31 May 2012


I've noticed a big difference between signs here and signs back home. I'm not talking about the kind of sign where you are contemplating heading out to the pub for the night but you are too poor when lo and behold a €20 note blows up onto your doorstep in front of you as you are entering your house. (This actually happened to me. It was a great night!) I am speaking about the kind of signs that decorate the roads warning people not to litter, to clean up after their dogs, or those that indicate which bathroom belongs to which sex. In Ireland, and in most other European countries I've visited, unwanted actions are generally conveyed by drawing an outline of said unwanted action and putting a red line over it. For example:

Fairly standard. (And not very imaginitive might I add). The kind of thing you might see on a promenade located next to some free pooper scooper bags. However, I don't think "fairly standard" would cut it for the Japanese. Oh no! They have taken their love of all things kawaii (cute) to a new level and even public information signs are home to a cast of cutesy, smiley, colourful characters informing you, warning you, or showing you the way. Observe:

At least this little guy has the decency to look guilty

Whereas this dog just looks disgusted

These fellas advertise a car park. Drive your turtle in here rabbit people!

This poster asks that you keep the children's area inside clean (as far as I can tell)

Here's the local electricity fairy flying to the aid of a child about to be electrocuted

A warning to the cartoon children living in the area to be careful on the roads

Even the toilet signs are more imaginitive than our bog standard outline of a man or woman shape. Overall I'd have to say that I much prefer Japan's method of sign posting. Adorable characters, lots of colour, and they really catch the eye. What's not to love? They can even make painful bodily functions seem happy and fun:

This is on a poster for constipation medicine in the window of a pharmacy in my area.
Aside from Mr. Hanky this may be the first happy poo I've ever seen

There are times though when they get the English wrong. But in some ways this is still kind of cute. If they had covered the sign in wide-eyed, cuddly animals and smiley poos I might not have even noticed.


  1. Another great blog entry, and I'm not even being sarcastic! One thing though, perhaps there was some sort of desert sorceress located at or near the café?

    1. Very likely. I have noticed an eerie fog and strange noises coming from there on the full moon. And my sandwich spoke to me. (I don't speak enough Japanese to know what it said so I ate it anyway).


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Maira Gall