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April 29, 2013


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Ian Lamont

Interesting post, David. I agree that the site and its messaging is ineffective. But is it really going to torpedo Tokyo's chances? I suspect that the 115 IOC members are probably being lobbied via other channels, hopefully using messaging that's more sophisticated than this.

Another question: You say that many Japanese organizations merely translate their Japanese site for external markets. Do you know of any Japanese companies and brands that do not follow this path, and create effective and/or unique sites for other markets?


While Tokyo's Olympic Candidate website may be a large influence, it probably isn't the only source that the voters will use to decide whether or not Tokyo will be an adequate venue.

I do have to agree that they did a terrible job on the site. It looks like they ran the Japanese version through an online translator and posted it as-is. That's a mistake I quickly learned from in my high school Spanish classes (Oops).

I think Tokyo would be a great place to host the Olympics, however, because of the culture and innovation that we constantly see coming from Japan (anime-based characters and all). I think it would do a great job with boosting tourism as well.

Thanks for sharing!

David Meerman Scott

Ian and Catie - Yes, certainly the IOC voting members will use more than this site. But as one piece of the puzzle, I think it is lacking. Let's hope, for Tokyo's sake, that the site is a small factor in the choice.

Bryan Shaw

This is why I have LATAM and EMEA leaders on my team. They repurpose everything for the audience in their region. Without them, our global marketing operations and attempts to promote best practices would be doomed.

David Meerman Scott

Bryan - You're doing it the right way!

David Meerman Scott

Eric - wow that gave me a headache!


I make a living making websites and sometimes my biggest hurdle is helping the client realize the website is not their personal shrine or better yet the possible customers will be looking at their business from another perspective.

As humans we tend to see the world around ourselves as an extension of the rest of the world. It sometimes takes a few blocks walking from your home to realize everyone is very different even at a close distance. I hope they get a chance to read this and think about fixing the site.

David Meerman Scott

Raul, thank you for your wise words. Coming from you, this is very helpful. David

Felipe Jose

You are completely right! The website you cited here is terrible. I like to spend some time improving my own sites so that it will look good, but it seems that not every webmaster worry about design anymore. :)

Stan Dubin

The gobbledygook is top of the line! But it also has grammar errors. Folks (creating this web site) please! Get a real person to vet your copy.


em, u are right , the website designer should read ur post and make some changes:)

Brian Landberg

I do hope Japan can get the selection, but fully agree that Doraemon may not be the best character for the purpose. Also this is a horribly written vision statement... it reminds me of some of the recent hoax papers that were successfully published in scientific journals (passing the peer reviews) and the related and funny MIT tool to generate your own gibberish paper automatically!

Andrew Homer

You make a good point. I've lived and worked in Japan for more than twenty years, and this is a common problem. As you point out, what has likely happened is that somebody created the original material in Japanese, and then just translated it into English as closely as possible. This is problematic because it's still relatively normal for websites and promotional information for Japanese companies to be set very high up on the abstraction ladder. I remember about ten years ago reading a brochure for a small company. The brochure predominantly featured paragraphs on the need for a clean environment and world peace even though the company's main products were pachinko machines!
Interestingly, some of the content on the Tokyo Olympic bid website seems to be different depending on the language you are looking at. I had a quick look at the Japanese content and couldn't find a matching paragraph for the one you quote. I did find this pdf though: http://tokyo2020.jp/en/promotion/pdf/brochure/WhyHowBook_English.pdf
I'm curious to know whether you think this PDF in its entirety is equally bad. Some of the reasons listed in the "10 reasons How" section are persuasive for me, though I may be biased as I lived in Tokyo for more than ten years. ;-)

David Meerman Scott

Brian - that vision statement is so bad that the last sentence is not even a sentence!

Andrew - I lived in Tokyo for seven years. You may have been there too long. In my opinion the PDF is terrible.


Haha, I agree about the quality of the site, but personally I hope that Tokyo will fail to draw the games. Would just be a hassle to everybody :P

John Doe

It worked! Tokyo got 2020 Olympic.

I'm sick and tired of arrogant, self-righteous English critics. Maybe its a good time to realize Japan is not an English speaking nation, never have and never will.
And Japan has paid the price. I dont think there is a country experienced so called language barrier in global market/society more than Japan in the world.

Doraemon is extreamly popular character all over Asia, but then of course, who care what they like hey?
Keep up the good work, maybe one day, every countries learn how to make perfect English website.

David Meerman Scott

"John Doe" - Despite the site, Tokyo won the 2020 games which is terrific. Tokyo will be an excellent host. Having lived and worked in Tokyo for seven years, I lived through the poor communications of Japanese companies. The problem as I see it is that Japan wants to be a fully international country but the country and its companies and organizations don't do a great job communicating, and the Tokyo 2020 site was just an example. Because I am a professional communicator, I see that as an issue to be addressed.

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