Japan's Signs, Not Quite Deciphered

n his piece titled "Into the Denki Furo," travel writer Jeff Greenwald reflected on a visit to a Japanese electric bath. After describing the practically transcendential experience, he ended the piece simply with the line "They are the Japanese." While I did not find myself conducting electricity on my visit to Japan in 2002, I can sympathize with Greenwald as I present a collection of signs I happened upon in the country.

Notice how the dog is grimacing and the owner is smiling. Found near the Kinugawa Onsen train station, Tochigi Prefecture.

One of the many signs on the doors of Tokyo subways and trains.

In the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons, when one of the characters receives a wallop of pain only possible in a cartoon, the viewer is spared from the blood. Why? The character always appears out of an explosion with bandages already wrapped on. Such is the case with this subway sign.

For some reason, I think this placard would look great on a t-shirt.

Who wouldn't want to gamble in a pachinko palace whose name translates to "God Parlor"?

This sign was found at the entrance to an underground garage.

To pander to Japanís fascination with superficial elements of foreign culture, some Tokyo noodle shops sport English names. But when the English skills of the pictured restaurant failed, the staff felt compelled to mix and match headshots of Western icons such as Malcom X and Che Guevara among the katakana listings of the menu selections. Should one then conclude that Malcolm X successfully doused his firebombed house with ample servings of ramen noodle soup? Or that Che used to kick off his day of guerilla warfare in Bolivia with a spicy bowl of kare udon (rice noodles in a curry broth)?

Text curling along the bottom says "There's a revolution going on. We got the thing."

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©2002-2006 Darrin DuFord. To reproduce content, request permission here.