Engrish in Japan

Engrish is a real phenomenon. It’s not fair to poke fun too much at it (let’s be sure to check that English privilege), but sometimes the culprits have it coming. For example, when English is used for decorative purposes – especially in designs, logos, taglines and invented names – it almost always gets butchered because the butchers have little interest in ensuring correctness. And that’s fine!

Until it isn’t. I present to you, STARVATIONS, a kids clothing store:

Starvations, a Kids Clothing Store

STARVATIONS was almost certainly the result of perfectly good intentions. After all, “star” plus “ovation” does sort of equal “starvation.” The name was changed soon after this photo was taken.


Sometimes Engrish is technically correct – or in this case, almost correct – but is somehow strangely worded or badly presented. This poster really confused me at first glance:

Let's Go to the With Towel & a Ball-Park Megaphone
Don’t forget to bring a towel!

I suspect product and packaging designers over here generally feel that good intentions are good enough. And I can appreciate that. This toothbrush wrapper at a hotel forever changed the way I brush.

Slowly, please relax.

Finally, there’s the “R” vs “L” confusion. It’s really real. After communicating with English students for a good, long time, even I began confusing “R” and “L.” “Usually” might come out more like “usury.” “Fragile” might come out as “flagile.” By sheer force of will, I’ve mostly cured myself of that, but I can now completely understand mistakes like this:

Staff Onry

World Map Engrish
Even this world map in the school I worked at had a miss or two. Don’t ask how I found this.

Engrish is everywhere in Japan; I’ll post more in the future. To get your fix in the meantime, check out Engrish.com.