The Story of Culture Flipper’s Japanese Team

Sophia Lee

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

The Japanese Team with CEO Sophia Lee [Left to right: Mami Suzuki, Hirotaka Inoue, Sophia Lee, Yuki Katsura]

The history of the Japanese team dates back to February 2017, just a month after the foundation of Culture Flipper. Back then, we didn’t officially offer Japanese localization services, but the team was born out of the need to address pivot language localization issues. A pivot language is an intermediary between the source and target languages, and in my 16 years of experience, pivot localization compared to direct source-target localization often leads to disappointing results for both source content creators and target audiences as it misses out common cultural denominators between them.

As is the common globalization practice in the U.S., our client had used English (pivot) for Japanese (source) shows and asked us to localize synopses, episodic titles and marketing taglines into Korean (target). With the pivot language being conceptually so far removed from the source language, we added a direct Japanese-to-Korean contextual deconstruction step in our workflow to ensure that nothing got lost in pivot translation.

This added step was done by one of our Korean writers, Kim Yujun, who has expert knowledge of Japanese. His published translation of Akira Kurosawa’s 黒澤明「夢は天才である」 (1999) was well received in Korea. Another Korean writer with extensive background in PR, known for her Japanese published translations, also shared a bit of Japanese contextual deconstruction work for a short time. By fall of 2017, we realized we needed more than one Japanese language expert to turn this new workflow into a system and actively began recruiting Japanese-to-Korean translators. Yoshihiro Komatsuda (Hiro), a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Seoul National University, helped us with screening talents during this gestational period of the Japanese team.

By July 2019, Culture Flipper had a team of Japanese language experts, including Japanese-primary linguists with experiences in into-Japanese localization from English and from Korean. The team was still small and did not have much workload. But when a NYC-based marketing agency enlisted our help for their Japanese marketing campaign localization, the Japanese team hit the ground running and added multiple levels of quality assurance.

In 2020, Evelyn Han joined Culture Flipper, and her knowledge of the Japanese language and culture and her tenacity in finding exactly the right talent grew the team to be robust. With her help, Kyoko Okajima, Hirotaka Inoue, Mami Suzuki and Yuki Katsura came on board as in-house team members. External freelance language experts and copywriters, including Ayako, Ryoji and Jonathan, rounded out the team for full-fledged, high-caliber Japanese localization services.