Japenglish

English, but not as we know it.

Deep within the heart of Mt. Fuji, there lies a man. A giant man, bound by chains. Bubbling lava flows dangerously close, whilst hundreds of shiny metal heaters train their orange glow on him. The scorching, immeasurable heat causes him to sweat profusely. Day in and day out, small men in funny suits swarm around him, collecting his sweat in giant vats. The brilliant sunlight and the cool, fresh mountain air of the outside world are unknown to him. He knows only the dim, cramped cauldron of endless heat. His only refuge is the lukewarm sugar water consistently pumped into his mouth via a giant straw from a humming machine. His name is Pocari. This is his story.

And don’t even get me started on this one:

It’s widely known that Japan is home to some very strange English. Signs, products, advertisements, and more are attempted in English, only to come out in, well, something that isn’t quite actually English. I mean it’s English, but not as we know it. Sometimes it’s meant to be informative for foreigners, and sometimes it’s just there to be trendy. Japanese is just such a completely different language that direct translations don’t exist (for most things), and when you find something that more or less directly translates, it’s used in different contexts than what would be it’s English counterpart. I’ve had a number of Japanese people ask me how to say “itadakimasu” in English, for example. There is no cultural precedent for us having a word for this in English. Maybe you could say it means, “I will receive,” but it’s commonly used before a meal. When do you ever say this right before you dig in? From this example, you could say it means something more like, “thank you for the food,” which in this case may be true, but then there are its other uses. What about when you receive a gift? Surely, you wouldn’t say, “thank you for the food” if you weren’t receiving any food. So back to “I will receive,” we go. But then you also can’t use it for non-physical things, like advice. This leaves the translation to being something more contextual-based, rather than something that’s able to be directly translated. And this is just one word. Imagine the whole language.

But for this, I am thankful. Partially. It’s a blessing and a curse. I have a really hard time learning Japanese, but the silly English I find is highly amusing. Over the course my time here, I have gathered many examples of this awkward and funny English. It’s a bit of a hobby of mine. Sharing is caring, so here we go:

I took this picture two years ago. I still don’t understand what it’s for.
Whatever floats your – wait, no. Sorry, that’s not allowed.
Snacks sure are great. The best, really. Snacks are beautiful, kind and everybody loves them.
Ah, the infamous cheese sand. It’s made of… what, again?

WHAT TIME IS IT?!:

So this is the drug sto- wait a second. Something’s not right here. Is this the drug store or a clothing store? A clothing store owned by the drug store, perhaps?
Hey, that’s a nice… uhh, yeah.

Not to be confused with:

See, this is why recycling is important. I think?
Oof.
“Is it cold?”
“Well…”
Umm, yes. Thank you. I suppose I will… do that thing you said. The sensation of taste will be enjoyed. Thank you, Okayama.
You won’t find any style here.
Not in this beer.
Close.
And…?
…?
I guess we’ll never know.
Another store that can’t decide what it is.
Is this… heterophobia?
Not even sure how to fix this one.
At least they actually sell baggage.
Interesting choice of name for a coffee shop.
And it was all going so well up until the end there.
I’d like a little bit of an explanation, to be honest.

Thus concludes the best of my collection so far. I actually have trouble believing how often I see English on clothes and wonder, “why does that shirt say that?” You would think that maybe they would get a native speaker, or someone more familiar with English to at least spell check these things before they decide to run with them. But apparently the demand is not high enough to be of any concern. It would be difficult to find someone to do such a small job, and most Japanese people wouldn’t understand it either way. A dreadful situation, really. But fortunately, it gives me a golden opportunity. Maybe every once in a while I’ll share some new ones I find.

Author: Down Here on Earth

I am an English teacher, living abroad, with a keen interest in society, culture, religion and philosophy. My education involved large amounts of research, reading, and writing in these topics. With the skills I have honed, I plan on sharing my knowledge and perspective through this blog.

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