Nippon.com was uploaded October 3, 2011. A look at what the past 10 years have meant for the Nippon Communications Foundation team.
Mark a decade of online publishing
Nippon.com was launched in October 2011. Over the next 10 years, we have published countless thousands of articles. In recent years in particular, these have included a lot of stories that automatically populate our site via news feeds, but for the most part this website has been a cottage industry business.
The human aspect has long been at the center of our work. Our organization was founded in 1974, well before the Internet age, under the name of Japan Echo Inc., publisher of the journal Echo of Japan. With this magazine, we presented Japanese observers’ perspective on their own country – its society and culture, its political and economic fortunes – to readers around the world in English.
It was painstaking work. Once our editorial board selected the articles to translate, the Japanese editors shortened them keeping one eye on information that would not be so needed by foreign readers and another on how long the possible translation would take – an important factor. back in the days when our production was going on fixed column length pages. From native English-speaking translator to native Japanese proofreader, then to another English-speaking who edited the text for style (as per rules we always follow, in an updated form, for our work today), and finally to the staff who presented the text as it would appear on the journal pages, more editorial eyes shortening the lines here and there to avoiding widows and orphans or adding words to bring the article’s final line all the way to the bottom of the page, and a final reviewer, we had a full team reviewing every word of every article.
I’m dating myself with this: we don’t have to worry about widows and orphans anymore, and length limits aren’t a concern in the age of HTML spilling onto the page as long as it is. must. But we still use teams of translators, proofreaders, editors and web layout specialists to put Nippon.com together in your language.
Change and Continuity
In his inaugural column as the first editor, Shiraishi Takashi explained the events that took us from being a print editor to Echo of Japan to the online producer of this website. He also noted that “Nippon.com will officially be a monthly publication. But we do intend to take advantage of the flexibility offered by the online format. We always plan parts of our site, especially the in-depth analyzes of the issues we commission from academics, journalists and specialists of all kinds, over one or more months. But over the years, we find that more of our content is produced in shorter time frames. The pieces in our Data on Japan section, for example, come out like clockwork once a day and should be sent to translators and prepared for publication on time. An article I worked on last Wednesday, on the election of Kishida Fumio as President of the Liberal Democratic Party, was translated, checked, edited and published in one afternoon, with the Spanish version following the same day and the Russian and Arabic versions on Thursday.
Our site went public 10 years ago today, but we did some sort of “test” six months earlier. Following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, we worked hard for a month and launched JapanEcho.net in early April. With content in Japanese, English and Chinese, we were trying to share the voices of those affected by the disaster and those considering ways to recover. (This content is still available in the Opinion 3/11 section of our website.) This month has turned out to be a wild race, as we have aligned the content, organized the translation and editing, we are Familiar with content management systems and monitored constant TV coverage of aftershocks, power outages and the Fukushima Daiichi situation. It was a huge change from our quiet days of magazine production.
Indeed, a lot has changed in the way we do our day to day work. QuarkXPress has given way to a CMS. We’ve replaced books like the spell separators we used to use to check hyphenation at the edge of a column of printed text with tools like VPNs to connect from home. Our staff speak seven languages and write content for a global readership in each one.
But what has remained the same is more important. All of these staff speak and read Japanese, the lingua franca in our office. Japan is our home, some of us have called it that for many decades now. We care about it and want to learn it better so that we can share it more effectively with the rest of the world.
And we are grateful to the hundreds of people who have helped us so far. From translators and editors in all our languages to photographers, interviewers, columnists and web designers, we have benefited from the expertise of many who share this motivation with us. If bringing readers around the world a taste of Japan in their own language sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, please contact us. We may need your help over the next decade.
(Originally written in English. Banner photo: “Lounge space” in our Toranomon office is largely unused during the work-from-home pandemic days, but hopefully it will again be a place where journalists, researchers and others can come together to discuss Japan, the network and use the wifi.)