Let’s just not put any more white saviours in them stories if we can avoid it…
This one feels like it may actually be outside my wheelhouse. I’m primarily super white and definitely speak English and almost nothing else (have 6 months to finally learn Japanese).
On the other hand, I’m very familiar with translating Japanese and exporting cool japan from my manga studies, so I can at best use that example, but I would honestly defer to better minds who are more familiar with this space, as well as general opinion.
In reading translations of Japanese stories, they very frequently leave in words that are sort of tough to translate and then include translator’s notes at the end on what it’s sort of alluding to. Honorific is the common one, cultural stuff is usually left in there, like when they refer to doujinshi which doesn’t really have a one word translation. When they leave in translatable words (baka, nakama, sugoi) it’s kind of dumb. Like we definitely have words for that…
Anyways, if you’re not of the ethnic background or from the location you’re writing about, in some way you’re inevitably putting some sort of cultural lens on it, even without injecting the typical white-lead, so you would have to be careful around how you portray things and do your best to represent them. If a phrase really doesn’t have a translation, I think it’s better to leave it in as it stands and leave a footnote about it. It gives people an opportunity to better learn about and connect with that culture and helps bridge the gap.
If you turn onigiri into jelly donuts, you’re doing a great disservice to that culture, and people in the west may never know that onigiri are a thing or why a people might be so into rice as to seemingly have it with every dish. If doujinshi got translated, you wouldn’t be forcing people to have to go look up what it means and find out about the culture of self-publishing manga and conventions and so on.
It’s not your culture/language, so it’s kind of a tricky space (which I defer to others), but from a translation standpoint, you should let them stand. Fiction helps people build empathy after all.
Also, please never do the thing where the character speaks in English but then inexplicably throws in random phrases in their language to, I guess, represent that they speak that language? I’ve met literally nobody, in the most multicultural city in the world, who speaks like this:
“Hey, could you pass that wrench over to me, amigo ?”