Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Movie of fairy vacance life

Now I know that everyone who blogs in or about Japan does this eventually and just so I don’t buck the trend, here’s mine. Yup, it’s the Japlish post. Now you may have spotted the link over on the right for, which is a whole website devoted to it, and indeed it is a fascinating aspect of Japanese culture, that of their extraordinary ability to mangle the English language.

The title of this post is from a Japanese advertisement that came through the door this evening as one of those pieces of unwanted junk mail that appear on an almost daily basis. Can you guess what it is promoting? Go on, have a guess...

Well done for those of you who managed to figure out that yes, it is the tag line for a new block of apartments that are being built on the other side of Kawaguchi station, as can be seen from the photo below.

And just in case you wanted to see the back of the flyer...

I mean, what the ****? And what’s the ‘No Cinema, No Life’ bit for as well? The flats won’t have a cinema in them!

Now I work for an English school and have a pretty good handle on the English language and its uses (even if my typing leaves a lot to be desired (that’s why this blog is full of typos, not because of my ability, honest)), but I am well and truly stumped about a) how someone could possible come up with it b) what it could ever possible mean and c) how on earth I could even begin to explain what is wrong with it. Seems to me that some marketing bod probably said, after a long toke, “let’s play Cheddar Gorge and use the results to form the basis of our next advertising campaign” (for those of you who don’t know how to play Cheddar Gorge, firstly shame on you and secondly visit I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue immediately!).

Anyway it is an amazing ability, the Japanese have, this utter un-mastery of English. I figure that the company building these flats probably have a bit of cash, as do the people advertising them, so surely it wouldn’t be beyind the wit of someone to say “hey, do you think this makes any sense at all?”. Or perhaps I’m coming at it from totally the wrong angle. Maybe the original tagline was something like ‘Apartments in Kawaguchi: Quite a Nice Place to Live’ and the advertising bod said “hey, that’s no good; it makes sense, throw this trash out and give me some non sequiturs! Show me the nonsense! Etc” or something like that.

But everywhere you go, as you can see from the website, you get this weird and wonderful use of English. Vending machines are fertile ground, especially cigarette machines with their legends extolling you to ‘enjoy happy smoke life in harmony’. Another I especially liked was for the SMBC bank, who have the pleasure of holding my well earned wages for a few hours on pay day (before the Guru spirits the lot away into hidden (from me) savings accounts (and this is a good thing else I would spend the money, possible enjoying a happy smoke life, who knows?)). Anyway one of their campaigns, when we got back here in 2002 and joined the bank, was based on the tagline One’s Next..., which in itself isn’t too bad, except their pension planning brochure was entitled One’s Next Life, for which I’m sure you’ll agree, you probably don’t need a pension for.

The common excuse for all of this is that having a bit of English is cool and as most people, except perplexed foreigners, can’t read it and even if they could they wouldn’t understand it, it therefore doesn’t have to make sense. But that just seems a bit too pat and a bit too lame to me. Then again I suppose plenty of westerners go around with Kanji tattoos for girl power or other such nonsense that it is a two way thing. (aside, two stories about tattoos I like. One, from Chris who used to be in Japan and set up the excellent kanji learning site KanjiSite, he was amazed how many requests he got from people wanting to know specific kanji so they could get tattoos done, his favourite was from an American chap from one of the rectangular, mid-western states who wanted the specific kanji for carburettor so he could have it tattooed, probably on his forehead. And second, from a football (that’s association soccer) email I get, a teenager in Argentina is suing a tattooist as the tattooist, a supporter of the River Plate team didn’t, as the chap wanted, do a great big logo of Boca Juniors (the chap’s personal team and huge rival of River Plate) on his back. No, he tattooed a picture of an enormous penis. The chap only found out when he got home and proudly displayed his back to his parents...)

Anyway, I’ve often wondered how I’d be able to get a story about tattooing the kanji for carburettor onto an American chap into this blog – I can sleep easily tonight.

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