Japanese Language Data Points (and Fun Facts)

There are over 128 million people living in Japan and speaking Japanese. There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan. These dialects typically differ in terms of pitch accent, vocabulary and particle usage.

Japanese is a complex language. The meaning of a word can change or sound unnatural if you do no break lines correctly. “Unlike most of Western languages, the Japanese do not necessarily indicate the distinction between words by using spaces,” adds Mana Mishina, Project Manager at Welocalize Life Sciences. “Therefore, it is important to use native speaking linguists when translating Japanese.”

Here is a collection of Japanese demographic data points, as well as more language and translation tips, to help you on your global journey:

  • Tech leader. Japan is recognized as one of the most innovative nations in the world, leading the way in technologically advanced cars and electronic equipment. With high emphasis placed on academia and achievement, Japan has a literacy rate of almost 100%.
  • Mind your manners. Irrespective of how well you speak Japanese, politeness, sensitivity and good manners are the pillars of Japanese etiquette. Some business scenarios in Japan will be more formal than in Europe or America and in a business meeting, silence is valued over too much talking. Japanese has an extensive grammatical system to express politeness and formality. The Japanese language can express differing levels in social status, which are determined by a variety of factors including job, age or experience. 
  • Clinical trial locations. As of April 2018, there were 1,682 active clinical studies recruiting patients for trials in For a region-by-region breakdown and therapy details, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov
  • Understand Your Audience. Life sciences documents can span the scope of highly technical information to complex legal agreements. They can also include patient facing materials geared for clinical trial participants. Comments Gregory Getzan, Regulatory Production Manager, Japan at Welocalize, “Patient facing materials must be drafted to explain complex ideas in simple, friendly language suitable for people who may have little technical or legal background. Simply changing English sentences created for American clinical study participants into Japanese won’t fly. Our expert, native linguists understand how to craft concise, friendly translations that convey the necessary information to Japanese participants in a way they understand, in a way that assuages concerns, in a way that native Japanese expect and demand in Japan.” Changing English sentences created for American clinical study participants into Japanese won’t fly. @Welocalize_LS expert, native linguists understand how to craft translations that convey the necessary information to #Japanese… Click To Tweet
  • Drug approval process. The drug approval process in Japan includes a sequence of non-clinical studies, clinical studies followed by approval review and post-marketing surveillance. The standard clinical studies include Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3. Along with this traditional drug approval route, there are bridging studies for drug approval. Once a drug successfully completes all three phases of clinical trial, the manufacturer must file the New Drug Application (NDA) with the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA). After review and evaluation, the PMDA provides a recommendation and forwards the application for approval to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). MHLW is the regulatory authority that issues approval or rejection on the NDAs. Once a drug is approved by MHLW, it enters in the NHI list for pricing negotiations.
  • Global rankings. Japanese is the 7th most common language online. According to Internet World Stats, more than 118 million internet users are Japanese-speakers. It takes 14 languages to reach 90% of the world’s online population: English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Spanish, German, Japanese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Italian, Dutch and Swedish. Other languages like Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian and Turkish also rank highly in terms of growing numbers of online users. (Source: Common Sense Advisory)

A few interesting facts about Japanese:

  • “Ha-ha!” is not universal. “Ha-ha,” used in SMS messages and on social media, has become an established e-laugh.  “Ha-ha” may be well-understood in the English-speaking world; however, a laugh is expressed differently depending on the country/language. In Japan, for example, you would use “www,” “5555’ in Thailand and “kkkk” in Korea. 
  • Emoji laughter. Research conducted by Facebook discovered that lol’s are being replaced by emoji’s as the go-to e-laugh. Emoji use differs across cultures. Japanese favor emojis that convey politeness, rather than raucous laughter.
  • Aging population. Japan has the third longest life expectancy in the world with men living to 81 years old and women living to almost 88 years old. Twenty-one percent of the Japanese population is elderly (over the age of 65), the highest proportion in the world. Recently, the Japan Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society, stated the definition of elderly should be used for people who are at least 75, rather than 65. They also propose a new term for those 90 and over: “superelderly.”
  • Work and play. Anime, or animated Japanese films and television shows, account for 60% of the world’s animation-based entertainment. Animation is so successful in Japan that there are almost 130 voice-acting schools in the country.
  • Hold the phone. Almost all mobile phones sold in Japan are waterproof because Japanese youth like to use them even while soaking in the bath. “In Japan, you can’t sell a phone if it’s not waterproof. About 90 to 95% of all phones sold now are already waterproof. Why? This is very unique — young Japanese women prefer to use their cellphones even when taking their showers,” commented Panasonic’s Taro Itakura at Mobile World Congress.
  • Summer Olympics return to Tokyo. Japan has been an Olympic land since the Summer Games of 1964, which were the first to be staged in Asia. In 2020, the country will again host the Summer Olympics. The emblem for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 links to Japanese tradition and the Olympic concept of unity in diversity.

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