Demian 'Ryu Ichinose' Smith, one of the translaters to work on the English localization of the original Yakuza game, posted an illuminating and honest piece on the challenges in translating a Japanese game that features so many ideas and words without American equivalents.

He shares his experiences immersing himself in Tokyo's seedy red-light district Kabukicho to familiarize himself with the game's content, the encouragement he received to add as many curse words as possible, and frustrations with Sega's translation demands:

"The writing process involved my work partner and I doing back-and-forth native Japanese checks and rewrites, as well as having numerous, frustratingly counter-productive meetings.

I recall one meeting concerning how to translate terms used in the hierarchy, like oyabun, wakaishu, chinpira, etc. Personally, I wanted to keep it all in Japanese, but Sega insisted that it all had to be in English. I first I suggested, half jokingly, we use the mafia equivalents.

They actually considered it for a while… Luckily, that got vetoed, and a straight-up translation of the ranks, like brother for aniki and henchman for kobun, was used. The end product, in my opinion, was generic and less authentic."

Smith also goes into his dislike of Sega's choice to translate the original Like A Dragon title to Yakuza, the "mechanics of the Japanese translation industry", and more, which you can read all about at the Japan Subculture Research Center blog.