Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

Japanese to English – Lost in Translation | April 2, 2010

I thought about what would be the best topic to kick off the blog with, and I decided that I would start with the first barrier that stands in the way of tourists during their Japan travel:

The Japanese language.

Despite numerous accusations regarding unfriendly locals, the Japanese are eager to welcome tourists and foreigners who are willing to learn and get involved in the Japanese culture and way of life. One of the steps taken by the Japanese federal/local governments and businesses is translating many of the signs to English. These include signs at train stations, parks, street signs, restaurants, various tourist attractions, and more.

Albeit their sincere efforts, important messages (everything is important; the Japanese take pride in creating a harmonious living environment through etiquette laws) get lost in translation, or at least end up being hysterically funny. Sometimes it seems (unjustifiably) they are too cheap to invest in someone who does it right, though in most cases even Google Translate would do a better job. Although this doesn’t have to do much with smart or budget travel, it’s certainly amusing. I think I will let the photos do the talking:

The first one is self-explanatory:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 1

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #1

This one is at the exit of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. It’s simply to make sure the lines don’t get overcrowded by people who forget to move along, but in English it comes across somewhat rude:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 2

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #2

You will probably come across numerous nature paths and rope-ways during your travels in Japan, unless you’re sticking to the karaoke parlors in Tokyo. This following sign is to encourage exhausted hikers by stating that they have very little walking left (“one last breath”) until they reach the rope-way and see beautiful scenery:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 3

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #3

Last but not least, a Japanese restaurant trying to be hip…in vain:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 4

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #4


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