A Funny Place – Japan and Japlish

A speech delivered in a Toastmasters Area level contest in 1989.

Have you ever been to Japan? It’s an incredibly funny place because they speak a strange dialect of English.

I went on a holiday to Japan with my wife and I knew it would be a funny place when I was going through customs. My wife being Japanese joined the queue for Japanese nationals. I had to join a queue headed ALIENS – I felt like ALF from the planet Melmac. I didn’t see any short hairy aliens with big noses and a wart, but rather some fellow Australians and a few Americans.

After collecting our baggage we travelled to Tokyo on a bus because as you know the taxis are very expensive. The airport is 60 kms from Tokyo, so we bought a magazine to read on the way., My wife burst out laughing because she found an advertisement for leisure centre in the Whitsunday Islands. Asking what was so funny about the picture of a tropical paradise, she explained that the English title had been translated to mean in Japanese, SEXUAL ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE. Maybe this advertisement is the cause of the recent influx of Japanese tourists to Australia and particularly the Gold Coast!

I wanted to read some of the magazine, but apart from the pictures, I couldn’t make out any of the Japanese characters, but I found some English phrases in some more advertisements. It said FOR THE YOUNG AT HEAT – well maybe it was another advertisement for the same entertainment centre.

Some of the other English phrases I found were so flowery they sounded like a cross between the Robert and Elizabeth Browning love letters and advertisements outside a King’s Cross strip show – not that I’ve ever been to one.

After a trip of two hours we arrived at our hotel, and we felt like eating lunch at one of the popular restaurants in Tokyo. We found a European style place and after we were shown to our seats, we were presented with the menu. I took one look and burst out laughing .. because I found some more of Japan’s strange dialect of English! I could understand two of the entree items – SMOKED SERMON and HORSED OERVES – well I think I know what they mean…. but two of the items intrigued me: NATURAL GAS and CHOPPED CHILDREN what on earth could they mean?

After we ate a main course of spaghetti I was very tempted to order the cheese platter which they described as ROGUE FART CHEESE AND CLACKERS.

Following lunch, it was of course necessary to visit the little boy’s room, and when I discovered it, I found to my horror that there were no western style toilets – only Japanese style which is more like a trough at ground level and must have been designed by a gymnast or a devotee of yoga.  I worked out that it was necessary to squat down in a very precarious position and make every effort not to fall in.

Actually, after a minute, I realised that I was facing the wrong way!  Following that minor revelation, I discovered a small sign with instructions courteously placed there by the management. The sign said …. PLEASE USE YOUR FOOT TO HANDLE THE COCK.

With the afternoon ahead of us, what could be better than shopping in the Ginza district, so famous for its department stores and fashionable boutiques. We took the train to the Ginza subway station which is adjacent to the Mitsukoshi department store. It was possible to walk from the station to the basement level of the store which was a food hall. It was here that I found more examples of their funny English. We found disposable nappies with the brand name of MY PEE.

A little further along in the drinks section next to Coca Cola I found cans labelled POCARTI SWEAT – was it a drink? It was revealed to me later that the Japanese associate sweat with good healthy exercise and not the odour of an old gym sock found in the bottom of a sports bag.

Enough of food, we found our way onto the main street which is called Chuo-dori. I noticed a boutique with a flashing neon sign that caught my attention – it said LADIES OUTFATTERS! Thinking it was a mistake of the sign writer, I went inside and saw a smaller sign with the words LADIES CAN HAVE FITS UPSTAIRS. Maybe this was an equal OPPORTUNITY shop!

We had a great holiday in Japan, but I was very relieved to get back to Australia where I feel comfortable with the Australian dialect.

I took delivery of a new Honda Prelude last week and the memory of our holiday came flooding back to me as I read in the instruction manual how to operate the air vent on the dashboard:


Long live the Emperor’s english!


Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

2 thoughts on “A Funny Place – Japan and Japlish”

  1. A wonderful example of a humorous speech. You have inspired me to rethink all my travel experiences in a new light but on reflection none come close to your crafting of a humorous experience.

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