Funny English Translations in Japan and thoughts about English

“The Coke of food for specified health use” – that is probably the funniest translation mismatch I could find in Japan. But it is not the only one… how would you relate to the following time of opening of a spa, this is in a premium Osaka hotel:

In case you missed the sign, the spa is open from 15:00 to 01:00 which is the 25th hour of the day.

I actually find it charming that in many Japanease places, most people would not speak good English. The bad English translations actually make sense if you are not a native English speaker… I find English as a very difficult langauge, with lotsof exception rukes, shallow and non spiritual, one that would almost fit with machine communication and not with normal human beings. Maybe that it what makes it so dominant world wide? Compare it to Hebrew, or to any other semitic language (Arabic,Aserian etc) – in those languages each and every word is made of a root, in the case of Hebrew, the root is made of 3 or 4 letters. Thus each word is part of a family of words, and they are all conected by the same root. Thus the meaning of each word is a derivative of that root. Take for example the word “Jerusalem”, it is made of two words “Yeru” and “Salem”, which mean “see peace”. The word “Yeru” is made oc the root “Y.R.A” which tells you the sense of this type of “seeing” of peace: Y.R.A means “with glory and respect” and therfore is telling you the sense of the name of the most glorified city, Jerusalem. Lets get back to Japanease and English “mistakes”:

In a castle in Kanazawa, when you take the stairs down, the traffic is right handed:

The sewage cover near the Tokyo Imperial Palace is “with opening danger”:

As someone that has Hebrew as my first language I find it more sensible than the long English sentence “Danger! Do not open (this cover)”, it just sounds  more polite and a much more civilized way to warn people. I personally also find it very hard to be “perfect” with English, for example – the English rules where should one use words like “at” and “in” and “on” just does not make any sense to me. The way English sentences are combined also does not make so much sense, especially that you need between 20% to 30% more words in English in comparison to languages like Hebrew or Japanease when you try to describe exactly the same thing. That is the reason why translators would always quote a price by the number of words in English, regardless if the translation work is from English or to English.

In Shirakawa Go, A UNESCO world heritage village, I found this request: “money thank you click here”:

And in a Kanazawa restaurant,just beside the majn train station, “Not have breakfast pass tickets please ground floor buy the tickets”:

Another guideline in Kanazawa is beside the recycling bins, to “decline general trash”:

And in a Tokyo restaurants we have been advised that “a last order becomes 30 minutes ago”:

Isn’t it beautiful? it shows you that the Japanease language is structured so differently, but not only the structure – but alsso the way people think since after all, a language is the way we translate our thoughts to other people. In Kyoto we found a free thinking artist:

It made us smile.


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