Lost in translation: Signs puzzle overseas tourists in Japan
Nikkei -- May 19
Imagine you are a Chinese tourist visiting Japan for the first time. Your travels take you to Osaka and the 40-story Umeda Sky Building, with its fine views of the city. After awhile, you look for the exit and are confronted with the following sign in Chinese: "Ni tui chu." ("You get out of here.")

That is just what happened back in January, touching off a small uproar on Chinese social media. "Don't they respect the Chinese language?" commented one outraged netizen.

When it comes to signage meant to help visitors from abroad, Japan is kinder than many countries, putting up signs in many public places, often in multiple foreign languages. Unfortunately, the messages sometimes go awry. Blame the garbled communications on online translation services and software, and a failure to run the final product by someone who actually understands the language.

Not only do poorly translated signs leave overseas tourists giggling or scratching their heads, they can sometimes cause offense, leaving international travelers ill-disposed toward their hosts -- hardly what Japan, which is keen to grow its tourism industry, wants to do.

The company that manages the building in Osaka was at first blissfully unaware of the gaffe, which was produced by a machine translation of a Japanese sign that said: "Okaeri guchi," or "Way out."

"The mistranslation used Chinese characters that mean "exit" in Japanese, so we hadn't the slightest idea that anything was wrong. It came as a shock when we realized what it meant [in Chinese]," said an abashed company spokesman.

Sadly, examples of such well-intentioned messages going haywire are not uncommon in Japan. Tokyo Metro, which operates a subway network in the city, also discovered that posters it put up in stations to warn passengers about a safety hazard were no help at all. The message in Chinese read: "It is dangerous to disperse the focus of your attention while walking." What Tokyo Metro wanted to say was: "Do not operate electronic devices while walking." Somehow the Chinese translation left the gadgets out entirely.

News source: Nikkei
Jun 19
The Japan Meteorological Agency says a magnitude-6.7 quake struck the northern part of the country late Tuesday night. No fatalities have been reported. Tsunami advisories issued along the Sea of Japan coast have been lifted. (NHK)
Jun 19
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says people in the affected areas should remain on the alert. (NHK)
Jun 19
The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday sentenced Pierre Taki, an actor and member of Japanese techno-pop duo Denki Groove, to 18 months in prison, suspended for three years, for using cocaine. (Japan Times)
Jun 19
Almost half of singles in Japan who wish to get married are unable to find a suitable partner, with 61.4 percent of the group stating they are not doing anything to change the situation, a government survey showed Tuesday. (Japan Today)
Jun 19
A 62-year-old man wanted by police on suspicion of stabbing his former wife in Noboribetsu City, Hokkaido, has been found dead in a forest, police said Monday. (Japan Today)
Jun 19
The Financial Services Agency estimates couples will require up to 30 million yen in retirement savings, far higher than the amount suggested by a panel in a controversial report that questioned the credibility of the public pension system, a document showed Tuesday. (Kyodo)
Jun 19
Shoplifting has long been an issue in Japan with retail staff going to great lengths to combat it, such as being dragged by cars or covering the entire ceiling with security cameras. (soranews24.com)
Jun 18
A major renovation project has begun at Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan. (NHK)
Jun 18
Tokyo Metropolitan Police have arrested a 43-year-old man for allegedly setting fire to a sex business in Shibuya Ward earlier this year, reports TBS News (June 17) (tokyoreporter.com)
Jun 18
Toyota drivers Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Buemi claimed their second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory Sunday, but only after some bad luck scuttled their sister car's hopes of a win. (Kyodo)