Signs in Japan: The funny, strange or just unusual

Signs in Japan

Signs in Japan

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 in Japan

sign for bad shit on trains, japan

Oh my god, it’s total mayhem!

shit that happens when walking while looking at phone, Japan

no selfie sticks sign 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…


Related: Going Hello Kitty Crazy at the Keio Plaza Hotel (Tokyo)


hat sign japan



Signs on Good Manners


Good manners sign in Japan

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 sign in Japan

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 sign Japan

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

no dog walking at temple sign Japan

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 sign in Japan

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


Related: How to see Tokyo with a Free Volunteer Guide



Dog Pee/Poo


no dog pee here sign Japan

no dog poo japan sign

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 sign

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 finely sign in JapanOops, sorry for destroying your toilet

Other miscellaneous signs


mooth coffee Japan sign

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 sign Japan

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 ??


Related: Why “Feel good” quotes represent everything that’s wrong with the world

Hope you enjoyed the signs!.

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Signs in Japan

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  1. 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 🙂

    1. Interesting thought.
      What, you don’t like dogs playing snooker? (who the hell did that and how did it catch on? One of life’s mysteries..)

  2. 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!

    1. Very true Anita! That one is one of my favorites as well.
      I think you could set up a website dedicated to just the signs in Japan.

    1. 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…

  3. 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!

    1. 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…

  4. 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….

  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. 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.

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

  8. 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!

    1. 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! 🙂

  9. 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

    1. 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.

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