National

All aboard the Sakai Muscle Line? Osaka Metro axes foreign language website after botched translation

by Satoshi Sugiyama

Staff Writer

Punctual trains. Rat-free platforms. A high standard of cleanliness. The Japanese commuter railway system is known for efficient, sanitary and high quality service.

But creating an accurately translated website offering train information may not have been a top priority for Osaka Metro Co.

The operator of Osaka’s municipal subway system took down a website offering multilingual information on Monday after a botched translation went viral and was mocked on social media.

The website included errors such as listing the “Sakai Muscle Line” for the Sakaisuji Line (the kanji character for “suji” refers to muscles) and “car near Eyes 3” for car No. 3 (“ryome” — a word for trains cars — consists of kanji characters meaning “both” and “eye”). A section promoting a new TV commercial also used mangled English: “Osaka Metro TV uploaded footage of city is the new born. Please visit the can’t usually see pretty CM filming behind the scenes!”

The operator said the odd English was a result of literal translation generated by an automated translation program.

Screenshots of the website shared on social media revealed that other station names were butchered: “Before the Zoo” for Dobutsuen-mae, “Powerhouse Town” for Daikokucho and “Prince Bridge Now City” for Taishibashi-Imaichi.

An Osaka Metro spokesperson said users notified the operator of the mistakes on Saturday. The company had used a Microsoft automated translation program since Sept. 1 last year for its English, Chinese, Korean and Thai websites.

The spokesperson said that in the past someone reached out about a translation error on the company’s Chinese website but that there were no efforts to make a fix to the overall system.

It remains unclear when the website — which now displays a message saying it is down “due to maintenance” — will go back online, the spokesperson said.

Osaka will host the G20 summit in June and the World Expo in 2025.