Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Spectacular Japanese Signs you have to see

Signs in Japan are nothing short of spectacular. Sometimes spectacularly bad. I think a good sign communicates an unambiguous message. The truly awful ones in Japan, and there are an impressive number and variety of them, all leave much room for interpretation. Here are two of the truly great signs followed by the most spectacularly awful sign I may have ever seen.

The Inscrutable Sign
Its meaning was the subject of much conversation. If you can provide a convincing interpretation of what the sign means, I have a green tea KitKat candy bar I'll send to you as a reward. We are still puzzling it out ourselves.

In case you have difficulty reading the sign as an image, here's the text:
Please do not see it while drinking drink. The PET bottle caps it and put it in a bag, and please carry it. Please see the thing which the chief does not have after finishing drinking.

And here is the sign in context, on a vending machine near a rest area on the grounds of Nijo castle in Kyoto.
And, just in case you come away thinking that only the dog-related signs in Japan are clear, here's one to dispel that notion:

To me, it looks like a dog giving a pair of cats a lecture about garbage, but really, your guess is as good as mine!


Psychgrad said...

My guess is that sign means that you shouldn't stay around drinking your drink. I'm not sure about this first part though. I'm pretty sure the second part means to tell the owner if the machine needs to be refilled.

Anonymous said...

Those are great, hehe!
I'm thinking that the odd sign re: drinks means that you shouldn't drink it in the castle and if you carry it with you to keep the bottle cap on?
And the last dog sign might be telling people to clean up after their pets.
Very entertaining either way!

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

I do love travel posts! These are great slice-of-life photos from Japan. I'll go with Psychgrad's guess on the first half (don't stand and drink in front of the machine) but I have no CLUE about the second half. Just goes to show that on-line translation programs only work so well...

Field Notes said...

Thanks for your creative ideas!

Our best guess it that the first part means you're not supposed to walk around the castle grounds drinking your drink.

The second part we are unsure of.. especially the "thing which the chief doe not have"!

But, I think it means you're supposed to put the cap back on the bottle when you're finished, put it in a plastic bag, carry it with you, and then go on to see the rest of the castle grounds or maybe you're supposed to cap and bag it then find a garbage can (which you won't be able to find in the castle itself) and put in there when you're done.

Who knows!

BUt, I think I owe you a green tea KitKat bar SuzyQJenn =D

Juliet said...

The monkey pictures are amazing. But what I really need is the orange dog paw print sign. It needs to be hanging around my dog's neck so that when people approach and pet (all the time) I am not wrestling him to the ground to keep all clothing safe.

Field Notes said...

Hey Juliet! What you *really* need is a blaze orange jacket for him with that silk screened on the back!

Linc Strake said...

I agree that SuzyQJenn deserves the kit kat. (I am writing this a year and a half after the original entry. Did anyone get the kit kat?)

The vending machine sign says (loosely translated) that you may not tour the castle while drinking a beverage. If you have a sealable container, you can stow it in your bag and tour the castle. But if your container is not sealable, you must first finish your drink before touring the castle.

In the original Japanese, there is no mention of a "chief". My guess is that the second use of the Japanese word "kyappu" in the sign (which was intended to mean "cap", as in bottle cap) was mistranslated as "captain" (hence chief), another valid translation of that word.

The sign with the dog instructing the cats says that cleanup of doo-doo is the responsibility of the pet owner.

SuzyQJenn did a great job sussing out the meanings of these signs. Definitely a kit kat worthy performance. Or at least a Suzy Q. (Sorry, had to do it.)