At first glance, it would often seem that we’re surrounded by English here in Japan. Sometimes referred to as Japlish or Engrish, a term which arose from the ambiguity between the “l” and “r” sounds in spoken Japanese, it appears on everything from poorly translated signs to bizarre t-shirt slogans. Looking for examples can be hugely entertaining and I’ve been known to whip out pen and paper on the train, at school and even in church to write down some of the best ones!
Examples can be found even at home. The bottom of one of my frying pans has this interesting quote, “The wonderful time where there are a wonderful cooking and a pleasant conversation and peaceful music.” The bags from our local bakery are really quite poetic. They say, “Women baking bread on Sunday With flour dusted cheeks They push up their sleeves And at the breadboard knead With strong fingers, hands and bodies. Warm and yeasty, the kitchen is Filled with promise.”
T-shirts are the most entertaining, though, and they are absolutely everywhere. Sometimes, even though the message seems rather garbled, it’s possible to find some meaning in what they say. For example, “Float a ship on the sea and the foreign country which wants to go” and “Love is walking hand in hand We is sharing your popcorn” caught my fancy and “BePunctual A special delivery mailbox Set one’s watch” seemed to be trying to say something. T-shirts worn by little girls and grown women often sport sayings such as “Shine of Treasure” and “Special Love Magic” but I wonder what message the wearers are trying to give when they wear things like “The secret of deliciousness” and “Delicious Flavor Source” blazed across their bosoms! I suspect that they often have no idea what the slogan means. After all, did the young lady wearing the “Little Miss Jailbait” t-shirt really mean to give that impression of herself? Some are much worse. In fact, when Matt and Robin were here, they saw one that Matt wouldn’t repeat in my presence and Richard has seen at least one that I wouldn’t print here!
Spelling mistakes are not uncommon. For example, one of the children at church was seen wearing “Texas Burguer Favorite Cheese” across the back of his shirt and I had to write down “Right Shine in the Nught for you to tell you that dream” when I saw it on the back of a sweatshirt on the train platform!
Perhaps the funniest examples are the ones where it seems like someone has just opened a dictionary, chosen words at random and strung them together in no particular order. “Love You Message to Keep Brilliant My Head” is one such example but my absolute favourite is “fascinating nude makes a stomach sold presently”! What do you make of that?
Signs are fun too. Here a few of my favourites. The first one is in our local train station and, after looking at it many times, I actually do understand what it’s trying to say!
This one’s in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. We never did figure out whether or not it was okay to walk down that path!
This one, on the grounds of a temple at Kamakura, is my all time favorite. I have no idea about it either! There was no water anywhere in the vicinity!
Oh, how I love Japan!