I’ve always loved signs, especially foreign ones. Street signs, road signs, hotel lift signs, I’ve always found them a source of great entertainment, cultural insight and, occasionally, useful information.
Our recent trip to Japan didn’t disappoint on the sign front. Japan seemed to have a disproportionate amount of signs of varying types, from the highly amusing, to the mildly disconcerting, to the plain, old, baffling. Some of my personal favourites included:
- The seemingly sensible:
Nobody wants to be hit by an ash cloud to rival Iceland’s when they’re strolling down the street, it’s true, but it’s difficult to see the point of such a rule in a country where most pubs, coffee shops and restaurants allow smoking indoors. That said, I did enjoy the illustration.
2. The parable:
Ah, the age-old adage, an irritatingly smug tortoise with a satchel and tie glides serenely through the electronic gate while a stressed out bunny in a suit (and a woman’s handbag?) bashes into it without swiping properly and generally causes chaos.
There are several problems with this message. The tortoise is looking magnificently self-satisfied, but apparently hasn’t managed to put on any trousers. The bunny, however, is in all likelihood a master off time-efficiency, as he appears to be wearing a slip-on suit!
The biggest issue I have with this whole directive though, is that, as unflappably sedate as tortoises may be, they’re not that good at getting things done. Say what you like about rabbits, they know how to finish a job.
3. The unduly descriptive:
Anyone else feel that ‘Caution, deer may be dangerous.’ would have done?
4. The spoil-sport:
Not only is the rule jarringly unfair, there is also a serious issue with the relative size of the rabbit to the child on the sign.
5. The double take:
At first glance, an apparently innocuous convenience store but look closely at the sign and is that a..!
All in all, I very much enjoyed the signs in Japan, but I’m not sure I gained a lot of useful info from them. Admittedly, the ability to read Japanese might’ve helped, but then again do I really want to be taking advice from a walking, smoking cigarette?