I could write reams of blog entries on the humorous and often incongruous ways English is used in Japan. It is delightful to find these nuggets tucked away here and there in our neighborhood. It may just be my dry sense of humor, but they make me smile. Often just when I need a smile. Like the day last week when I sat down at a restaurant table upon which a sign had been placed: "NO SMORKING." It's a good thing I don't smork. The sign was all the more amusing to me because it was not hastily handwritten. It was an engraved plastic professional-looking sign. Glancing at the other tables around me, I noticed smorking was not allowed there either.
This afternoon while buying lunch at the boxed lunch shop, I went to throw away an item and found that the garbage can was full...of philosophical advice (Photo above). I don't typically think of reviewing my life before pitching something. Was the garbage can suggesting that some people are throwing away more important things...their own lives? For the Japanese eye, this type of thing is just ornamental design. No one actually reads it. For this English-speaking foreigner, however, it is makes one do a double-take to see the way that English is used.
Another example that made me do a double-take this past week was this restroom sign. No English was used in this case, but it might have been helpful. I have gotten fairly adept at the various and sundry ways that a public restroom is referred to in Japanese. I've also seen many interesting English versions in Japan: "Resting Room", "Hand Washing Room." Sometimes I confess that I am a bit bewildered altogether and simply stand back to observe which gender enters which room.
This sign was also a new one to me. It appears that this might be a restroom for pregnant men only? Perhaps I am easily confused. But what made it more confounding to me was that the women's restroom had a picture of what looked to me to be more of a man than a woman. Again, I step back in these cases and observe before proceeding. This action has spared me embarrassment in numerous cultural situations. More examples in the spirit of fun to come.