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Japanese scarecrows

The Tokyo Times blog has posted a set of photos showing the scarecrows that recently appeared in a field near Tokyo. The mixture of mannequin heads and discarded business attire works really well.

I don’t know what the crows make of it, but I’m sure they’d give me a fright on a dark night.

Follow the link for more photos.




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Sayonara, Adobe

I’ve been offering business card translations for many years now, but only as a sideline and never in sufficient quantity to justify perpetual updates to the latest and greatest graphic design software. Fortunately, I was always able to get perfectly legal and serviceable versions of Adobe Illustrator up and running by purchasing upgrades a few steps behind the current version.

That all stopped when Adobe came up with their Creative Cloud concept. Now if you want to use Adobe Illustrator legally, you have no choice but to use the latest version. And you have to pay hundreds of pounds every year for the privilege of doing so. This just wasn’t a sensible option for me, so instead I carried on using the version I had at the time (CS2). It did everything I needed, so things were fine for a while.

But CS2 isn’t compatible with newer Macs. These days I have to run it on a machine that is so old it could conk out at any minute. It makes no sense to continue like this.

For this reason, I’ve switched to Affinity Designer, which does almost everything I need. One major omission is support for vertical writing (tategaki; 縦書き), but I don’t need this for business card translations that match the original English layout.

Don’t worry if you don’t use Affinity Designer, I can still work from business card artwork supplied as PDF files.

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70 years ago

Here’s a propaganda leaflet that was dropped over Japanese cities following the destruction of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. The original text and a translation are shown below.

Let’s hope this sort of thing never happens again.

Leaflet AB-12












Attention People Of Japan!!

— Evacuate your cities immediately —

The content of this leaflet is of the utmost importance, so please read it carefully.

The Japanese people are facing a grave situation.

Your military leaders were given the opportunity to stop this futile war by accepting the thirteen conditions of the Potsdam Declaration, but have ignored it.

As a result, the Soviet Union has declared war on Japan.

Furthermore, the United States has invented a formidable atomic bomb, which has already been used. Just one atomic bomb carries the destructive force of 2,000 B‑29 Superfortress bombers, as you can see for yourselves by witnessing the destruction caused by a single bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

All military forces involved in prolonging this futile war will be destroyed by these atomic bombs. The United States hopes that you will petition the Emperor to end the war before many more of these weapons are used. The president of the United States urges you to agree immediately with the thirteen generous conditions previously set forth, and to start building a new, more peace-loving Japan.

Accordingly, the Japanese people must surrender immediately.

Otherwise, the United States is resolved to use atomic bombs and other advanced weapons to force this war to a rapid conclusion.

— Evacuate your cities immediately —

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Studio Ghibli

I’m quite a fan of the animations made by Studio Ghibli (スタジオジブリ), but I was unaware that the studio closed down last year following the retirement of director Hayao Miyazaki (宮﨑 駿). They may start making films again some day, but nobody knows when — or even if — this will happen.

Here’s a documentary of the studio’s work over the last 30 years:

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Japanese pancakes

It’s pancake day today. If you want to try something a bit different, here’s a video that shows you how to make Japanese-style pancakes called どら焼き (dorayaki). The voice-over is in Japanese, but the essential points are written in the English captions.

Use L-size eggs, and ordinary plain flour — “weak” flour is a direct translation of 薄力粉, a term used to distinguish ordinary cake flour from the “strong” flour (強力粉) used in breadmaking. It looks like he’s using icing sugar in the video, but caster sugar should work fine.

An authentic dorayaki is made from two of these pancakes with some red bean paste sandwiched between then. Your local Asian shop might have some. Alternatively, try maple syrup and ice cream.

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Name translator issues

arigatoThank you to everyone who emailed in about the issues with the name translation tool. It looks like the problem was caused by an expired SSL certificate. Hopefully things are working properly again now. Please keep me updated if you encounter any more problems.

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Bulk text resizing in PowerPoint 2011

Original Japanese

Original Japanese

In-situ translation

In-situ translation

In-situ translation after bulk resizing

In-situ translation after bulk resizing

When Japanese is translated into English, the translated text generally occupies more space than the original. This can sometimes be a problem. For example, if you use a translation tool like OmegaT to perform an in-situ translation of a Japanese PowerPoint presentation, the English text is probably not going to fit properly. What you need is some sort of bulk text resizing tool.

PowerPoint doesn’t allow you to perform operations on all the slides in a presentation, like scaling down the font size of every text box. (As far as I can tell, it only allows you to select multiple text boxes and set them all to the same font size, one slide at a time.) However, it does support AppleScript, which can do the job for you.

The following script will adjust every text box in the entire presentation. It won’t do a perfect job because text boxes that contain text of different sizes will be resized to a single font size. However, it can save a lot of time when you have a large translated file with broken formatting.

You can run this script direct from the AppleScript Editor application, but if you think you’re going to use it a lot then you would be better off saving it in the PowerPoint scripts folder (~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/PowerPoint Script Menu Items/), from where it can be directly accessed via PowerPoint’s scripting menu.

The script below contains two variables that you can adjust to suit your needs: minFontSize (the font size below which no scaling takes place) and fontScaleFactor (the factor by which font sizes greater than minFontSize are scaled). Don’t forget to save a backup before running this script.

set minFontSize to 7
set fontScaleFactor to 0.65
tell application "Microsoft PowerPoint"
  tell active presentation
    set theSlideCount to count slides
    repeat with a from 1 to theSlideCount
      set numShapes to count shapes in slide a
      repeat with b from 1 to numShapes
        set sz to (font size of font of text range of text frame of shape b of slide a)
        if sz is greater than minFontSize then
          set sz to minFontSize + (szminFontSize) * fontScaleFactor as integer
          tell font of text range of text frame of shape b of slide a
            set font size to sz
          end tell
        end if
      end repeat
    end repeat
  end tell
end tell
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Taking technology too far

There were two stories about Japanese technology in the news yesterday. One was about a remote control toilet. Yes, really.

The 21st century toilet

The 21st century toilet.

The Lixil Satis has a Bluetooth interface that can be accessed by installing an Android app on your smartphone. This allows you to control all sorts of functions, including opening/closing the lid, flushing the toilet, and operating the “wash/dry” system that seems to be a standard feature on Japanese toilets these days.

But yesterday a security advisory for this contraption was published online. It turns out that its designers had cut corners by making it unnecessary to enter a four-digit PIN when pairing an Android device with the toilet. (More precisely, they hard-coded the PIN to ‘0000’.) This means that anyone with an Android smartphone can control your toilet remotely, simply by downloading the free app. Oops.


In space … you don’t actually need legs.

The other story was that of Kirobo (キロボ), the talking robot that was dispatched to the International Space Station, supposedly to act as a companion to astronaut Koichi Wakata (若田 光一) who will be joining the ISS in November. I expect Kirobo will be staying in his box until then, as he only speaks Japanese.

According to Kirobo’s developers, this exercise is part of a study to see how machines can lend emotional support to people isolated over long periods. I suspect it’s more of a marketing manoeuvre. After all, Wakata won’t be alone on the ISS. And I’m sure they have Skype up there.

Cute little toy, though. I expect Kirobo will be appearing in the shops any day now.

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Domain registration scam

Back in March I mentioned a domain registration scam originating from a Chinese domain called picweb.net. It looks like the scammers have now relocated to ygitech.com, which was re-registered just a few weeks ago.

If you receive any emails that look like the following, then please ignore them. Their claims are completely bogus. Don’t visit their website either; their emails may simply be an enticement to visit their site so they can install malware on your computer.

(Please forward this to your CEO, because this is urgent. Thanks)We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in Shanghai, China. On July 22, 2013, we received an application from Taisheng Limited requested “japanesetranslator” as their internet keyword and China (CN) domain names. But after checking it, we find this name conflict with your company name or trademark. In order to deal with this matter better, it’s necessary to send email to you and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China?

Kind regards
Kenny Cheng

Kenny Cheng
General Manager
YGITECH (Headquarters)
B06, Yujing Building, No.1 Jihe Road,
Shanghai 201107, China
Tel: +86-21-6191-8696
Mobile: +86-182-2195-1605
Fax: +86-21-6191-8697
Web: www.ygitech.com

This e-mail contains information (including any attachments) intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. If the reader of this e-mail is not the intended recipient or the authorized employee or agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, any dissemination, publication or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited and may be illegal. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender. Thank you for your cooperation.

Update: 17th October 2013

They’re at it again. I just received a similar email asking me to visit dunic.org:

(Letter to Head of Brand Business or CEO, thanks)

Dear Sir or Madam,

This is a formal email. We are the auditing department of a professional domain name registration and dispute solution organization in China. Here I have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on October 17, 2013 that a company claimed “MAX Holdings Ltd” were applying to register “japanesetranslator” as their Brand Name and some “japanesetranslator” Asian countries top-level domain names through our firm.

Now we are handling this registration, and after our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company’s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we would finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we could handle this issue better. After the deadline we will unconditionally finish the registration for “MAX Holdings Ltd”. Looking forward to your prompt reply.

Best Regards,
Victor Yang
Tel: +86.7395266069 Fax:+86.7395266169
Address: 124 Changjiang Road Hefei 230001 Anhui, China

The URL at the end of this email was actually displayed as a JPEG image instead of being typed at the end of the email. This is an old trick used by spammers to get past spam filters that trap links to blacklisted websites.

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Manhole covers of Japan

This photo collection of 423 manhole covers in Japan is nowhere near as dull as it sounds. No, really. I’m being serious!

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Header image: Movie poster for the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla (ゴジラ) by Toho Company Ltd. (東宝株式会社). From Wikimedia Commons.

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