Fun in Japan

October 16th, 2005

First, an ad for a gas station in Japan called “ENEOS.” Here is an ad for a car-related product which might seem reasonable in Japan, but which has quite obvious negative connotations in America:


To an American, the probably impression is that of a “lemon” car. This ad, however, is intended to express a sulfur-free gas–yellow for the sulfur (presumably), and the green outline and the leaf design to show environmentalism.

Next, from my early travels in Japan in the early 80’s, and from an era of much funnier T-shirts and sweaters:


It speaks for itself. Other T-shirt and sweater English from the time: “Retro-Dandy BIP MEN,” “Hysteric DOG,” and the ever-popular “SLURP! Is that your foot?” One shirt had a bit of English on it, with one part reading “Beat his monkey ass till it ain’t no fun.” We didn’t know at the time that these were Public Enemy lyrics, and so on a Japanese T-shirt they were hilarious.

And then there was this sign in a train station in Aomori which seemed to also be a political statement:


More of this coming very soon.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2005, The Lighter Side Tags: by
  1. October 17th, 2005 at 00:09 | #1

    That T-Shirt reminds me of something I saw a guy wearing in the ’80s. Remember when WW2 America Bomber Jackets were trendy here? I was on the train and saw one guy wearing one. On the back was a illustration of the Enola Gay and underneath it said, I kid you not, “The navigator of the B-29 carefully adjusts his sights before dropping the A-Bomb on Hiroshima”

  2. Luis
    October 17th, 2005 at 00:14 | #2

    Now, that’s definitely a strange one. You’ve got to wonder if it was bitingly ironic, historically demonstrative, or if they just plain didn’t get it.

    I often wondered as to how precisely the designers knew what the English they put on their products meant. Certainly the people who bought them didn’t have much of a clue; the “Hysteric DOG” sweater was worn by some lovely young women, who maybe thought that “hysteric” meant something like “popular,” and associated “dog” with puppies, not knowing the word’s connotations in English regarding lack of beauty. Which would agree with the hair & beauty salon I saw in Toyama named “Hair Salon Bow-wow.” I kid you not.

  3. October 17th, 2005 at 18:36 | #3

    But you know in Japanese, it’s common for people to say that someone looks like a dog (or cat)? So I think they didn’t know what the English connotation was.

    I seem to recall also some Japanese manufacturer was about to release a product in US (sorry I can’t remember exactly what it was) called “Woody” and at the last minute, someone finally told them what that meant in English, and they had to cancel the launch.

    Here’s another ironic story I read about. Someone was at the souvenir shop at the United Nations and bought a postcard of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, and on the back it said “Printed in Japan” I don’t know if that is true or not but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Most Japanese people I’ve shown that image to do not recognize it.

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