Why Japan is building its own version of ChatGPT

Sep 17, 2023Global Alliance for Digital Governance

Some Japanese researchers feel that AI systems trained on foreign languages cannot grasp the intricacies of Japanese language and culture.

Japan is building its own versions of ChatGPT — the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot made by US firm OpenAI that became a worldwide sensation after it was unveiled just under a year ago.

The Japanese government and big technology firms such as NEC, Fujitsu and SoftBank are sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into creating AI systems that are based on the same underlying technology, known as large language models (LLMs), but that use the Japanese language, rather than translations of the English version.

“Current public LLMs, such as GPT, excel in English, but often fall short in Japanese due to differences in the alphabet system, limited data and other factors,” says Keisuke Sakaguchi, a researcher at Tohoku University in Japan who specializes in natural language processing.


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The Japanese supercomputer Fugaku has been put to work digesting Japanese texts in order to develop a Japanese version of ChatGPT.Credit: Kyodo News via Getty