU definitely wouldn’t hit the same as his iconic KIRYUU-CHAN - removing that honorific would cause it to lose a lot of nuance. But then again that nuance is only accessible to someone who understands what the different honorifics mean, so like you say it does depend on the audience. And I guess at a certain point it is better to just import a word or phrase than try to explain it using only English. We have quite a few loan-words like that which have entered common parlance (see kung-fu, yin and yang, judo etc) where it’s just easier to import the words over to represent that unique concept. So instead of “gangs” or whatever, “yakuza” makes more sense to encapsulate the specific style of criminal organisation . But then that circles back around to where to draw that line…


Oh yeah definitely. Expectations about what the audience is equipped to understand are basically exactly what I was talking about in trying to gauge them when translating. Though, to be more specific when talking about a game like Yakuza (or Persona, or any other series of media where part of the appeal is very specifically taking place in real-ish Japan), I think I’d argue in favor of honorifics less for any actual information that the specific honorifics may or may not grant and more because their very presence loudly signals “Japaneseness” to people, haha. Probably more than they should, but I think their very presence has that effect. Which kinda brings us back around to how immense the task of translation, when taken fully seriously, is because now you have the effect of faithfully recreating something creating entirely secondary meaning in the minds of the new audience.

I have people sometimes asking me if I’m going to become a translator because I’m learning a language and… for one I’m probably not that good of an English writer but I think I’d also get too neurotic over every line and spend the rest of my life on it over small things like this haha. It’s scary altering other people’s work like that.


Not to get too tangential, but always a fun experiment along these lines is to compare older localizations of those games with new ones.

Like, here’s “やっぱり、桐生ちゃんは。。。”
on the PS3:

… and remastered:

Yakuza 3 was my first game in the series, and I played it right when I was starting to learn Japanese, and “Kazzy” sure… brings back memories…

(incidentally the ending of that sentence being “。。。ごっついのぉ!” → “… strong as fuck.”“Strong as a fuckin’ ox.” is an interesting comparison in its own way…)


The very first translations were particularly special too…


I wonder if the choice to go with Kiryu-chan instead of Kazzy reflects a growing shift in awareness of honorifics among English-speaking fans. Maybe in the past, they assumed that fans wouldn’t be able to get that nuance, but when it came time to remaster it, they decided that it would just be clearer to fans to keep the honorifics.

I think I agree that the ultimate goal with translation is getting as close as possible to giving someone the original “experience” that a native speaker would get. That’s part of the reason why Mr. Haku is my favorite wrestling translator, because I feel like out of all of the other translators whose work I have read, he comes the closest to embodying the spirit and the intent of the original in a way that feels alive without losing the feeling of the original Japanese.

Hisame’s (NOAH’s unofficial fan translator) work feels too stilted to me because she translates too literally, and Chris Charlton’s (NJPW’s official translator) work often feels too, well, British to me, in addition to the other issues I have with him as a translator. It feels like Hisame takes too few liberties and Chris Charlton takes too many, and neither really feel like the actual voices of the wrestlers.

I’m still pretty far from being able to get there myself, but what I’m aiming for at least with my own stuff is capturing the spirit of the original without taking too many liberties or having it read too unnaturally. I also haven’t attempted to localize puns or anything like that. When Takagi made that “I have 五十肩. 五十 is also a number” joke, I just translated it literally and then put a translator’s note explaining the pun, haha. But that’s partially because of my audience (primarily my friends, most of whom have at least a little Japanese knowledge), and also because I don’t really want to put words in the wrestlers’ mouths. If it was a manga or something, I think I’d get more creative with it.

I guess with wrestling, it’s more important to me to understand the stories as the performers wish them to be told, and to view them in the cultural context that they were created in, even if that means some of what they’re doing doesn’t quite land with a non-Japanese speaking audience the same way it does for the local audience. With other types of creative works, I’m more comfortable just considering it my own adaption haha in the same way that I might write a fanfic or something.

But it’s an interesting conversation for sure!

One thing that’s kind of funny is that I’ve noticed that I don’t really like translating my own senryu. I much prefer reading someone else’s attempt at a translation because it feels like viewing my own poem through entirely different eyes, which is an extraordinarily cool experience. It really makes the reader’s interpretation super visible to you as the author in a way that you don’t experience when writing and reading in only one language.


I think that’s part of it, and also when it comes to videogames in particular, there was this real (seemingly) misconception from Japanese developers that people outside the country just aren’t interested in Japanese things. So a lot fewer games got localized around this time, and I think they went to efforts to plaster over the original a little in some cases to almost dress something up as what they imagined westerners wanted. Honorifics are a tiny part of that, but they do contribute. Honestly, if I recall correctly, the “too Japanese” line of thinking is believed to be why a couple more historical Yakuza spinoffs haven’t had a release in English.


Yeah, my (not necessarily informed) impression is that in the mid-2000s it just probably seemed like it made sense to sell an untested series ostensibly about organized crime in the west by trying to make it seem as approachably familiar as possible, and hope that it caught the same mainstream appeal as Grand Theft Auto that way, despite being a completely different story-heavy game barely about crime. And that didn’t pan out particularly well and the game didn’t sell so localizations were relatively neglected through the PS3 era.

It’s only with Yakuza 0 that they took a shot at putting more care into it with a new team, who went into it with a different approach that was more confident about preserving the full tone of the original. And then Yakuza 0 was extremely successful outside Japan, so that’s been the strategy going forward. The localizations of the most recent games, with full subtitles for the Japanese voice tracks + full English dubs, while also hitting the same release date as the Japanese version must truly be an absurd amount of work! And surely shows the lessons taken from 0’s success.
(I would even be shocked if the historical-themed games didn’t get localizations if they’re remade at some point in a post-0 world)

Anyway, it makes for interesting case studies! A lot can change about a translation depending on who you think your audience is (and how correct or not you are with that guess can make a big difference in how the result is perceived…)

EDIT to add: even the title is interesting - “Yakuza” makes sense from that first perspective - it’s certainly direct and completely intelligible to English-speaking audiences!
But 龍が如く is much much more evocative and in-line with the series’ actual tone… I wonder if the series somehow started today already knowing there was an English audience if it’d be the Like a Dragon series here too (or if the Yakuza: Like a Dragon sleight of hand with 7 will manage to get us there anyhow). I suppose probably not! But maybe…

EDIT to also add: speaking of titles,
龍が如く5 夢、叶えし者 → Yakuza 5
龍が如く6 命の詩 → Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
is also kind of an interesting little example of the shift (0 came out in between them)
Anyway, I’ll stop talking about Yakuza