• Contributed By Ted Quock


Translator, author, historian and pioneer in the field of simultaneous interpretation Sen Nishiyama died at a Tokyo rest home on July 2. He was 95.

Born in Salt Lake City and raised to be fluent in both English and Japanese, Nishiyama received his master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Utah.

After moving to Japan with his mother in 1935 following his father’s death, Nishiyama found employment as a research engineer with the Japanese government and became a naturalized citizen.

The rapid improvement of his Japanese reading and writing skills led to a career in interpretation and translation. Between 1935 and 1945, he worked with the Japanese government, then for the postwar Occupation authorities between 1945 and 1952. He eventually worked for the U.S. Department of State, where, among other duties, he served as a personal interpreter and adviser to the late U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer.

Between 1973 and 1986, he served as a Sony Corp. executive, and taught simultaneous interpretation at Simul Academy for three decades. He became a household name with his simultaneous interpretation of the televised Apollo 11 moon landing on July 19, 1969.

Nishiyama was chairman of the Japan Society of Translators, helped to launch the Fulbright program office in Japan and was a long-standing member of the Japan PEN Club, authoring numerous books and articles on cross-cultural communication, the history of Japanese-Americans and the art of simultaneous interpretation.

Nishiyama was a 60-year member of the congregation of Tokyo Union Church and was instrumental in the inauguration of English-language services there. The church will hold one of several memorial services planned for September.

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