Funny Mistranslations and Mis-spellings

customs declaration with fight number instead of flight number

The fun begins before you even arrive in Japan, with the official Japanese government customs declaration.

Now I'll be the first to admit that a 13 hour trip is a struggle, but I'm not sure I'd call it a "fight".

If it's good enough for the government then how about a bank? 

I'm not sure what they're trying to say, but I'm sure they probably attracted a lot more male customers.

bank sign with woman saying I feel you
bank sign advertising no loan

Here's another bank's answer to the economic slump which has plagued Japan since 1990 - the "no loan".

Yes sir, I'm sure customers are falling over themselves to apply for money and be told that they'll be given "no loan".

Who could resist, with that cute little kitty cat on the sign?   What could be more relevant than a kitty cat?

Here's another innovative way to attract customers, this time at a service station - an upside down "out" sign.   Maybe they think that putting it upside down reverses its meaning, and people will come in.

Actually this sign in the city of Shizuoka where my cousin lives really represents a lost opportunity.   Within a short distance another service station had another upside down sign, this time an "in" sign!   I kid you not!   I regret now that I didn't take the time to stop and take a photo.

upside down out sign at gas station
sign advertising what looks like the ACB kindergarten

OK, my Japanese is even worse than their English, but is this really a sign advertising a kindergarten which teaches young children their ACBs instead of their ABCs?

Could this be why the Japanese are so bad at English?

Actually, no - in Japanese the name of this school is "A-shi-be", so the sign is actually a deliberately amusing reference.

Yes sir, I'm sure As I said, English is actually very fashionable in Japan, and your first glance at this sign on a building in Tokyo's downtown might make you think that Japanese youth have also taken to "tagging" buildings with graffiti.   But come closer and you'll see that this isn't some freehand effort, it's a mass-produced sticker!   Even rebellious individualism is mass-produced here!

a graffiti sticker
apparently, passports are burnable rubbish

If that's one insight into the Japanese psyche, then I was even more surprised to find examples of Japanese humor which are every bit as satirical and absurdist as anything from the West.

You might at first think that "fruit" and "meat" are strange things to classify as burnable rubbish, but in fact Japanese do burn almost anything they can, regardless of how polluting it is.   However, the real joke here is that your passport is also classified as rubbish.   Presumably, the writer expects you to enjoy Japan so much that you won't want to leave.

This hilarious effort was in the window of a children's clothing store in a pedestrian mall in Hiroshima.   The Japanese dote on children, so the sentiment expressed here certainly doesn't fit the image of the traditional Japanese.   And the children's actions in the picture don't fit the image either.

I suspect, however, that most Japanese don't know what "the finger" gesture means - maybe that's what makes this sign so subversive.

You can also look at another example of gentle Japanese humor.

children will be sold as slaves

OK, here's the grand finale, courtesy of a tourist brochure in Kyoto.   And who could possibly resist the "newest attraction that is not to be missed ... the chance to experience Yuzen dying firsthand"!   Now I'm all for trying things at least once, but I think that dying is one experience I'll pass on as long as I can!

But wait, there's more!   In Kyoto you also have the opportunity to visit the Honen-in temple, which is so utterly exclusive that "it is open to the public only"!   Man, what a lucky break, I think I'm a member of the public!   Just spare a thought for those miserable people who aren't members of the public and aren't allowed to visit the temple - poor souls.

experience Yuzen dying firsthand & a place open to the public only
Just when you thought the English couldn't get worse, get ready for the Fashionable but Bad English page, and the Japanese Restaurant page.