Our next MLZ site translator is for the e-Gov archive of statutory law and administrative instruments, maintained by the Administrative Management Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The government maintains a separate archive of statutes in English translation, but e-Gov is both more comprehensive and more current, so this is where we’ll start.
Like many Japanese government websites e-Gov makes heavy use of frames (presumably because they are “friendly”), and seems driven to maximise the available selection of buttons, menus and links—the illustration to the right shows only about half of the screen real estate in the top-level interface. The clutter can be a little off-putting at first, but the site is well-maintained, and navigation does work reliably once you begin to find your way around. The various search options return linked hit-lists in the usual form, but the translator wakes up only when an individual statute or regulation is opened.
When viewing an individual instrument, the translator runs only in “multiple” mode (i.e. the folder icon), offering a list of provision numbers from the document for download as separate MLZ items. Supplementary provisions on interim measures and the like are omitted from the list, as are section headings, tables and figures (the latter two are not included in the e-Gov documents themselves, so their omission is not a matter of choice). The translator will discriminate between statutes, ministry regulations and cabinet orders, and adjust item metadata accordingly.
The text of the relevant provision is attached to each scraped item, with the usual embedded link in the page header and footer back to the statute from which it was extracted. The return link does not pinpoint the target provision, unfortunately: external linking is not possible through the site’s “friendly” frames interface. Site navigation via the left-hand sidebar links is reasonably convenient for statutes of reasonable size, though, so it’s not much of an issue.
For statutes with a very large number of provisions (such as the Civil Code), the selection popup from the folder icon may be somewhat sluggish. This is not a fault in the translator itself: the Firefix scrollable list widget is just seems to become overburdened with the length of the list. For most statutes, however, it seems to be quite zippy.
Not sure what I’ll pounce on next, but another site from Japan is likely to be the next object of MLZ friendship and comity.