Tag Archives: Japan

Some Japanese Car Models

Happiness for me would be walking in a large parking lot in Japan, looking at the various model names of cars. By far, Toyotas are the most commonly seen cars there, but the familiar model names here in America, such as Camry and Avalon, are missing in Japan. Here are some names for you to ponder; not all are on Toyotas:


This last one is definitely not a Corvette. On our previous trip to Japan I was captivated by two other models, the VITZ and the JIXY. I often wonder who comes up with these names; every time I see a Nissan VERSA here, I imagine it parked in a garage next to a Nissan VICE. Why not?

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Japanese Signs, Continued

My fear is that people will think I am ridiculing the Japanese by posting these signs. As a former teacher of English as a Second Language, I am well aware of how difficult it is to learn English. The irregular spelling alone is enough to discourage anyone. If anything, my reason for posting these signs is to (1) acknowledge that difficulty, (2) to show my own puzzlement by a culture that I love but whose nuances I largely do not understand, and (3) to marvel at anyone who learns to speak and write Japanese. Three different registers/styles of writing and speaking exist, depending on whom you are speaking or writing to. The characters number in the many, many thousands. Almost everything in the Japanese language leaves me “lost in translation.” My admiration for those who master it is enormous. That said, here are three more signs.

I took all these photos in Osaka, a city very different from any other I experienced in Japan. It’s known for food; the natives are reputed to eat out six times a week. The streets with restaurants and food stalls was mobbed.

The “NY Style Monster Pallet” sign flummoxed me for a minute. Then I remembered that R and L are sounds very difficult for Japanese to distinguish. Aha! It’s a parfait.

Quark is a store that sells real watches. As opposed to unreal watches? I suspect they are replicas of high-end brands.

And my favorite: Grilled Hormone. I was stymied. Is it estrogen? Testosterone? A thyroid factor? Look at the picture—it’s pieces of something. I’m thinking that something might be pieces of a gland that secretes a hormone. Your guess is as good as mine. Hungry?

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A Few Japanese Signs

Not many people in Japan speak English, so their signs sometimes gave me pause. Often, it seemed as if any two or three words chosen at random from an English dictionary would suffice to name something.

This was a small hotel in Arashiyama, where we went to see a magnificent and enormous bamboo grove. I still wonder what went on inside that pension.


At one entrance to our hotel in Okayama we were greeted by this holiday sign. It did make me smile.


In Tokyo, we came across this restaurant. Some places that serve only horsemeat have photos or drawings of horses outside to enlighten the tourist. No images of raccoons were seen here. I’m still wondering. Roadkill sushi?


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Sometimes a Euphemism is Called For

I saw many interesting signs on our recent trip to Japan. At times it appeared people used an English dictionary and juxtaposed any two random words. I’ll show you some of those signs soon.

One morning at the breakfast buffet in Okayama (all hotels have both Western and Japanese food to choose from), I came across the following dish:


You can see by the gravy marks on the side of the dish that some people found it irresistible. I eat just about everything, but I hurried past this offering. I like salt. I like squid. Guts? Not so much. Maybe I would have called it Salted Squid Innards. Not much better. Any suggestions?

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Back From Japan

My husband and I just returned from almost three weeks in Japan on our own. It was our second trip there in a year and a half. The first time, we went for cherry blossom time, and we knew we wanted to return to see the fall  foliage. I grew up in New York, have visited our son and DIL in Maine, and seen summer turn to autumn many times—but never have I seen colors like these, combined with the magnificent designs of Japanese gardens. I hope you enjoy these photographs. Just know that no camera can do justice to the colors you see in person. (I took these pictures in Kyoto and Kanazawa.)IMG_E1510.jpgIMG_E1538.jpgIMG_E1260.jpg


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Hello, Hello!



The focus of my blog is the English language, but the gestures we use are a strong form of communication in addition to the words we speak. As Americans we need to understand that gestures we take for granted may have very different and sometimes offensive meanings in other cultures. I know many of my readers live in other countries, and you, too, need to be aware that everyday gestures in your society might be interpreted differently around the world.

I was recently in Japan and quickly learned to slightly bow my head when acknowledging others. In Asia, kissing or touching strangers is a no-no, while in America we very often shake hands or even—OMG!—kiss: a quick peck on the cheek or the good-old-American air kiss.

In Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, greet others by pressing your palms together and bowing. Be prepared in Tibet: you may well be greeted by others sticking their tongues out at you.

In New Zealand, if you meet Maoris, you might be greeted with a nose rub on the forehead. In Rio de Janeiro, three cheek kisses are obligatory, but in São Paulo, one kiss will do the trick. Same country, different custom.

French kissing in France is variously interpreted, and not as it is in the U.S: When visiting Nantes, expect four kisses, but only two in Toulouse, and a measly one in Brest. Be sure to make a quiet smooching sound, but do not let your lips touch another’s cheek.

Among strangers, a handshake is common in most of Northern Europe, while in Russia you might be brought to your knees by a more-than-firm handshake. In India, handshakes between men are quite the opposite: make them limp, and never shake hands with a member of the opposite sex. To greet an elder male in India, bend down and touch his feet.

Now you know.


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Last Signs From Japan

I can’t say I’ve saved the best for last, but these are the only two remaining funny signs I haven’t yet posted. So say “Sayonara” to people’s attempts to master English—with perhaps not quite possessing a full understanding of that language. Whatever they have done, it’s better than any attempt at Japanese on my part would have been.

I think the backwards R is a nice touch:


And here is a bit of trilingualism: native Japanese speakers creating a sign using both French and English. A for effort:

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