How to Understand Silly Japanese Signs (Part 1)

Understanding another culture is never easy.  
Japan is no exception. 
They tried to help foreigners, though. Somewhere along the way, Japan starting making signs in English. That way, foreigners who couldn’t understand any of the three Japanese alphabets could still tour the country without any problem (that is, of course, only if the foreigners in question speak English, because I have yet to find a sign in German, French, Spanish, or really any other non-Asian or English variation).
But like we all know, Japanese signs are not always… let’s say “grammatically correct.” This might mean nothing coming from me, because I am very rarely grammatically correct (or so says every teacher I had in college). But Japanese signs are on a whole new level. Half of the time, I can sort of make out what they are trying to say, but then that other half? I am so confused! Just because it uses the alphabet I know doesn’t mean I can necessarily understand what it is supposed to mean.
So naturally, I did what any logical person would do.
I took lots of pictures. 
First things first:
No, this is not a sexist, anti-male sign. It was on the wall near the purikura machines (see my last post). Apparently a bunch of single men used hang around the machines looking creepy. Now they don’t because it’s illegal. That’s right, males without fellow company are not allowed to stand in this section of the arcade.  What a horrible punishment for lonely, single men.
A friend from the summer program actually got harassed by a police officer (until they discovered he wasn’t from Japan and didn’t speak Japanese. Then they let him go). This is just a sign showing who exactly is allowed to take the pictures together, based on sex and age.
What is a “Dust Box”? Honestly I have no idea. I was hoping I would eventually figure this one out, but no such luck. I’ve only seen this once, so I guess it’s not common. The picture in the back makes it look like it is some sort of trashcan. 
Perhaps it is a trashcan for dust?


This one is pretty self-explanatory. You can’t use your cellphones on the escalator because Japanese men are prone to using their camera phones to take pictures up girls skirts. 
I mean, I guess that happens all over the world, but Japan cracks down on it pretty hard. These signs are EVERYWHERE. 
(Ask my dad. In his day and a half in Tokyo, we found two of these signs)


Welcome Foreigner
Look at this wonderful, wholesome massage parlor. Doesn’t it? Yeah… Ryosuke didn’t think so either, He wouldn’t let me go in and check it out. He even felt embarrassed when I only took a picture of the sign. These shops are somewhat common in the crowded night life areas of Tokyo (especially Shinjuku and Roppongi)
 “Boys have to have clean skin.” 
I would laugh at this more, but Ryosuke kind of wanted to get it. According to him, these masks work very well. He recommends this product wholeheartedly (with not an ounce of sarcasm). Sometimes I worry. He uses more skin products than I do… In general Japanese people have excellent personal hygiene. But then again… his skin is so smooth…
 From what I understood, you wear this mask when you sleep, and in the morning, your skin is super-smooth.

Bump of Chicken
This is actually a very famous band in Japan. “Now Grace, whatever does ‘Bump of Chicken’ mean?” you might ask. Funny story. Actually, two funny stories because everyone I ask says something different.
One explanation is the term “Goosebumps” translated into Japanese means somewhere along the literal translation of “Chicken Bumps.” So the band tried to translate the Japanese name BACK into English (that happens a lot here) and “Bump of Chicken” is what they ended up with.
The other explanation that I hear often is that they wanted to say “the coward strikes back.” So they picked a name they thought sounded cool along those lines. Therefore they are the bump (hit, strike) of (the) chicken (coward).


If anyone knows the true roots behind their name, I am dying of curiosity! 
Please leave a comment with your suggestion/opinion! 
Watch your Babies
They might run off. Or crawl off. Watch them at ALL times…
(This sign was in the bathroom)
 Undies Club
No explanation necessary. Also, the only noticeable font on this sign is in English. I wonder why… 
But then again, I don’t really want to know. 
Close your legs
Japanese people take their seat positions seriously. Be careful to only take up your allotted spot, otherwise, people will stare at you disapprovingly. 
Ryosuke told me he can always tell foreigners and Japanese natives apart on the train simply by their seat position. Japanese natives sit comfortably, with their feet pushed slightly under the seat (so their knees form less than a 90 degree angle). They rarely talk (and if they do, they do so quietly), and usually sleep, listen to music, play on their phone, or read. Foreigners typically talk loudly, make eye contact with everyone, and push their legs slightly in the “isle” (the standing area in between the seats) so that their knees form an angle between 90 and 120.


I am by all means a foreigner on the trains. I don’t care what he says. I am taller than the typical Japanese person. A less than 90 degree angle hurts my knees… 

BOSS Coffee
This is actually a coffee brand. The sign itself isn’t amazing; I just find it amusing because I was born in 1992. And I have likewise “been the boss of them all since 1992”  
Pasturing Prohibition of Dog
I am sure this sign is supposed to prohibit walking dogs on the beach – because dogs don’t exactly graze (Pasturing means letting an animal graze in a pasture). Regardless, I think this is hilarious, and first read it as “Pasteurizing.” Then I got scared because the only reason they would honestly prohibit pasteurizing (“according to Wikipedia is is a process of heating a food, which is usually a liquid, to a specific temperature for a predefined length of time and then immediately cooling it after it is removed from the heat. This process slows spoilage due to microbial growth in the food.”) a dog on the beach is if someone has already tried that, and if so, that is disgusting. 
Warning. You will never be this awesome.
I have absolutely NO idea what this is advertising. Someone help me.
But then again… It’s a horse with sun glasses. I don’t know what it is supposed to be advertising, but I would buy it.
No Swimming.
No swimming at the beach. What kind of fiendish world is this?
(We actually tried swimming anyways, since we’re troublemakers…)

More pictures (hopefully funnier ones) to follow~

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele


One response to “How to Understand Silly Japanese Signs (Part 1)

  1. Hi Grace, loved the post! Thanks for sharing your funny signs, am looking forward to more!BTW, "dust box" probably is meant to be "dust bin" which is another term (maybe kind of an old-fashioned one) for garbage can.

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