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I'm fluent in Japanese. I listened to the beginning of the recording and it's legit. One of the voices is almost certainly Mark Karpeles' (based on hearing his voice in his recent public apology -- his Japanese is broken but reasonably proficient). It seems to be a recording of a Jan 30 2014 meeting where bankers from Mizuho Bank are asking Karpeles various questions about Bitcoin, the nature of his business, his partnerships in different countries, connections to underground activity, etc. Definitely not something that's meant to be publicly released.

EDIT: Listening to snippets from the rest of the recording, it seems that Mizuho is explaining that they want to cancel Mt Gox's accounts with the bank. Karpeles seems to be protesting and asking why the accounts are being shut down. The guy from Mizuho explains (at 28:00 for Japanese speakers out there) that it's a combination of a lot of factors, including recent technical issues, which make the bank uncomfortable dealing with Mt Gox. Karpeles also mentions following the orders of the Financial Services Agency (金融庁)

EDIT2: 15:00~16:10: Mizuho guy explains that the Mt Gox bank accounts will have to be shut down eventually. Karpeles says that he understands that position, but he thinks that the bank has been rude about trying to force the closure, and would appreciate a more cooperative approach.

EDIT3: 18:00~19:00: An awkward discussion of Karpeles' Japanese. The Mizuho person seems to be offended by Karpeles' rude Japanese, which frequently lacks the correct honorifics that would be expected in a business setting. A woman (I think she's on the Gox team?) explains that Karpeles' first language is French and that he means no offense.

I can work on a fuller description of the call, but just wanted to get a quick verification of its authenticity out there, along with some snippets of the contents.

Please consider typing out a full English translation. If you post your bitcoin address here, then I'm sure plenty of people here will pay you some coin for your effort.

There are additional comments about this call in this reddit thread...


Karpeles making mistakes with honorifics? That's odd, even though it would he incorrect, surely he could just -san suffix everyone and be done with it?

Japanese honorifics extend tremendously beyond name suffixes.

There is a reason that speaking Japanese correctly is a highly valuable skill. For me personally, though, the amount of "communication rites" in Japanese business interactions is enough to be scared away.

On the other hand, I'd say that the bank person has enough reasons besides the honorifics to be really angry at the guy. The info posted indicates that they want to get rid of him and given that they cite technical difficulties, it might well be possible that their tech team already suspected the "non-banking-grade" software quality we are now hearing about.

I'm digging further off-topic, but anyway: as a non-japanese speaker and someone who spontaneously thinks in terms of optimization, I'm amazed by the seemingly gratuitously complicated rules of politeness in that language.

Does it require concentration for a native to avoid faux-pas in a discussion? Can it become much more difficult depending on your social origins (i.e. how effective is it as a social discriminant)? I'm wondering how much time and thought is typically spent on those matters, to the detriment of actually thinking and communicating information.

(I guess this post is extremely rude from a japanese PoV, but I'd genuinely like to understand all this better, and I'm sure typical HN readers can understand this approach)

Although the rules are complicated, I lived in Japan for awhile, and almost no one Japanese would be offended by a foreigner getting it only mostly right. This is not terribly hard. It suffices for foreigners to observe the basics.

As explained below, Karpeles referred to himself as "ore". "Ore" is mostly used by men, and carries a boastful tone. Moreover, pronouns aren't necessary to make grammatical sentences, e.g. "I went to the bank" = "Ginko ni ikimashita" = "[Bank] [to] [did go]".

The only function of the word "ore" is to emphasize your own high status relative to whomever you're speaking to. In a bar, after a couple of drinks, among equals, it's quite typical for all the men (usually not women) to use "ore". But in a formal business meeting --- this is known to be an absolute no-no by anyone who has formally learned even a small amount of Japanese.

A fairly close analogy in English would be to randomly sprinkle the word "fuck" in your speech.

A fairly close analogy in English would be to randomly sprinkle the word "fuck" in your speech.

I was once speaking to a good friend of mine here, in English.

"Do you want to go out for yakitori?"

"Go fuck yourself!"

"... switches to Japanese Have I recently done anything very major to offend you?"

"No, of course not."

"Oh, OK, I was worried. So that phrase, that's something you would only say under extreme distress when you had maximal desire to offend me, or I suppose you could use it jokingly between friends, but neither you nor I generally talk that way."

"I learned it from a movie. I thought it meant "No.""

"You might want to not repeat it ever again."

Haha! This is great.

Along the same lines, I was getting a shave from a super hospitable barber last November in Gifu and the topic of conversation in very broken English (from him) and correspondingly broken Japanese (from me) was basically whether I had seen all of his favorite American movies. We were chatting and laughing quite a lot. When the time came for him to shave around the Adam's apple, he pointed right at my face and said: "You! Shut up!" It was so funny: He had obviously picked that up from a movie, but it took everything in me not to feel a little hurt, even though I knew he didn't mean to say what he said with that sort of edge. I can only imagine how many times I've done something similar in reverse. :-)

For those who don't know, _Coming to America_ starring Ediie Murphy:


(Disclaimer: I don’t know anything about Japanese.)

Complicated grammar in general generally comes from historical traces: there often is a literature associated to it, nuances that express best the ambiguities of life and what you might want to hide from. Case in point: relationship statuses, and the many way to say ‘mmh friend’.

When associated to people via honorifics, these are things people care deeply about, both because they came at what seem a cost (PhDs are hard, promotions longed for, and Noblesse Oblige) and, after being repeated every time one was addressed to, became a core part of your identity. The fact that they are flattering makes it even more crucial. Think of parents who insist on being called ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’: of course you know what their first names are, but using them can be seen as a lack of love, or respect for their authority, or consideration for the spectacular sacrifice they made. It remains hard to explain why on the spot: it just hurts, and comes off as defiant.

There is finally (and that is certainly true in Japanese high society) an attachement to class & country, a way to protect what was once precious and unique and unpregnable. That actually takes the form of genuine and sincere preference for the formal and appropriate: I would be offended if someone told ‘I love opera, it's so-o fricking cool!’ Yes, it is, and I consider the Opera to be a very buoyant and accessible art form, like Hollywood; but it still comes with a decorum that became part of my enjoyment of it.

Japanese, especially business people, are confronted to foreigners enough to understand that doesn't come naturally. Kerpeles however does more than ignore that: even in French (probably the second most culture riddled with grammatical antique quirks -- and I'd know, I am French and love those) he comes off as defiant, irrespectful, and likely to have willingly commited what some accuse him off. That’s not ignorance from his part, but open lack of respect for institutions. Those could be modernised and improve, but they still serve a purpose. Like anyone who's worked at university, I don’t call ‘doctor’ anyone with a PhD, but I still think it’s the most compelling experience someone can go through and I’d understand if, like in Italy and Germany, that remains part of everyday interactions.

I don't know about honorifics, but he was using "ore," according to Reddit. If he wrote the letter on the front page of Mt Gox, there are some weird/offputting polite language mistakes, too.

(I can't listen to the recording right now and wouldn't get much out of it even if I could, since I can't hear well enough. :-/)

For those (like me) who don't know anything about Japanese, referring to yourself as "ore" seems to be inappropriate and likely unintended by Mark.

> Frequently used by men. It can be seen as rude depending on the context. Establishes a sense of masculinity. Emphasizes one's own status when used with peers and with those who are younger or who have less status. Among close friends or family, its use is a sign of familiarity rather than of masculinity or of superiority. It was used by both genders until the late Edo period and still is in some dialects.


Yes, he was saying "ore", which is an incredibly rude and amateur mistake. In English, that would be like be entering an important business meeting with a bank and saying, "Yo dude, wassup?"

That isn't how you do it?

Depends on whether I can make sense of the *nix joke on the banker’s t-shirt, or if I can tell how many months of salary his tie is worth.

I thought it depends on how many zeroes you have at the end of your (positive) account balance with the bank.

Are you sure he was saying "ore"? Given the fact that his grammar is otherwise pretty tight, I wouldn't be surprised if he were instead using "ware".

Grammar & honorifics/formality are two separate subjects. I'm not fluent in Japanese by any stretch of the imagination, but I know the basics of grammar while I know basically nothing about formal speech/informal speech.

I usually hear 'ore' from people who learned their Japanese by watching shonen anime. Even outside of a business meeting, in normal conversation, it would be offensive to most people I think.

It's not offensive, it's just not right for business. Outside of work, men use ore (tough and manly) or boku (boyish and charming) in regular conversation. Some my co-workers even use ore at the office if they're making a joke or something.

What would be the correct pronoun for a business setting? My knowledge of the language is rudimentary at best (several semesters in High School); we only really learned watashi/atashi/boku (and were reprimanded if we used the wrong pronoun for our own gender).

In doubt use watashi, it's hard to go wrong with it. The more formal watakushi is also good but you need the keigo to match, and there is such a thing as excessive politeness, even in Japanese.

What does the use of 'ore' imply and what makes it rude? Is it a snobby way of referring to yourself?

I've never heard the word before this thread but I'm inclined to think it's a bit like "lads" in British English.

It's really... boastful. Cocky. Self-important. He's using it in sentences where he could just as easily get away without using any pronoun at all.

The closest thing I could think would be to conduct a business meeting in which you only describe your actions and refer to yourself in the third person, and then only as "Big Mark".

"Big Mark understands your position but thinks you're being a bit rude about all of this. Big Mark thinks we should cooperate more" etc, etc

It's not snobbish, it's cocky/boastful. "I'm hot shit" sort of way.

Why is it that way? I don't know the history, but the short answer is, because that's the way it is used.

Using 俺 (ore) sounds extremely arrogant, it's also a very amateur mistake to make (or maybe it was even deliberate). it's definitely not suitable for a business sense as it either conveys superiority or familiarity.

Awesome, thank you for this.

Thanks for that.

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