Monday, April 11, 2011

Picture Post - Uji

I haven't done any picture posts for a long time now; time to change that. Last month I held a seminar at my home department at Kyoto university's Uji campus. I work at NAIST, a fair distance away, so I rarely get to go there.


Uji campus is, well, old-looking. Not "charming ivy-covered medieval buildings"-old, but "peeling paint and crumbling floors in Soviet era-style concrete boxes" kind of old. Nevertheless, in a certain light, and certain angles, some of the buildings can look downright good.

No Humanities Around Here

Uji is mainly home to a number of science research labs, and, evidently, home to few or no linguists or language scholars.

Shadows and Lights

Stairwell at my department. It's amazing how black and white can make things look good.

Not Actually Disgusting

As I wrote earlier, we had surströmming while I was in Kyoto. Here Dr. Honda demonstrates his culinary courage and ability to pose for pictures with a sandwhich without looking silly.

Obaku Station

Obaku station, Uji.


  1. Love those shadows on the wall, in the first picture.

    As for Engrish, it never ceases to amaze me. I keep wondering how difficult it would be to properly proofread all those signs. But I know how difficult it is to proofread anything and how easy it is to let a mistake slip by. That said, I do like Franponais even more than I do Engrish, Franponais being those strange and often meaningless uses of what is supposed to be French, be it in shop signs, packaging, tshirts, etc. Of course, they're more fun if you know French ;)

    I would guess there aren't too many examples of misuses of Swedish in Japan, are there?


  2. "I would guess there aren't too many examples of misuses of Swedish in Japan, are there?"

    You would be surprised, actually. It may be due to a boom in Scandinavian design lately, but I've encountered odd Swedish any number of times on Japanese products here.

    Here's one: a trashcan sold at a Konan store. The text, somewhat ungrammatical, means "This color is very beautiful. I like it very much. Home is better than away?"

    And I blogged another one earlier, about a cafe in north Osaka, called "nerd coffee" in Swedish. THey also had a long, rambling, ungrammatical text in Swedish about the Swedish-style coffee break.

    I've seen similar texts in other places too; one of our students has a T-shirt with iconography and random bits of text from the Swedish railroads. When I asked, he said he had no idea it was Swedish; it just looked kind of cool.

    I think that's the key really: It's not meant to be understood, this kind of thing; indeed, lack of understanding is the point. It looks exotic and foreign, and that's good enough. It's the same thing with Japlish of course, but also with the Heavy Metal Umlaut, and with those kanji-emblazoned t-shirts you can buy at touristy places in Japan. You could write "日本" or "武士道" or "産後" and it wouldn't matter; the tourists would just as happy either way.

  3. Yup, the examples you've given sound a lot like Franponais.

    And I had not thought about how popular Scandinavian design is in Japan you're right that it might explain this (mis)use of Swedish. Then again, maybe it's only that it's exotic enough.

    I had always thought Franponais had come about because of the idea the Japanese have of the French culture. You know how it's supposed to be refined and classy and such. But maybe I was just being a typical arrogant Frenchie ;)

    Not to say that France (and Paris in particular) is anything like the romanticized idea some Japanese have of it. The Paris syndrome is proof enough that it's not.


  4. It seems to me most French in Japan - well, Franponais I guess, though it sounds real to me ^_^ - is connected with food and cooking. Could be foreign language use is a reflection on the image people have of each culture.

    And I agree about Paris. Perhaps I've gotten used to Osaka and Japan by now, but it hit me how, well, badly cleaned the place was. Grafitti, trash, broken elevators and stuff. of course, Stockholm doesn't look any better either when I go there...

  5. Hehehe me and my boyfriend went to visit my brother last summer in southern England and found posters with the same wierd mock-swedish or google-translate swedish.

    I think the same thing exists everywhere people just like the sound of a language and assumes no one else who knows it will read it.

    (I have a tshirt with some japanese on it... atleast thats what i guess it is I have nooo idea what it says. Secretely I kinda hope some japanese tourist will come up to me, point at my tshirt and just say "you bastard my mother was a saint!" or something)


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