Microsoft Banishes Japan from Language Pack Market?

It’s been well over a year since I bought a new Japanese PC with Windows Vista and Office 2007. I did my research and made sure to buy Vista Ultimate so that I could switch Windows to English at the click of a button. That was no problem when Microsoft made an English language pack available as a free Ultimate Extra download.

Office 2007 in Japanese

I was already a bit of a whizz with the old versions of Word and Excel in English, so using them in Japanese was easy if you could remember what belonged where.

Now though, the whole layout of Word and Excel has changed with Office 2007. I mean, it’s completely different. There aren’t even any proper menus anymore, and figuring out where everything is takes so much time, especially when it’s all in a foreign language.

Did Microsoft Japan forget to make an English Office language pack?

If you live anywhere except Japan, you can get language packs for Office 2007. Just go here, choose the language you want and the country you live in, and after that, I have no idea. I failed at the “Choose country” stage.

No Language Packs for Japan

Japan, banished from Microsoft’s world of language packs?

Even if you live on the sinking island of Kiribati, or in Africa’s war-torn Burundi, you can buy an English language pack online thanks to the marvels of the world wide web. Unfortunately for us stuck in Japan with Office 2007 in Japanese, we aren’t as lucky as the 920 people living in the world’s smallest country, the Vatican City State, or even Malawi, arguably the world’s poorest nation.

What about buying it offline?

The official word from Microsoft Japan is:

Still no single language packs

Which roughly translates to:

How do you purchase a Multi-Language Pack?

Multi-Language Packs are sold through retail stores and a volume licensing program.

When will Single Language Packs be available?

Single Language Pack will be released sequentially. (Whatever that means)

All is not lost though, because if you follow their tip about retail stores and go to Yahoo Shopping, you’ll find they are selling the Multi-Language Pack! However, 25,000 yen is a hefty price to pay if you only want English for home use.

Stuck with Japanese Office 2007

There doesn’t seem to be much choice but to wait this one out. I do love Vista and I’m very impressed with Office 2007, even if it does take me three times longer to do anything.

Am I alone with this problem? Are any of you scratching your heads over the language pack issue? I’d love to hear from you!

36 comments

  1. Neil Duckett

    Hmmmm, i had a Japanese OS P.C with Windows Vista Home Premium and after hours of trying to get around it i had to fork out for Ultimate which now gives me the ability to cross between the two … having said that, i don’t have Office and although sometimes i could do with it, i just use my laptop for the office stuff.

    Seems like a pretty poor thought out solution to me though Nick.

    • Nick Ramsay

      I can’t understand the need for so many different versions of Windows. It’s confusing and unnecessary. In this day and age, there should be just one version that scales to your computer’s specs. All the extras that the Business, Premium and Ultimate versions offer should be downloadable extensions for people who need them, at no extra cost.

      It’s all very well Microsoft saying you can upgrade your version of Vista, but most people buy a PC with the OS pre-installed, and they completely unaware that the version of Vista on their new machine has limitations.

  2. Ken Y-N

    Also, with Windows XP Service Pack 3, if like me you’ve set up your PC so that my login is English and the wife’s is Japanese (I borrowed the langauge pack from work…), you cannot install! If you get clever like I did and try to force it to override the block, the Japanese logins no longer work.

    Thankfully uninstall works perfectly!

    • Nick Ramsay

      I don’t know how Microsoft expect to sell Office 2007 to the home user when most people already have an old version they can just install, saving money and hassle. I might just uninstall Office 2007 myself, but then I would have wasted my money, and we can’t have that!

  3. Keith

    God that sucks! The tech savy Japanese really do know how to make a buck and this really does make me angry. While I can’t remember what is was, sometime ago I wanted to download a program (I’m sure is was something to do with Nero or something similar for song editing) and sure enough, Japan was not on the list. (I’m sure Kiribati was!!)
    I’m still annoyed that I paid $79 to watch MLB on line only to find out that Japan has blacked out all games. Geez they even black out the games when they do not broadcast them in Japan.

    PS. Does anyone know the visa process for Kiribati???

    • Jason

      Tech savvy Japanese? You are joking, right?

      Most of the software written for the Japanese market comes from America or India. The stuff written in this country using insanely archaic programming styles and is as processor friendly as a Chevy truck running on jet fuel. The reason for the language deficiencies in the computing sector has little to do with money, and everything to do with exclusive language permeation.

      I had a link for this a few months back … I’ll see if I can find it and post it.γ€€γ€€It’s a great discussion on why Japanese software companies don’t concern themselves with multi-language support.

      Hopefully I can change that one day πŸ˜›

      • Nick Ramsay

        If you can dig up that article, Jason, I’d like to give it a read. I have no idea whether Japan is lacking in programming skills or not, but I used to teach English at the IT firm, MeitetsuCom, in Nagoya and those guys knew their code as well as anybody.

    • Nick Ramsay

      You must be a Mac user, Penguin. Actually Windows itself has great multilingual support just as long as you buy Vista Ultimate. The problem isn’t with the OS or even with Office 2007. The problem is limited to Office 2007 for people in Japan who want to use English. If you live in Iraq, or any other war-torn, broken country, you’ll have no problems at all, but if you live in Japan, you’re screwed! 😑

  4. Shane

    A colleague asked me to work on a project for him in Excel and I said no problem because I am pretty good with Excel. I almost pulled my hair out though because of the new menus. No Office 2007 for me until I absolutely have too!

    • Nick Ramsay

      I do think the new-look Office has a better feel to it, and the menus are very pretty with lots of visuals to help you. The problem is, if you’re used to something that worked quite well before, the layout change just slows you down while you re-learn everything… and you’ll be cursing Microsoft while you’re at it.

  5. Trackback: www.japansoc.com
  6. Keith

    Don’t worry Jason as I was being sarcastic! I have always been surprised at the the true lack of technology in this country. Geez it’s only been the last couple of years that my staff could bring a visa or master card with them and not have to go to a huge city to access funds!
    I did have the impression before I came to this country that technology would be second to none and was hugely surprised that you could not even get money out of an ATM after 5 pm. Thankfully that has changed a little!

    • Nick Ramsay

      That’s right. I don’t know about now, but you couldn’t even use a credit card to buy a hundred dollar Shinkansen ticket! I was on my way to Narita from Nagoya, and had to wait till 8AM for the ATM to open so I could get enough cash to buy my train ticket! I nearly missed my plane! 😯

      • Lester

        I’d tend to agree. The Japanese do seem to like to deal in cash rather than credit. Something to be learned perhaps??

  7. Keith

    Does anyone out there know how I can get around this stupid blackout in Japan to watch MLB on the net?

  8. Shane

    Funny Nick! Keith, I have to say that I don’t know. Now that the hubby and I are immersed in Japanese baseball we’ve just been following MLB via the scoreboards and news on the net. However I felt really bad a couple of times when the hubby was watching skyperfect and found the pay per view optional channels that have the games – he actually sat there and watched, well listened mostly, with the buy now box covering most of the screen until it blacked finally blacked out. The skyperfect MLB package costs about Y2,100 per month but I’m too cheap to buy it. Here’s the link: http://www.skyperfectv.co.jp/en/guide/pack/02.html

    Or, check out this site: http://streaming.yahoo.co.jp/sub/sports/baseball/
    I can’t read Japanese so I saw it but haven’t played around with it???

  9. Shane

    Love ya Nick ;)….Keith I don’t have any clue on how to get the MLB stuff live over the net we haven’t even tried. Hubby and I kind of have our hands full with Japanese baseball. Here’s a couple of suggestions. Try Yahoo Japan Sports (I think they broadcast some games locally?) or you can spring for SkyperfecTV’s MLB package…

    We didn’t go for the SKyperfecTV package and let me tell you it’s a pathetic site seeing my hubby try to watch/listen to the game through the somewhat opaque blue ‘buy now’ box before it blocks out completely after a few minutes. I feel guilty, but I’m cheap and he’ll just fall asleep after a couple of innings anyway!

    • Nick Ramsay

      Sorry things got a bit skewed and your comment didn’t come up first time.

      SkyPerfect sounds like the best solution, but I can’t see Keith dumping his cable connection and getting SkyPerfect. Besides, knowing Keith, he’s hoping to watch the baseball from his office computer rather than at home. πŸ˜‰

      • Shane

        Sorry for the duplicate comment Nick. I thought it got eliminated because of too many links….

        I can just see Keith now huddled over his office computer with the game on – that would go over well I’m sure (not like the guy who got fired over porno or anything, of course)!! Maybe he should just get head phones and find the radio broadcast for his favorite team and stream it???? I have listened to a couple that way and it works fine. If Keith wants to email me feel free to share my address.

  10. Mum

    It all sounds far too complicated for me. I am still working on Office 2003 and it certainly does everything I need and I actually understand what to do. Why go for such complicated upgrades?

    • Nick Ramsay

      I think you’d be surprised Mum. Office 2007 is exceptionally user friendly, at least once you learn where things are. Our problem is that it’s all in Japanese!

  11. Keith

    Shane, thanks for that!! I will be getting Sky perfect soon but it is just that I’m in my office a lot and would love to watch it here too(Works comes a distant second haa haa haa). I watch BS-1 a lot and get reasonable coverage and I suppose it is just that I subscribe to the MLB live and then after paying, find out that japan has blocked just about every game and even games they do not broadcast aaaaaah.
    i will check out the link and thanks for your efforts!!!

  12. Lester

    My wife brought home a Toshiba notebook from Japan a while ago with XP and the 2003 version of Office. I had to go out and get a new notebook with Vista Premium and bought Office 2007 in English as my Japanese was not nearly sufficient to navigate the Toshiba’s menus and dialog boxes with any efficiency. Anyway, after using Word and Excel 2007, I do really like the way it’s laid out. I think that they should do away with the words altogether in the menus and use universally understandable symbols like traffic signs to indicate what function or tool that you want to use. I mean, they’re half way there. But I didn’t know about the language switching capabilities of Ultimate. I may have to upgrade…

    • Nick Ramsay

      Just remember that Ultimate will let you switch the language for Windows, but not for Office. We’re still waiting for that darn language pack. πŸ™„

      • Lester

        Yes, this shouldn’t be a problem for me as it will be installed in my new notebook so my wife can logon in Japanese. Her English is better than my Japanese so she can cope. Mind you, I’ll have less time on this new notebook as a result… hmmm!

      • ジェむソン (Jason)

        It’s a shame that language packs are so darn hard to make. If Microsoft would help people by providing a tool to create a language pack (or even just allowing users to customize their own menu names, error messages, etc.), then issues like this would not be a problem.

        Of course, I’d immediately make a 50-Cent language pack for Office and Windows. Could you imagine getting an error message that would say: “Hey! Where da paypahz at, yo?” πŸ˜›

        • Lester

          Apparently Google is really making inroads with language translation. Now that Micrsoft withdrew their takeover bid of Yahoo! they should maybe ask Google for some help in that area. πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, I secretly hope that Google eats Microsoft and doesn’t get indigestion.

  13. Ruulgo

    I bought the vista Ultimate and the pc about 2 years ago now.
    Unfortunately at that time Microsoft decided to remove the English language pack from the Japanese version, something to do with a bug in it.

    at the moment I run an English version through the computer, as you probably already know, I have 5 or 6 redundant buttons and the key board is…. interesting to use.

    Please help, do you know if the English pack is once more available for download on the Japanese vista?

    • Nick Ramsay

      Normally, you’d go to

      Control Panel\System and Maintenance\Windows Update

      and click “Check for updates”. I still have 33 language packs sitting in Windows Ultimate Extras on my system.

      As for an English language pack fro Office 2007, I still don’t think it’s available. πŸ™

      • Lester

        I have got the English version of Office 2007 with the Japanese Language pack so I’d assume there would be an option for the opposite case. Mind you, I had to pay for it ($12 CAD).