In buildup to Olympics, traffic signs becoming easier to read

April 02, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Japan is on the road to making traffic signs more user and foreigner friendly in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

With millions of overseas visitors expected, the government ordered administrative authorities nationwide on April 1 to start introducing English text in lieu of Romanized Japanese in principle when replacing old signs.

One such example is “Jo,” the word for castle. “Jo” will need to be replaced with "Castle."

However, other common nouns will continue to be written in Romanized Japanese.

While the words “spa” and “onsen” are currently used to denote a hot spring, “spa” will be replaced with “onsen” in the future. The decision was taken partly to help Japanese people understand non-Japanese language speakers more easily if they are asked for directions by foreigners who see the traffic signs.

The government's order also covers signs on expressways, including those that show the direction and distance to major rest areas. Signs indicating an entrance to an expressway must contain the entrance's exact name and number.

Not all traffic signs are managed by the central government, but rather, they are managed by expressway operators or local municipalities.

There are so many traffic signs in Japan that even the transport ministry does not know the exact number.

Expressway operators and local governments are expected to expedite the process of introducing more user-friendly road signs as a result of the instruction issued in Tokyo.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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An existing traffic sign, left, and a road sign created according to the latest government specifications (Provided by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)

An existing traffic sign, left, and a road sign created according to the latest government specifications (Provided by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)

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  • An existing traffic sign, left, and a road sign created according to the latest government specifications (Provided by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)
  • An example of a new sign indicating the location and distance of a rest area (Provided by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)

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