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?
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?
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:
I have just returned from two-and-a half wonderful, eye-opening weeks in Japan. It was the first time I was ever in a country where I knew nothing of the language except for a few standard phrases: good morning, hello, goodbye, please, thank you. Obviously, I could not read the writing, and very little was translated into English. Not many people in Japan speak English, but I managed with gestures.
The country is immaculate. No garbage cans are on the streets, even in the largest cities; people take their trash with them. I did not see one food wrapper or cigarette butt on the streets or sidewalks. (It’s considered impolite for people to eat as they walk.) I saw zero graffiti. Children are taught at a very young age to take pride in their country, to take care of it.
The transportation systems are superb, and don’t get me started on the toilets. Not one unheated seat, no matter where I was: in hotels, department stores, subway stations, a power plant. And all the bathrooms were clean. Imagine that!
Sayonara implies sadness in parting, and that was the appropriate word for my feelings when I left Japan. I long to return. But first I have to get over my monumental jet lag.