Signs in Japan: The funny, strange or just unusual

Japan signs

We spent 7 weeks in Japan and one of the things that never bored us were Japanese signs. Japanese signs are unique in their design, often using cartoon figures and sometimes incorporating elements of anime (the animation used in Japanese comic books). They’re cute, colourful and often pretty funny. They’re also a reflection of modern Japanese society and culture.

Here are a bunch of signs that we photographed during our time in Japan.


Various signs in train stations

sign for emergency button on trains

sign for bad shit on trins, japan

Oh my god, it’s total mayhem!

shit that happens when walking while looking at phone, Japan

no selfie sticks Tokyo

I like the additional comment near the bottom “Other long objects, including fishing rods, skis, archery bows, and recording equipment, may be harzardous“. Well, I’m sorry, that’s a pretty thorough list but how about satellite dishes, tv antennas, large cellos, javelins, or my medieval jousting lance? I’m just saying they could be a lot more thorough…

hat sign japan


Signs on Good Manners

Good manners 1

Don’t shush me little hat man. Nobody likes a busybody, get a life and get rid of that bow tie, nobody likes pompous assholes who wear bow ties. I also don’t like people who wear fedoras or people that whistle loudly walking down the street. Pet peeves of mine.

Good manners 2

In most places if you started a “Good Manner Project” you would be laughed at. Not in Japan.


Construction Signs

construction sign in Tokyo

Even the construction guys have cute little mascots.

construction sign in Japan

I have no idea what the above sign means…


Signs in Temples

No Pokemon Go

I never heard of Pokemon Go but apparently you’re not allowed to play it in a temple.

no dog walking at temple

You also can’t walk your dog in a temple, you have to carry it. Good luck if you have a 300 lb St. Bernard.

No scribling here

I was going to graffiti that whole damn wall. Then I saw the sign. I guess I won’t be doing it…


Dog Pee/Poo

no dog pee here

no dog poo japan

Wow, that’s a big turd for a little dog.

River safety

sign at river, kyotoMaybe something to do with flooding?
sign at river, kyoto (2)
“Look, that’s our reflection”. Stupid kids.

Toilet signs

multi purpose bathroom japan

Multi Purpose bathrooms. I used to think that bathroom options were limited to #1 and #2. Not so in Japan where you can also apply makeup.

use toilet finelyI’m sorry, I may have just destroyed your toilet with my bowel movements.

Other miscellaneous signs

mooth coffee Japan

I love that mooth coffee. The moother the better I say.
sexy cartoon girls japan

Drinking these energy drinks has transformed these ordinary girls into miniskirt-wearing supertramps. But their hearts are in the right place.

romeo and juliet Japanese version

Not for me. Reminds me of a night in Bangkok a very, very long time ago with a ladyboy before I knew what a ladyboy is. Now I know…

don't feed the pigeons

Nobody likes a self-righteous pigeon.


restaurant sign in Japan

I like the hot tofu but I prefer the cold tofu. Is there any way that can be done? Yes? Oh great!!

vending machine selling umbrellas in JapanSign for an umbrella vending machine. They think of everything in Japan.
bad people crushing cans, JapanI don’t know. The boy and girl look mean and maybe they like to crush soda cans ??

Hope you enjoyed the signs!


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  1. Funny signs! I especially love the selfie stick one. I have to admit l sometime wish something horrible on people that insist on shoving it in my eye :-). Did you notice the umbrella depository on the side walk in Shibuya? I guess it’s because they’re so cheap :-). I also love the pigeon one..haha
    Kemkem recently posted…Favorite Yummy Nigerian Snacks of All Time!My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Kemkem, I didn’t know you had so much violence in that heart of yours! 🙂
      No, didn’t notice the umbrella depository, there were so many people I probably just couldn’t see it.
      Yes, the pigeon sign. I remember one morning walking to work and seeing some pigeons peeking at some vomit on the ground. Ugg. I’ve never been able to look at them the same way again.

  2. Hilarious! In any other country these signs would receive a raised eyebrow and ridicule. But in Japan, they just seem totally right. Love that it’s advisable not to extend your archery bows on platforms, must remember that next time I’m there. And just love the “Are your manners in good shape”. It obviously works, Japan has to be one of the politest societies. It does however say something rather sad about society in general that signs have to be put up banning selfie sticks and pokemon go (yes, you’re far better off not having heard of that one!). I have yet to succumb to either, and proud of it 🙂 Great post, great laugh, thanks!
    Heather Cole recently posted…Air Kenya review – catching the bus, bush styleMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Japan is definitely polite and they work very hard at it…sometimes I wondered if it was genuine or state sponsored (if you know what I mean). For sure though that there politeness is also a reflection on themselves and they very much pride themselves on being polite and helpful.
      Pokemon Go must be a big thing, saw that sign it quite a lot of temples. Selfie sticks – the bane of our existance! 🙂

  3. The construction sign reading: “TOKYO, the world’s safest place giving you the greatest relief” …. That building wasn’t a toilet was it?

  4. Holy cow! Applying makeup is okay in the restroom…. who would have guessed… though, germs from the toliets flushing and landing on my lipstick isn’t a souvenir I want to take home lol.
    Paula Wheeler recently posted…The Arm Chair TravelerMy Profile

  5. Very funny, I enjoyed this post. I like the first one with the emergency button, typical Japanese cartoon style. They do that well.

  6. lol. What can I say? All very Japanese. The Romeo and Juliet one is interesting, Romeo is a boy being a girl pretending to be a boy. I think.

    The good manners project? I would LOVE them to try that in Australia. I can only imagine the abuse they’d cop. on second thoughts….
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  7. Haha, great collection Frank! Gotta say those loud talkers on the metro look pretty anglicized to me…we’re a noisy bunch, darn it! I haven’t been to Japan but the Japanese people I’ve run across in my travels have always been polite and considerate…I love that!
    Rebecca recently posted…Death Valley Road Trip – Two Nights in Death ValleyMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Actually you’re right Rebecca – quite a lot of the culprits we saw in Japanese ads looked like foreigners. This wasn’t the only one. I guess we weren’t born with the Good Manners gene…
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  8. Wow these are really… er… expressive aren’t they?! I particularly like the selfie-stick one and the umbrella vending poster where you’re told you will need help LOL.
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    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      The selfie stick seems like everyone’s favorite…I couldn’t figure out what the umbrella vending machine sign meant until Lissette explained it. I think women are more patient and better able to understand stuff like that then men…
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  9. Interesting signs and very funny commentary by you 🙂 the toilet one’s are hilarious.
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  10. I had to go through your post twice as the signs were so fun to read and try to figure out WTH some of them meant! Still laughing at the sign with the guy falling to his death on the train tracks (I know, I’m kind of sick) with the thought cloud over his head and the train all bug-eyed. Do you think that that was his wife tripping him? In an expensive country like Japan, it seems to me you figured out a great way to get some free entertainment!
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  11. I like these style of posters and signs. If I lived in one place I would photograph some of them and frame them – I think they would make great wall art and much more interesting than dogs playing snooker or James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe in a bar art work, although they are so beyond bad these days that they would look rather good on a wall as well 🙂
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  12. Japan is fun to visit because of the culture and the unusual stuff they have.

  13. mikal shone says:

    japanese have diverse and beautiful culture along with this their culture is so rich…. 🙂

  14. I’m glad you have shared this lovely collection of signs. after seeing the Japanese sign, it amazes me how perfectly they are crafted with care & love and make them little funny too.

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated!


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