Tokyo Strolls: Signs of Confusion

Let’s take a couple more walks around Tokyo, shall we?


First, the walk from our hotel to Koishikawa Korakuen gardens, which was probably about 30 minutes. At first, Tokyo feels intensely urban and modern – very big, very crowded, but also remarkably clean. Not a stray piece of trash anywhere.


Then we passed over a man made water channel, and things changed.


Now we are in a beautifully landscaped area of upscale hotels, office buildings, and restaurants.


There are several of these vertical rippling fountains. How do they keep the water from just sloshing to the bottom?


This tree seems a bit lonely.


More trees and fountains.


It’s nice that many signs are in both Japanese and English, though perhaps something may occasionally be lost in translation. On the other hand, who is to say that mackerel don’t need a little passion as much as the rest of us?


Crossing back across the water channel, we noticed this extremely narrow building.


Actually, signs were sometimes both startling and mysterious. This one was actually set into the sidewalk. I have seen plenty of No Smoking signs, but never a sign admonishing us not to smoke while walking. Also, I have never seen an anthropomorphized puff of cigarette smoke, let alone one wearing a pink ribbon and giving a thumbs up sign.


This one drove us almost mad with curiosity. What do they mean, especially the third one from the right on the top row. Does it mean, “To report being kicked in the behind, call this number immediately.”


We are now walking from the hotel to Ueno Park. Odd to see this little house sandwiched between tall apartment buildings.


As I’ve said, there weren’t a lot of blooms in Japan in August. Crape Myrtles were certainly among the most common that could be seen. In Japan they use the common name Indian Lilac.


Shrines and temples pop up frequently among the apartment and office buildings. This one is called the Shitaya Shrine, and it’s stayed in this location since 1680 as the city grew up around it.


Nice lion.


You could stand in the mist to cool off a bit.


The shrines are not historical curiosities. A regular stream of people arrived to bow and say their prayers before passing through.


Some of the shrines and temples were like miniature oases of cool green.

We only saw a tiny fraction of Tokyo, of course. But in the areas we saw there was a startling combination of the familiar and the exotic.

Next up: Hamarikyu Gardens.

34 Comments on “Tokyo Strolls: Signs of Confusion

  1. I think, the kick in the butt sign refers to somebody able to help with pains in the lower spine…

  2. I love these vertical rippling fountains! Have no idea how it works too. I agree, mackerel needs passion as well! I wait for another stroll along Tokyo.

  3. I think but don’t know that the fountain works because the flow is carefully regulated; if it were too fast it would just run off. I like this type of fountain very much and is of course child safe which I suppose the city has to think about.

  4. The lone tree in the middle of the concrete does look lonely.. I like the Crepe Murtle trees …Here in Canberra they flower away regardless of the heat & lack of water ..but are never mentioned in tree beauty contests. I love the signs … Passionate Mackerel … Oh the joys of travel!

  5. My first response to the tree was not that it was lonely, but that it was an advance scout, as the forest plan their reintegration into urban areas.

  6. I wonder if the fellow sitting at the base of that lonely tree was there to keep it company. I wonder what the Japanese think of all of our signs.??? ha.. they do a a lot of different signs.
    Their shrines are like parks. An oasis in a brick and mortar world.

  7. I’m with Judy. I’ll never go to Japan. So nice to go on a walk with you!

  8. Our daughter lived in Okinawa for several years and has a hilarious photo collection of Japanese signs. “The store where passion is offered to mackerel,” made me laugh out loud. Imagine the possibilities. Given the “mucho” gracias sign in the last post, perhaps Spanish gets mangled, as well. Of course, my Japanese is limited to “arigato” and “sushi,” so I should just shut up.

    • I would love to see your daughter’s photo collection. On reflection, I’m guessing the mackerel sign is a mistranslation of something like: “The store that’s passionate about mackerel.”

  9. It’s fascinating reading this series, I am enjoying discovering Japan.
    The shrines are lovely and that rippling fountain must be very harmonious, especially in a warm climate.
    I did laugh seeing the passionate mackerel sign and enjoyed working out all the massages, incense burning etc. As I said, fascinating!xxx

  10. An interesting look at the strange and wonderful in Tokyo city. I had a whole book once of original Japanese signs that had been translated into very odd and ambiguous English!

    • There’s also an excellent play we saw in Chicago called “Chinglish”. It’s about an American businessman in China who gets drawn into a local power struggle, but also includes some hilarious mistaken translations of English into Chinese.

  11. Actually, I believe the Japanese word for crape myrtle translates into “monkey-slip tree” — i.e., a tree with bark so smooth and slippery that a monkey would have trouble climbing it! 🙂

  12. Hello Jason, I’m loving the pictures. Japanese translated into English is hilarious and the iconography can mean anything. The area you’re in looks very quirky with the mix of houses, towers and other buildings crammed into such tight spaces.

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