31 July, 2016

Japan's cartoon-figure fixation

Japan seems to have a fixation on using cartoons for communication. I don't mind, really, it means that even if you can't read well, then you have a better chance of understanding what's going on. Here are some examples I've come across in the last few months:

On a footpath next to a park.

Outside our local gym, which is near a river, though there are two fences between it and the river at the moment.

On a local road, reminding drivers about pedestrians.

This is on a two-lane road a bit south of us. I shudder to think of how crowded the roads might be if an earthquake happened and people tried to evacuate.

Spotted on the hike I did with the fifth graders in May. Don't feed the monkeys? I do know it's related to rubbish, take your rubbish with you, I presume!

This was at our campsite at the end of March. It looks a bit like an elephant hitting someone...

But actually the use of cute cartoon figures goes way beyond signs. Many quite serious organisations, like banks, the Red Cross, and the police force have mascots. Here is the military's mascot, Prince Pickles!

This is an interesting article that suggests that part of this is because of the challenge of Japan's written language communication with the general public has included pictures for a long time. Apparently it wasn't until the mid-1800s that there was a move to make the language uniform. Not to mention that isn't not easy to learn to read.

Another article which gives some more information about them, interestingly suggesting that learning about mascots can help you connect with people (Japanese people like discussing mascots, apparently), they can help you learn Japanese, and even help you keep track of Japanese current affairs. So, I've looked up our city's mascot and she's a princess called Ruru-chan, you can see her at the top of our city's webpage. I honestly can say I've never noticed her before!

But I've digressed. I'm pretty sure it's true that we see more of these kinds of signs in Japan than we do in Australia. Or is it just that because I find it hard to read here, I notice them more? Feel free to share your own photos of signs with cartoons on them from wherever you live.

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