Japanese English That Will Make You Giggle

By Donnie | Japan English

I was going back through some old pictures of mine and came across some funny, Japanese English gyms. For those who have been here for quite some time, you probably know quite well that you’re bound to bump into some silly English word or phrase. This is the reason I love smart phones so much. Often you encounter the craziest Japenglish expressions when you’re least expecting to.

From Business logos, to t-shirts, to products, to marketing promotions, to commercials, to acting scripts (oh my lord, don’t get me started, lol), instances of botched English are pretty darn widespread in Japan. I guess a good question to ask is “Why?” Why is it that you can find so many errors? I don’t think there are a number of reasons for it.

One reason is really simple: Japanese and English are two VERY different languages. On the word level, some words just don’t translate the same way into English and vice versa. For example the word yoroshiku (よろしく) is one of those fuzzy, Japanese words. I have seen the word definted as “please treat me favorably,” or “best regards,” but I don’t think it’s that clean-cut. Likewise, there are also Japanese phrases that just don’t translate exactly into English. If I asked you what “Ostukaresamadeshita (おつかれさまでした) means.” You might say it means “Thank you for your hard work” in English, but I don’t think it’s an exact translation, right? These are two of potentially hundreds (dare I say thousands) of phrases that don’t translate exactly into English. Also, when you consider English and Japanese are grammatically flip-flopped, it adds another whole set of issues and hence the funny-ass English expressions.

Another possible reason for the problem is that honestly don’t think people check with a native speaker before okaying these things. Companies have deadlines and I’m sure Japanese workers are often under the gun to get projects completed. Once it sounds good to them, I think they just go with it. I remember many of my adult English students kept saying “I’m a safety driver.” I would hear this over, and over, and over again. Turns out that many students picked this up this very saying from a car commercial (I can’t remember which Japanese car company made the ad, but it was one of the big ones). Did they mean to say I’m a safe driver? I drive safely? I would have to watch the ad to be sure, but students started adopting this as natural English and it wasn’t exactly correct.

One additional reason I might offer is that, from the outside looking in, your Japanese product solely having English associated with it alters your product’s perception. It adds an element of “cool” or “class” to your product. I mentioned before that the younger generation has a perception of English or foreign being cool. Am I wrong? But in America we do the same thing. That’s why things written in kanji are unique, so it sets your product apart. Is that why so many people opt to get kanji tattoos?

Based on cultural differences alone, you’re going end up find some English advertising, comedic gold right here in Japan. For example…nah I’m going to patient and save the funny examples for the pictures below.

Lastly, Japan is growing and attempting to be progressively more global. While I think this is going to be a very long, very slow process, it will happen. While it’s happening, as more and more Japanese people learn English, as more and more foreigners learn Japanese, let’s take the time to pause, step back, and laugh our heads off at some of the funny stuff that we do see from time to time. Take a look at these pictures:

Funny Cup Noodles Slogan

1. Cup noodles can be extremely tasty. However, the thought a gigantic Gundam stomping through the Tokyo with a industrial-sized kettle shrieking ‘Boil Japan’ in a robotically distorted voice is unsettling to say the least. The caption beneath the slogan is also a tad awkward.

Japan Energy Drink, Razin

Does this look like the word “raisin” to anybody but me. I know what they were going fro with this ad. “ライジン” in Japanese would sound more like “Rising” which would make perfect since. Almost to say your energy is rising.
But I the whenever I see this drink, I just think of old, dried up raisins and lose my motivation to buy the actual drink.

More Heartful Japan Products

How many times have I seen the word “Heartful” used in Japanese advertising. I’ve never used this word in my life! Why? BECAUSE IT’S NOT A REAL WORD!! Japan uses it so much, though, that I think some dictionary will eventually have to pick it up.

Honda Salad

Nothing so strange about rather high-tech-looking gardening equipment by Honda at the 2013 Motor show. But let’s take a closer look at the name.

Honda Salad Tokyo Motor Show 2013

Introducing…The Honda Salad! It’s definitely a creative name. I found it kind of funny. At the same time though, I guess it could be worse. Had this machine been an electronic device with a giant, mechanical tongue called the ‘Tossed Salad,’ then we’d have a bit of a serious problem.

Yes, I know it's probably a real place, but all I can see is Bonin Island.  Sounds like a promising place to go if you're a single guy.  Wait, I'm single! Hmm...

Yes, I know it’s probably a real place, but all I can see is Bonin Island. Don’t lie! Somebody else’s mind went there, too. It does sound like a promising place to go if you’re a single guy looking to well, mingle. Wait, I’m single! I’ll grab my passport.

Fuso Truck Japan Pink

At first glance you just see a rather cool-looking, eye-catching, pink FUSO truck.

Fuso Truck, Pink

Upon further inspection you realize that this truck is special because it “Cheers up women.” Not a terrible English phrase but the next time a women close to me starts crying, I’m gonna be like “Heeey, don’t cry, it’s okay. Look at this pink truck.” Problem solved.

Funny Japan English Words

Yes folks, “Dauble Suspension” is far more effective than “Double Suspension” any day of the week!

Hair Gel called cock grease

I have to thank my buddy Kyle for this one. When I showed me that there was actual cock grease, hair gel, I just about lost it.

Cock Grease Hair Gel

This one is GOLD!!
Girlfriend: Donald, what is this?
Donald: Baby it’s nothing.
Girlfriend: Who are you using this on?!?
Donald: Baby it’s for my hair!
Girlfriend: Donald you don’t have any hair.
Donald:…(dashes for the door)

Nitori Funny English Ad

On a trip to Nitori I found this “Let’s Wellness” sign. Yep, that makes sense. I’m sure someone was sitting in meeting room where people actually clapped for this suggestion.

An actual brand of Japanese sausage

Can you read the katakana on this sasusage I found at 7Eleven VERY recently? I can’t take credit for this one either. My buddy Stewart found it and I just went to verify.

Sausage with a weird name

Really Japan?!? “Homo Sausage?!” I kid you not, I found this at my local Japanese, 7Eleven. Don’t believe me? Go check. I’m sure you’ll find it, too.

McDonald's Japanese English Ad

Thank you for visiting McDonald’s Japan. Unfortunately we’re ‘close’ right now. Please come back tomorrow.

Here's store in Japan

A store called “Here’s…”
Here’s what?

Japanese Muffin Cake

“This cake is delicious.” Blatant, simple English marketing that gets right to the point.
The funny thing is, they’re right! These muffins are actually quite tasty.

Black Man Underwear

Gotta finish strong!
This definitely caught me off guard at Japan’s Don Quixote. I didn’t photo shop any of this. These are 100% authentic, Black Man Long boxers (facepalm).

How about you? Come across any funny Japenglish lately? If so, please share it! You can even post pictures in the comments section below! 😀

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  • Kate says:

    Those were great. I’m going to check the homo sausage next time I’m out shopping! Here are two of my recent favorites. Love to pinch food.. I just picture someone gently squeezing roll cakes. And the pleasant thing season we are all looking forward to.

  • mikal says:

    Thanks many these information..

  • pachex says:

    Can’t take credit for the picture, but I can vouche for the fact that I have actually seen this shirt in Okinawa, and could kick myself for not buying it even though they didn’t have my size.

    Hands down, best T-Shirt i have ever seen.

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