Thursday, May 18, 2006

Signs II

Some more strangely interesting signposts from around the world for your enjoyment - starting with this one I saw on Rottnest Island, off the coast of Western Australia. If this were in a factory carpark or industrial estate, fair enough - but it was in the middle of nowhere on the coast of a sparsely populated (to my eyes) desert island. Firstly, it was on a clifftop, so there was actually very little space to assemble. Secondly, it was on the side of a single track road with nothing in sight apart from sand and bushes - I have no idea who this could be for. Thirdly, where were the other five? A mystery.

Also mysterious, but for different reasons, are Japanese signs. This one was in the large public park in Nara, a city east of Kyoto which was the original capital of the country. Deer are sacred in the Shinto religion, so are everywhere. To me (not being able to read kanji or hiragana), it looked like saying you weren't allowed to milk the deer, and maybe their antlers give off some kind of electricity. Fortunately for us we were with a Japanese speaker called Kazuko, and she translated. Apparently during mating season the deer - which were about four feet high and looked as docile as anything - get aggressive and you shouldn't approach their young. Fair enough - although it didn't say they don't produce electricity with their horns, so watch out.

'How to jog', as seen at Asakusa in northern Tokyo. My jogging career lasted about a week, and I just ran for ten minutes until my vision went white, then limped home and threw my trainers back in the cupboard. If I had only had one of these handy posters. In extreme detail, it covers the importance of warming up, warns about dehydration, and seems to give the health benefits for each part of your body that is exercised (including the hair, apparently). At the very bottom, it even tells you how to tie your shoelaces - although if you need help with that, you probably wouldn't have made it into the city to be able to read the poster in the first place.

Beware the smiling Zombiewoman who beckons you to her Public Lounge. I saw this in Kyoto, and immediately wondered what exactly a 'Public Lounge' is. Once again my lack of Japanese reading skills mean this is sadly a mystery. I don't even know what the words are coming off the enormous cup of tea like poisonous blue smoke. The top line of characters probably mean something like 'We harvest organs for transplant', or something. We didn't go.

Of course, no discussion of Japanese signs can conclude without a reference to the most commonly-cited example of their inventiveness - the electronic toilet. Taken at a hotel in Ginza, Tokyo, these were the instructions. It might be too small to make out, but the diagrams are a selection of people/backsides being alternately sprinkled and blasted with water. I attempted to try the buttons before use - but somehow they only worked when weight was applied to the (nicely warmed) seat, so you had to sit down to see what was what. Jets of tepid water, as it turned out. Not unpleasant, but not particularly nice, either. Still, it's always fun to have buttons to push, I guess.