Japan's structural reform, according to Yuko Kawamoto

At the Tokyo JAT meeting on February 24, Yuko Kawamoto spoke about the need for structural reform and innovation to achieve Japanese economic growth. She concluded with a few words on the translation industry, noting that prospects are good for skilled, specialized translators due to advances in technology and globalization. This write-up by Helen Iwata covers the key points of the presentation.

Structural reform

Numerous factors in post-war Japan have made serious structural reform a must. These include a major demographic shift, misdirected investment, and a record high government deficit. Meanwhile, businesses have tended to pay little attention to profitability, and the country’s banks have worked off a huge volume of bad debt accumulated during the bubble years. To sustain the presence and growth of the Japanese economy and society, Japan must establish an economic structure that enables it to optimize resource allocation and fully leverage the potential of its people.

The aging of Japanese society presents a major challenge for the government. By 2025, 46 percent of the population is expected to be over 60 – eligible for a pension – compared with just 18 percent in 1970. At the same time, the birthrate is declining. This situation has resulted in ballooning social security costs, with the current pension system unable to generate sufficient funds to be sustainable, and growing healthcare responsibilities.

Furthermore, the government does not invest sufficiently in the country’s youth, beginning with school-age children. The government’s policy of yutori kyoiku – the “relaxed” education system – has resulted in thinner textbooks and lower academic standards. Ranking among OECD countries, Japanese school children fell from 8th to 14th in reading comprehension and 1st to 6th in mathematical application between 2000 and 2003.

Out of school, a relatively high number of young Japanese are also out of a job. While Japan claims overall unemployment rates of under five percent, joblessness among 15 to 24 year olds grew from around six percent in 1995 to almost ten percent in 2003.

Instead of investing in its people, Japan continues to pour funds into infrastructure. By 2003, the government had laid 3.07 kilometers of concrete road per square kilometer – more than any other country. Germany ranked second, but with only 1.77 kilometers per square kilometer. Compared with the U.S., Japan has 30 times more concrete per person. Even though only a few of Japan’s numerous highways are profitable, the government still plans to build more roads and bridges.

Infrastructure maintenance costs are high and contribute to the growing financial burden on Japan’s shrinking population. The ratio of total public debt to GDP at national and local levels increased from 87.1 to 170 percent between 1995 and 2005. By comparison, the UK ratio fell from 52.7 to 44.9 in the same period.

On the business side, Japan suffers from a lack of management sensitivity to profitability. The average operating profit margin in the 1960s was 4.8 percent. By the 1990s, it had fallen to 2.5 percent, and in the 2000 to 2006 period, it had only recovered to 2.85 percent. This is half of European profitability and one third that of the U.S. Although Japan wrote off over JPY100 million of bad debt between 1996 and 2006, regional banks still hold JPY15 trillion in non-performing loans, and profitability in those financial institutions has been almost flat in the same period.

In response to the above factors and the resulting need for structural reform, the Japanese government has launched efforts spanning finance, government-affiliated corporations, fiscal discipline, regulation, the pension system, Japan Highway Public Corporation, the postal service, and a regional reform that aims to reduce national subsidies, transfer tax revenues to local governments, and reform the grant-in-aid system. While some areas, notably the bad assets issue, have seen progress, reform is far from complete in others.


Structural reform alone, however, is not enough. Japan also needs to innovate in order to address weak productivity, respond to the changes in the 21st century economy and corporate environment, and compete internationally.

A look at labor productivity in Japan reveals that the economy is polarized. Ten percent of the workforce is employed in export-oriented manufacturing, including automotives, electronic machinery, IT equipment, and steel, where labor productivity is 20 percent higher than in the U.S. Productivity in other sectors, which collectively employ 90 percent of the workforce, is 37 percent lower than the U.S. average. Moreover, while productivity in the Japanese retail sector is half that of the U.S., the Japanese work 47 percent longer hours than Americans. Innovating to increase productivity in the sectors that employ the majority of the population is vital if Japan is to achieve economic growth, especially in the face of its declining workforce.

At the same time, the 21st century economy is characterized by three factors: globalization (expanded business sphere and increased M&As and market failures), capitalization (heightened volatility due to a greater likelihood of market impact), and digitalization (expanded networks and information volume). Simplification and flexibility through innovation are essential for business leaders to manage increased complexity.

Recently, the Japanese corporate environment has shown clear signs of change. Companies used to have low profitability and capital productivity, but domestic institutional investors in capital markets are demanding stronger returns, and more activist funds, such as Murakami Fund and Steel Partners, are emerging or taking an interest in Japan. The number of M&As is likely to increase as Japanese companies become potential targets for foreign players. As a result, top management is under increasing pressure to enhance corporate value and looking for innovative ways to do so.

Japanese companies are becoming more aware of the need for governance, and are beginning to reorganize into boards (ownership), corporates (management), and business units (execution). Disclosure requirements are becoming more stringent, and there is a more apparent correlation between information disclosure and performance – with disclosure, companies become more self-disciplined, work faster, and become accustomed to evaluating and verifying results. Japanese companies need to move away from individualist thinking and embrace more objectiveness, including bringing in outside directors – even women!

While Japan has some highly competitive international players, others lag in comparison with their global rivals. In a Yahoo! Finance index ranking the top company in each industry as 100, Japan leads the automotive industry with Toyota at 100, while DaimlerChrysler scores 33.3. By contrast, non-Japanese players lead other sectors, namely mobile phones, courier services, banking, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, consumer goods, electrical equipment, retail, and food, and Japan lags considerably. For example, Pfizer stands at 100 with Takeda at just 21.1, P&G scores 100 and Kao trails with a mere 9.8. Japanese companies need to innovate in order to compete globally.

Despite the clear need for innovation in the above areas, Japan’s investment in venture capital compared to GDP is the lowest among OECD countries and around one tenth of the average. Japan has its share of outstanding scientists and engineers, and plenty of investors and cash to support them in the pursuit of innovation. An environment that allows these resources to be fully leveraged, however, remains to be created.

Corporations are looking at innovative ways to leverage resources and do business. As part of this effort, executives from a number of Japan’s top companies should form a group with the aim of promoting a freer labor market for talented individuals, including movement between academia and business, and investing into venture startups. Innovation, particularly to improve productivity, will continue to be an important theme in Japan.

Implications for translators

Japanese and English translation supply is growing due largely to two factors: more translators and more output per person on average. In addition to the translation community traditionally found in Japan and English-speaking nations, large numbers of practitioners are emerging in developing countries, such as India and China. Productivity and potential output per translator have increased with advances in technology, including faster look-up through the Internet and wider use of tools such as translation memory, optical character recognition, and voice recognition. Increased supply is putting downward pressure on translation rates in parts of the market. In a sense, this reflects a balancing of supply and demand compared with the past when limited supply drove prices higher.

The good news for translators is that globalization and larger flows of information will bring more translation demand because most people will not have the skill or will to learn the required languages quickly enough to be able to operate effectively in a multilingual environment. In this expanded market, if translators translate like machines, that is, if they simply replace words automatically with little consideration for context or appropriate target-audience style, they will produce material of machine-translation quality and earn at machine-translation rates. Translators who provide a value-added service through expertise in their field and polished writing skills will command higher rates. Quality is key.



第4回JAT新人翻訳者コンテストの正式スタートとなりました。 審査員が日本語英語の両部門で、やりがいのある翻訳課題文を厳選しました。あなたもチャレンジしてみませんか。提出期限の2007年11月30 日に間に合うよう、奮ってご応募ください。 コンテストの詳細はココをご覧ください。


Oct 2007 Workshop C&D_LETTER.DOC



Why should I join JAT?

Being a member of JAT allows you to:

  • Connect to a community of fellow translators and interpreters.
    Especially for freelancers, being a translator can be a fairly isolating experience, as many of our members work alone from home, for clients on other continents. JAT helps to bring back a sense of community through jat-list, a mailing list where members can ask eachother questions about translation-related topics, monthly meetings about translation topics held in the Tokyo area, annual IJET conferences, and other events around the world.
  • Promote yourself in our database of translators.
    Translation agencies and other companies or individuals looking for translation services can search our open database by language, specialization, and location. And since every member gets their own address on the JAT web site (member.jat.orgmember-name), it’s easy to refer clients to your resume.
  • Get discounts on JAT events like IJET and monthly meetings.
    Being a JAT member entitles you to discounts on IJET conferences, and free admission to our monthly meetings in Tokyo. For our more active members, these discounts offset most of the membership dues.

How do I become a JAT member?

First, you need to create a profile by going to our Signup page. Once you’ve done this, and logged in as a guest, you can become a JAT member by clicking the “Become a member” button from your Settings page. As soon as you’ve paid your dues, you can subscribe to the mailing list and enjoy all the other benefits of membership.

How much does it cost to become a JAT member?

The annual dues for JAT membership are JPY 10,000.

How can I pay my membership fee?

You can pay by either PayPal or Japanese bank transfer. More details are available here.

What is my OpenID identity URL?

OpenID is a protocol that lets anyone log in to any supporting website with a single, unified login. This means that you can use one login for all sites that support OpenID, instead of having to remember a username and password for each. You can learn more about OpenID, or create your new OpenID account in English or in Japanese. Note that OpenID is offered as a convenience, and not required in order to log in the JAT website.

Who will be able to see my profile?

That depends on your profile settings, as set on the Settings page. Logged-in JAT members can view all of the profile for other members. Non-members can see only the information that each member has decided to make public. JAT members can choose to make public any or all of (1) their primary contact information, (2) secondary contact information, and (3) specialties and background. Note that even if contact information is made public, email addresses are replaced with a contact form. This allows members to receive inquiries from non-members, without fear of having their email address out in the open for spammers to harvest.

What is my Web address on the JAT site?

Your web address on the JAT site is http://member.jat.org/username, where username is your JAT username.

What should I do if I’ve forgotten my username/password?

On the Login page, click the Reset password link at the bottom, and enter the primary email address of your JAT member account. Within a minute, you should receive a link that you can click to automatically log in.

Should I make my profile public?

Members are allowed to choose whether they want to make certain parts of their profile public. While some members choose to keep their information hidden for privacy reasons, others choose make it public, to let potential clients get in touch with them more easily. Since there are separate privacy settings for contact information and professional information (such as background and specialties), members can decide what to make public and what to make private. Members can change their privacy settings on the Settings page.

How can potential clients contact me?

Every JAT member receives their own web address on the JAT site (http://member.jat.org/username). All members can be contacted from the page at this address, through a contact form whose contents are sent to the primary email address of that member. Members wishing to be contacted by other means can make their contact information public.

Why are my posts to jat-list being rejected?

There may be several reasons that your posts to the JAT mailing list are being rejected.

  • Your JAT membership has expired.
  • You are posting from an unregistered email address.
  • Your email address has been suspended due to excessive bounces.

If the emails you send to the list are getting bounced, go to the Settings page, and make sure that your membership is current, and that the email addresses under which you are currently subscribed are valid.


How do I unsubscribe from jat-list?

If you no longer wish to receive jat-list email, from the Settings page, select Do not send jat-list email for the email address for which you would like to stop receiving email. Note that you will still be able to send email to the list, but will no longer receive email. This setting takes 24 hours to take effect.


XVIII FIT World Congress: Call for presentations

The International Federation of Translators, of which JAT is a an associate member, is now accepting proposals for presentations at its XVIII World Congress, which is going to be held in August 2008 in Shanghai (right before the Beijing Olympics kick off). Proposals are due in about a month (September 30th, to be exact), so if you're interested, head over to their site for more information.




JAT Board Vote: Using Basecamp

The JAT board voted this week to use Basecamp as its primary method of communication and project management. See the detailed results here.










お問い合わせは[email protected]にお願いいたします。




  • 主催: 特定非営利活動法人 日本翻訳者協会(JAT)
  • 目的: 優秀な新人実務翻訳者の発掘と奨励
  • 応募資格: 実務翻訳(放送・映像翻訳も含む)経験3年未満の方(JAT会員・非会員は問いません。過去のコンテストに応募した方も入賞者以外は応募可とします。)
  • 応募部門: 日英翻訳部門、英日翻訳部門
  • 応募料: なし
  • 各賞:
    第1位   日英・英日の各部門1名
    第2位   日英・英日の各部門1名


  • 英日部門: 小河原順子、佐藤綾子、石原ゆかり
  • 日英部門: マルコム・ジェームス、スティヴェン・ヴェンティ、ケン・ワグナー


  • 2007年10月15日 JATウェブサイトに日英・英日両部門の課題文を掲載
  • 2007年11月30日 24:00(日本時間) 訳文提出締切 
  • 2008年1月18日 最終候補作5件をウェブサイトで発表
  • 2008年2月14日 JATウェブサイトにて受賞者の発表(受賞者には直接連絡)
  • 2008年4月 受賞者をIJET-19に招待






JAT新人翻訳コンテスト 応募フォーム

  • 応募者は、上記の応募フォームを記入し、訳文を添付して送信してください。ファイル形式はMS Wordファイルまたはテキストファイルのみとします。
  • 訳文ファイルには応募者の名前やコメントなどを書かないでください(つまり訳文のみ)。
  • 訳文のファイル名は次のようにしてください(ファイル名は必ず半角英数で記入してください)。

CONTEST J your name (例: CONTEST J Roger Federer)

  • 提出後、こちらから確認のためのメールを返送します。hotmail などの無料のWebメール(フリーメール)をお使いの場合、メールが届かないことがありますのでご注意ください(迷惑メールフォルダをご確認ください)。
  • 応募はお一人1部門につき1回に限ります(応募期間中、一人で2回以上応募することは認められません)。


  • 提出された翻訳文はJATの所有となり、応募者には返却されません。
  • 翻訳文の著作権はすべて主催者であるJATに帰属します。

  • JATは、受賞者の名前、受賞対象の翻訳文、写真や画像、参考情報をJATのウェブサイト、メーリングリスト、電子・印刷出版物等に掲載するすべての権利を有します。


  • 出題者の作成する審査基準に則って、審査会が第一次審査、第二次審査と最終審査を行います。最終審査に残った5件の候補作については、2008年1月18日にID番号と訳文がJATウェブサイトで公開されます。
  • 審査員の決定は最終的なものとします。結果についての問い合わせや異議申し立てはできませんので、あらかじめご了承ください。



  • 居住地からIJET開催地までの往復航空券(エコノミークラス、最短ルート)
  • 鉄道運賃(グリーン車、一等車、寝台車は除く)

  • 自家用車を使用する場合は、移動に要したガソリン代および駐車料金
  • IJETの開催地またはその最寄りのホテルの宿泊代(3泊分、スタンダードルーム)

  • 支払いのためには領収書が必要となります。
  • 詳細については、受賞者と個別に相談の上、決定します。



  • 申請不備(応募フォームの記入事項もれ、ファイルの名称が間違っているなど)
  • 提出期限後の提出

  • 他人の名前によって応募した、または応募者以外の人が翻訳したことが判明した場合
  • 記載事項に虚偽の記入をした場合、またその他の不正があった場合

お問い合わせは [email protected] にお願いします。







1. JATリストの目的




2. 適切なメールの形態



2.1. 翻訳会社の品定め (JAT-list)

翻訳会社の品定め(an agency check)をメールに掲載する際、できる限り具体的で詳細な情報を提示してください。その理由は以下の通りです。

  1. 翻訳会社には、よく似た紛らわしい名前がたくさんあるので、どの翻訳会社であるかを特定する必要があります。
  2. 悪評が出て姿を消し、別の名前で登場する翻訳会社もあります。電話番号や担当者名が分かれば、素顔を見破ることができます。




3. 不適切なメールの形態

3.1. 会社名で載せない


3.2 個人攻撃をしない


3.3. JAT会員以外の人に投稿させない


3.4. JAT規約細則第9節の規定を遵守する

4. メッセージ内容の責任と管理


5. メーリングリストの規則











JATの設立20周年を記念し、優秀な新人実務翻訳者の発掘と奨励を目的として2004年に始められたコンテストです。応募資格は実務翻訳(放送・映像翻訳も含む)経験3年未満の方で、JAT会員・非会員は問いません。年1回開催され、部門は日英翻訳部門と英日翻訳部門、応募料は無料です。両部門の第1位受賞者は、世界の英日・日英翻訳者が集まって研究発表を行なう国際会議 (IJET)に招待されます。





















  • IJET-21 in Miyazaki, Japan
    April 24-25, 2010
  • IJET-20 in Sydney, Australia
    February 14-15, 2009
  • IJET-19 in Okinawa, Japan
    April 11–12, 2008
  • IJET-18 in Bath, England
    June 23–24, 2007
  • IJET-17 in Kobe, Japan
    June 17–18, 2006
  • IJET-16 in Chicago, USA
    June 4-5, 2005
  • IJET-15 in Yokohama, Japan
    May 22-23, 2004
  • IJET-14 in Dublin, Ireland
    May 17-18, 2003
  • IJET-13 in Yokohama, Japan
    May 11-12, 2002
  • IJET-12 in Monterey, USA
    May 26-27, 2001
  • IJET-11 in Kyoto, Japan
    May 20-21, 2000
  • IJET-10 in Austin, USA
    May 15-16, 1999
  • IJET-9 in Yokohama, Japan
    May 23-24, 1998
  • IJET-8 in Sheffield, England
    May 19-21, 1997
  • IJET-7 in Yokohama, Japan
    May 18-19, 1996
  • IJET-6 in Vancouver, Canada
    May 25-27, 1995
  • IJET-5 in Urayasu, Japan
    May 28-29, 1994
  • IJET-4 in Brisbane, Australia
    July 14-17, 1993
  • IJET-3 in Fuji Yoshida, Japan
    May 21-24, 1992
  • IJET-2 in San Francisco, USA
    June 21-23, 1991
  • IJET-1 in Hakone, Japan
    May 26-27, 1990