Nextepisode’s blog

院生(M1) 専門-開発経済/国際関係

I honestly have so much respect for The Japan Times


SNS gives me more chances to reflect on my life, at any rate.


Japan issued a travel advisory warning its nationals to avoid places that is said were potential targets in London, including...


I also bought The Japanese Times today and read the reports about the London car and knife attack, but I did not notice that slip in the sentence grammer there. And I already threw it away.  Anyway, that's very observant of him.


One solution to the problem, certaintly, would be to say that < is> is a slip for <it>. In that case, the best correction would be


Japan issued a travel advisory warning its nationals to avoid places that it said were potential targets in London, including ....


Alternatively, another slightly more complicated solution might be


Japan issued a travel advisory warning its nationals to avoid places that, it is said, were potential targets in London, including ....


The article on the front page of The Japan Times isn't written originally by the newspaper's own staff, however. If you check at the top, it was put together in "London/Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture" from press releases of four different news agencies (AP, AFP-JIJI, REUTERS, JIJI). In cases like that, the persons composing the article quote short paragraphs from different agencies in turn, while altering the grammar and vocabulary slightly as they go in order to make the combined article more uniform and readable. Perhaps Associated Press (AP) and other releases issued by people in London were used as a main input and then material from the JiJi agency, possibly in Japanese, was used for filling in background, for example. Combining materials from different places in this way can lead to just the sort of small mistake that seems to have occurred here.


Another source cited is the Japanese Foreign Ministry. I would guess that the warning to Japanese nationals issued from there is most likely the part of the content being quoted from the domestic JiJi agency, because that is a very Japanese concern and not the kind of thing that would be carried by the international agencies (Associated Press etc).


Since the source for this part of the content (the Japanese Foreign Minisitry) is precisely named, it might be a good idea to read the original text of the advisory issued by the Foreign Ministry. It's very easy to find, at:


The part summarised in the Japan Times article is worded like this in the Foreign Ministry advisory:



(※)観光施設,コンサート会場などのイベント会場,公共交通機関,デパートや市場等不特定多数が集まる場所や政府施設等 >


This quite closely matches the list "sightseeing spots, department stores, markets, concert venues and political venues> given in The Japan Times. Possibly "department stores and markets" are moved a bit closer to the front of the list because those are the places the article writer thinks Japanese visitors are most likely to go to in London. Anyway, my guess is that the Japanese Jiji agency carried details of this government advisory and that the Japan Times writer quoted from that access route.


Now comes the interesting point. Most of the important international contents on the Foreign Ministry site ( come with an English translation. You can select [ Japanese/English/Others ] at the top of the pages. But this kind of advisory is issued only in Japanese. Maybe there isn't time to translate every warning given, or maybe it is felt that the warning is of no interest to non-Japanese speakers. So how did the English-language version get into The Japan Times in time for the national distribution of the newspaper on the early morning of June 5? The advisory is dated "June 4" on the Foreign Ministary site.


I imagine that they put it through GoogleTranslate or another translating software and then corrected the result slightly to make it more readable.  Just for a test, I tried putting the above Japanese  <やむを得ず、。。。。政府施設等> into GoogleTranslate and got an output in English of:


<When visiting a place (※) where it is likely to become a target of terrorism unavoidably, pay attention to surrounding circumstances, and if you sense a suspicious situation, please pay attention to safety ensuring that you leave the place promptly

(※) Event sites such as tourist facilities, concert venues, public transportation facilities, department stores, markets etc. Places where unspecified people gather and government facilities etc>   


Of course, it is also possible that they put the JiJi summary through the translation software, not the original advisory wording, so we cannot talk too closely about content details. But the most interesting point is that GoogleTranslate produces two serious mistakes. One is "unspecified people" (= 特定されていない人たち) which is a poor translation for  <不特定多数>  ("unspecified crowds of people"). The other, highlighted in yellow above, is relative pronoun (関係代名詞) mistake. In standard grammar, <a place> should be followed by <which> or <that>:

<When visiting a place (※) which is likely to become a target ....> 

But GoogleTranslate tries to use "where" (= <in which>) instead. If <where> is placed after <a place> in this way, some other subject word is required, and GoogleTranslate is programmed so as to put in <it> in such cases (e.g. <a place where it is too hot> - here "it" may mean something like the local temperature).

But in the yellow passage above, <the place> is not the scene in which something develops. It really is the subject: this kind of <place is likely to become a target>. I guess that the use of the translation software led to the occurrence of some kind of phrasing muddle like the one up there in the yellow passage, which the subeditor tried to correct by removing the unneeded <it> and changing <where> to <that>. And then, because it still doesn't sound right to say <places that is likely to become a target>, there may have been an attempt to change the wording further to <places that, it is said, were likely to become targets> or something similar.


At any rate, I believe that there was some kind of robot translator problem at the start of this strange error in The Japan Times, followed by an editor's unsuccessful attempt to correct it, probably under time pressure



Side Note 6/6


I read The Japanese Times in a bookstore this morning and as I was mentioned above, I could not find the article in the newspaper. So I'm wondering where did the article from.