English for fun and profit

Continuing the travelogue from my recent visit to Tokyo, I was also struck by the romantic way that English gets employed commercially, with free-spirited metaphors that must mean something different to Japanese than they would to Americans. Here are some examples.

“Freshness Burger” is a popular restaurant chain.


And where would you go for your haircut, if not Angel gate?


Which might be better scheduled after rather than before visiting next door’s Yellow Board Boarding-House, whose main advertised quality is the declaration that it is “smoky”.


I never figured out exactly what it is you’re supposed to buy here.


Still, if it’s Japanese rather than English that you crave, I’m pleased to report that Yokohama National University Professor Tatsuyoshi Okimoto and Seikei University Professor Tomoo Inoue (two of my wonderful hosts for the visit) have now translated my Time Series Analysis text into a
twovolume Japanese set, which apparently is selling very well.

But the good stuff is still in English:

8 thoughts on “English for fun and profit

  1. Anchoku

    So-net is the best on-line translator I’ve found. Don’t forget to connect broken sentences for best conversion. (e.g., half-sentence – formula – half sentence.) Of course, if you’re scanning printed matter, you’ll need OCR software which isn’t free.

  2. dexev

    That last photo is the least unusual of the bunch — you can see very similar lists walking around trendy shopping districts anywhere in the world.
    Try a google search, appending the word ‘clothing’ to each of the words in that sign, to see what I mean.

  3. Dan

    In regards to English for Profit, the English business in Japan is very broad with the various commercial language schools but also in the education system, where English is now being taught in grade school.

    However, the professor left out the best part of English in Japan…. the T-shirts! Many are truly hilarious.

    English is now well rooted as the international language for business and science and the worldwide ESL/EFL industry has grown quite a bit since the ’70’s.

    This is quite convenient for Americans, but I wonder if the lack of American students mastering a foreign language might not become a hindrance in the future.

  4. jm

    And then there’s the story — perhaps apocryphal — of the large banner displayed at a postwar rally in Tokyo staged by General MacArthur’s fans when he was campaigning as a possible candidate for President.
    Had it been properly spelled, it would have read, “We Pray for MacArthur’s Election!”.

  5. Fred

    Reading a Japanese manual I stopped at the line, “Switch does not work in off position.”

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