This is why you should never use automated translation software in a professional setting.

When it comes to translating between Japanese and English, it seems like kanji characters pose an extra challenge, since each one often has several meanings. Mistakes are liable to happen, but hopefully it’s not an embarrassing one permanently tattooed onto your skin.

Luckily for the Osaka Metro, their embarrassing translation errors were only on their official website, which could be taken down as soon as the errors were pointed out. But unluckily for the Osaka Metro, the English language website was up long enough for no small amount of people to take screenshots and post them to the Internet for everyone to see, forever.

▼ It was even featured in a segment on Japanese television…

Osaka Metro’s official site, like many others, was translated by an automated software provided by Microsoft, which is about the equivalent of using a less intelligent Google Translate. The resulting translations were not only a jumbled mess of words, but also included direct and hilarious translations of Japanese place names, like changing “Sakaisuji Line”, one of Osaka Metro’s major subway lines, to “Sakai Muscle Line”; and “Tengachaya Station” to “World Teahouse Station”.

The mistake is an understandable one, since “Sakaisuji” combines the words “境 sakai”, or “perception”, and “筋 suji” or “muscle”, although why the software decided to translate “suji” but not “sakai” is a little bit of a mystery. Tengachaya is a combination of “天下 tenga”, which means “all of the world”, and “茶屋 chaya” which means “teahouse”. They are classic examples of a direct translation gone terribly wrong.

They weren’t the only mistakenly translated names on the website, either; there are so many more, and each one is funnier than the last. Take Daikokucho Station (“Large country town”) being turned into “Powerhouse Town”, for example, and Doubutsuen-mae Station (“In front of the zoo”) becoming “Before the zoo”. Also, how Namba station (which is a variation on Osaka’s former name of Naniwa) became “to do” is a complete and utter mystery.

The English website was also filled with barely intelligible phrasing and more or less incomprehensible language, which is a typical result of using any automated translation service on a large body of text. One of the best is this screenshot of a notice of an apparent train delay caused by a fire, which is about the only thing we can really understand from this confusing paragraph:

Headline and articles titles in general made little sense, apparently:

Japanese netizens found the mistakes to be absolutely hilarious, and the name “Sakai Muscle” quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. In spite of the fact that it was a major error, Japanese Twitter users were generally in favor of the new name, too:

“The name ‘Sakai Muscle is pretty funny!”
“I’m going crazy for this ‘Sakai Muscle’ thing.”
“I like ‘Sakai Muscle’. It’s easy to remember! (Please don’t.)”
“‘Sakai Muscle’ sounds like some kind of celebrity name.”
“I don’t hate the name ‘Sakai Muscle’ lol”

“I have to train my Sakai Muscles”
“I’d rather we just change it to Sakai Muscle honestly.”
“This is so funny! Osaka Metro should have some kind of athletic event now. ‘Sakai Muscle Run’!”

Of course, as is bound to happen with funny things that go viral on Twitter, memes were born. Netizens quickly made the direct translation of Japanese place names into a running joke, and proceeded to translate all of the funny-sounding Japanese station names they could find – by translating each kanji separately, instead of together – with the hashtag #サカイマッスル (sakai muscle).

Artists and product designers immediately took advantage of the funny name, too:

▼ A visual diagram of the three muscle (“suji”) lines in Osaka:

▼ Bags and shirts for sale!

It just goes to show that Google Translate and other automated software programs will help in a pinch, but when you need a professional translation, like for food names at restaurants, city-sponsored bulletin boards, advertisements for paid services, and official websites for popular brands, you should spare the extra expense and hire a human. Otherwise, you’re going to have some very confused, and amused, customers on your hands.

Source: Yomiuri ShimbunNinji Hokoku
Featured image: Twitter/@ukai23ku