I am hoping that most of these can be output using UTF-8 Unicode, will engines understand that and index it properly? The translation is costing an arm and a leg so I want to be sure that it gets indexed.
It may be coming to the time that UTF-8 is acceptable in Asia. Google's Japanese and Chinese sites both use UTF-8 encoding themselves, so that's a good sign. All modern browsers can handle UTF-8 in China and Japan.
However, there has been a long standing resistance to UTF-8 in China and Japan due to problems with legacy software. Web people in Japan still tell me that it's safer not to use UTF-8. In the top Chinese portals and SEs they still use GB2312.
With a Japanese site I'd say UTF-8 should be no problem. There are plenty of popular sites using this encoding in Japan and I haven't heard of any problems recently.
In China it may be a different story. Even with the world's 2nd largest online population I get the feeling that there is a lot more legacy software in the older Internet cafes and less affluent areas. Maybe some of our members in China could update us on the state of UTF-8 in China?
one more point; if you are generating correspondence in jp/zh (e.g. auto-responder emails etc.) beware using UTF! hotmail accounts (and sometimes other webmail) cannot handle utf8 and while many browsers can a lot of windows email clients in japan cannot. better to stick with shift-jis in japan for email.
(and this will probably NOT come as a shock to those have read my babble...)
Korea is wwwwwwwwwwwwwayyyyyyy very very very much stuck in EUC-KR and looks to be for sometime. UTF8 will mess up most korean sites but good.
still...even if you did do EUC-KR for the korean version, SEO indexing is just not as important in the standard SEO sense as in other countries (not disregarding it, but just know that what you get from it is much different here). Other methods are more effective and require local presence.