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
Oh my god, it’s total mayhem!
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…
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Signs on Good Manners
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.
Signs in Temples
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Other miscellaneous signs
Hope you enjoyed the signs!.
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Interesting post, but you missed the mark on a number of them, as is to be expected if you can’t read the language. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Japan for a while, so I’ll point out a couple of the ones you didn’t get due to the lack of English.
““Look, that’s our reflection”. Stupid kids.” Actually, this is a sign asking people not to throw empty cans or garbage bags into the river so as to keep it clean for the kids. Not so stupid after all. This is similar to the last picture of the two children you assumed liked crushing cans, which again is asking people not go throw away empty cans and dispose of them correctly. Children are often used to emotionally blackmail people here, I suppose.
The one which made me laugh was the “ladyboys” theatre production of Romeo and Juliet. You were actually completely backwards about this, as it is a famous Osaka-based acting troupe called Takarazuka which is comprised of only female actors who play all the parts, male and female (hey, it used to be all male in Shakespeare’s day, so why not?). They are insanely popular with many women, actually, and very highly regarded.
Hope this helps!
I didn’t actually miss the mark, I was just having fun with the post. They weren’t meant to be accurate descriptions of the meaning of the signs 😉 But I appreciate you shedding light on them, always interesting to receive helpful feedback. And that’s particularly interesting about the female-only Takarazuka troupe, never heard of that anywhere.
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Japanese are very smart people, there is no doubt in that and by making such kinds of signs they want to keep the signs interesting for the people so they don’t always see the usual boring signs.
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These signs are definitely funny. My partner and I want to visit Japan at least once to see all the beautiful places there. And after watching these clips we are dying to visit it!
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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.
japanese have diverse and beautiful culture along with this their culture is so rich…. 🙂
Japan is fun to visit because of the culture and the unusual stuff they have.
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 🙂
What, you don’t like dogs playing snooker? (who the hell did that and how did it catch on? One of life’s mysteries..)
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!
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.
Interesting signs and very funny commentary by you 🙂 the toilet one’s are hilarious.
Thanks Gilda. Who said toilet humor was dead 🙂
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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.
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…
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!
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…
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….
Yes, I can only imagine what the Aussies would do to them….
Very funny, I enjoyed this post. I like the first one with the emergency button, typical Japanese cartoon style. They do that well.
That’s one of my favorites as well!
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.
Thanks for the visual Paula. I really needed that 😉
The construction sign reading: “TOKYO, the world’s safest place giving you the greatest relief” …. That building wasn’t a toilet was it?
Ha! You never know!
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!
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! 🙂
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, 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.