Warning signs are ubiquitous in Japan. Some of the signs have wonderful pictures illustrating the terrible fate that will befall you if you ignore the sign.
Here we see a grinning figure of death emerge from the swamp and grab an innocent child, evidently with the intention of dragging him/her down to a watery demise. Even the fish looks horrified. It’s an old sign, so the writing あぶない “Danger” has faded almost to nothing, leaving only the exclamation mark clearly visible. Which seems appropriate.
This sign warns us in bright colours and stark fonts: “DANGER! Beware of the CROWS.” The exact nature of the danger is not made clear, although it’s a little alarming to note that the crow in the picture has demonic red eyes. It’s a poster that sets you to wondering why, exactly, the collective name for crows in English is a “murder” (and why you never wondered that before). Having said that, I can’t have been too scared, because rather than fleeing in terror from the talons of the demon corvids, I stopped and took this photo.
This big chuui says 電線注意: Beware of the electric cables.
Another classic drowning image, extensively faded and battered but still disturbing. The boy’s eyes have been replaced with a big X, reminiscent of the kanji 殺 meaning to kill. Originally, the doomed boy is shouting たすけて ”HELP”. But the writing has faded to white and we are left with the appearance of his life force escaping out his mouth.
This more modern image spares us some of the horror but none of the drama. We meet this boy at the very moment of splash-landing in the water, but the expression on his face tells us all we need to know about his chances of survival. In a few minutes there will be a big X where his eyes used to be, and he knows it.
Take a close look at the picture in the bottom left of this sign. It seems three people (or possibly two people and a seal) have been caught in a whirpool and are going around and around. One of them has had the foresight to put on a life-belt before venturing in, so he’s not going to drown. He’s just doomed to go round, and round, and round. Not drowning, but waving. But that’s not the strangest thing about this picture. The strangest thing is that there are numbers, dollar and cent symbols, as well as a percent sign floating on the surface of the water. What can it mean? Were these foolhardy people lured into the water by money, only to drown in their own greed?
Note on the word of the day:
注意 chuu-i is written with kanji that mean approximately “concentrate” or “direct” and “attention” or “mind”.