executive impact

Cookpad starts English site

9 Comments
By Chris Betros

Jun Kaneko has a unique business card. On the back is the English recipe for a Greek salad. In fact, all employees of Cookpad have a recipe on their “meishi.”

Cookpad is the largest cooking recipe sharing community in Japan with more than 20 million monthly unique users, including 80% of all Japanese women in their 20s and 30s. Its more than 1.5 million recipes are created by passionate home chefs.

Cookpad’s newest project is an English site, which Kaneko is responsible for in his role as director for international service development. The new English website was launched on Aug 5 and as of Sept 23, carried 3,898 recipes translated into English…and the number is increasing each week. Kaneko says all the dishes on the English site can easily be cooked at home.

The site is also optimized for PCs, smartphones and tablets.

Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Kaneko at the Cookpad offices in Shirokanedai, a fun environment that includes a spacious kitchen where staff can cook their own meals.

Why did Cookpad decide to launch an English website?

Interest in Japanese cuisine is increasing around the world. We are the biggest cooking shared community site in Japan and we realized there are users coming from outside Japan. While there are many sites with recipes for traditional Japanese food prepared by professional chefs, there aren’t any that feature recipes submitted by ordinary people who love cooking at home.

We have more than 1.5 million recipes on our Japanese site and all of them are created by ordinary home chefs. So compared to the traditional recipe sites, the recipes we post are much easier to make and more interesting because they show what kind of food Japanese people eat on a daily basis. People overseas know about sushi and sukiyaki but it is not our daily food.

Who are the main users of the English site?

All kinds of people. Maybe someone with a Japanese spouse or who is in a relationship with a Japanese person, or someone who has visited Japan and enjoyed the food. It might even be a manga fan who wants to know more about what a certain manga character is eating. So far, the majority of users are in North America, the UK and Australia and some from Japan.

How many recipes have been translated so far?

As of Sept 23, we have 3,898. It is increasing by about 400 new recipes per week. Hopefully, we will have 30,000 by early next year.

Who translates the recipes?

We use about 50 translators, some here but most offshore. Translating recipes is different from normal translation. To do this job, a translator has to be passionate and knowledgeable about cooking because there are so many specific terms and phrases. For example, if you mistranslate a term, the results could be disastrous in the kitchen.

Also, we have to be able to explain words like “dashi,” “ponzu” and so on, as well as where and how you can buy various ingredients or what you can substitute for them if they are unavailable where you live.

How has feedback been so far?

Feedback has been very good because they see what ordinary Japanese people are eating at home. We are getting a lot of repeat visitors and requests for more recipes for tonkatsu, matcha and so on.

Do you have a plan to monetize the site?

We do have a business plan but it is not the primary goal for at least the first year. On the Japanese site, we have various revenue sources, such as monthly 294-yen subscription fees, advertising, collaboration with companies to have contests in which users create recipes based on a company’s product. However, we are not ready to start that on the English site yet.

What functions do you plan to add to the English site?

For now, it will be just translations, but we are planning to have a recipe-posting feature in the future, whereby you can send in your own English recipe with photos. We are looking at feedback to see what we can add. For example, if users are looking for specific recipes, we’ll add those.

It is all part of Cookpad’s mission -- to make everyday cooking fun.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


9 Comments
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That's great. I was able to work through the instructions usually, but for the more descriptive ones, things could become a bit complicated.

As for finding ingredients, I was surprised how much my grocery store does carry even though it is a small one. I've seldom had to go to the next town and for anything I couldn't find, it was usually just a day away with Amazon or Rakuten.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

CookPad rocks. I have a paid subscription that offers some nice perks. I made two meals last week culled from CookPad that my Japanese wife loved.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gogogo, I agree and their sloppy translation even makes it even more difficult. The foreigner in Japan needs a bilingual list, others too and if they have never cooked that dish, they need additional explanations. For okonomiyaki, this site translated "nagaimo powder" as "yam potato powder", which is it technically, but nobody cares ? The problem you can't buy "yam potato powder".In Japan, shopkeepers will tell you "nani ?". Abroad, shops may propose you nothing at all, or konnyaku powder, fufu powder, ube powder (they are all "yam potatoes)... And that's an ingredient that you can skip but if that's not said, the reader can't guess.

The translations are generally excellent, and certainly far better than the machine translations

They are totally the same thing, even worse since the machine lets us access to the original to check. What makes (made) the interest of the Japanese site was you could directly discuss with the recipe author, and know his/her profile, Totally lost on the English version, they don't even link to the original, which is basic netiquette, and even a legal requirement. That shows this man guy just wants to make money on the back of volunteer posters. I've quit the J-site a few years ago when you started getting ads and recipes by ajinokso and kewpss popping all around, and tarento recipes passing before those of longterm users. See you on other user friendly platforms.

getting the ingredients in your local area is the problem.

The expat blogs in your region can tell you what they can find and the common approximations. It's logical that fresh produce from other continents is not affordable, so we have to accept that some recipes don't travel. In my old country (and in 2/3 of the world), macrobiotic shops propose top quality basics, miso, seaweeds, etc, not cheap, but that's convenient and it makes it easier to cook Japanese over the world than Mexican or Togolese. There were Japanese grandmas that had been living in Europe from the 50's, that was long before the first Asian grocery opened or supermarkets proposed their sushis. And they could prepare 2/3 of their family meals J-style, shopping locally. That's not for the majority of people these days : It's not in their budget. OR, it's too much effort OR they don't really want to eat food that is different from the usual taste (including "lack of")/ religion criteria/diet/habits that they have. It's logical that many prefer the yakisoba recipe of their sister-in-law in Boston or Milano to that of anyone in Japan. Particularly the average Cookpad user. The J-version is rich of "authentic gaikoku recipes" totally reformated to taste like Japanese famires versions. I have nothing against it. BTW another lame point of their English draft is on J-cookpad, people often say "my recipe to recreate the dish of Gsto or Msdo, and that interests many. But in translation that becomes "the recipe of a famous restaurant", which is a waste of pixel if you don't say which.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As "Gogogo" said, ingrediants are a problem, its so funny watchiing the American cooking shows on TV using stuff that is all but impossible to get here. Saying that it all works for inspiration purposes and demand may encourage supply.

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I find translation isn't the problem, getting the ingredients in your local area is the problem.

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I'll be contributing.

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I've followed Cookpad since they were a tiny, volunteer-driven startup back in 2000, and it's great to see they've stuck with--and even expanded--their game plan over the years. They're successful because of it, and they're approaching the creation of an English-language site with the same dedication. The translations are generally excellent, and certainly far better than the machine translations churned out by companies such as Rakuten. I'm sure a lot of non-Japanese-speaking home cooks will welcome this new resource.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

combining ingredients that wouldnt normally be used in the west (mayonnaise in a stirfry, for example),

Irony ? You also want a recipe to know how to kechup up everything ?

While there are many sites with recipes for traditional Japanese food prepared by professional chefs, there aren’t any that feature recipes submitted by ordinary people who love cooking at home.

That's not true at all. There are countless of amateur blogs in eigo, and other languages, outside the Cookpad. The pro sites are rarely translated, and some would be worth it.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

This is absolutely brilliant. Japan has a unique take on modern cooking; combining ingredients that wouldnt normally be used in the west (mayonnaise in a stirfry, for example), but can come out great.

It would also help people living in Japan, who want to know how to eat on a budget; many of the recipes on cookpad use cheap local ingredients and are created by housewives on a budget.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

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