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Tokyo Metro Poster – Please do it at the beach

Here’s a poster from the Tokyo Metro in 2009. It shows a couple flirting close to the platform as onlookers watch on. The poster appears to be giving two different messages; one about safety and one about public decorum. It points out that “The platform edge is dangerous. Please wait behind the white line.” And also has the text “Please do it at the beach.” – the idea being that playful and flirtatious behaviour is inappropriate in the metro and more suited to a place like the beach, where it’ll also happen to be safer.

The poster is a good example of the cultural differences that exist around the world. While playful and flirtatious behaviour in public is generally accepted in Western countries, Asian societies tend not to approve. Similarly things can also get lost in translation. The concept of suggesting “Please do it at the beach” makes sense in that another more appropriate location is recommended, but from the perspective of English language, it seems somewhat disjointed. Why the beach? Are we referring to the flirting or the dangerous behaviour? If it’s purely a safety issue, then posters tend to highlight the danger (as the Tokyo Metro poster has done) without reference to other issues and locations.

Literal translations from Japanese to English may sound strange to English speakers and similarly literal translations from English to Japanese may sound strange to Japanese speakers.

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