Wherever you go in the suburbs of Japan, you can bet that there will be a ramen shop along the main road. They usually offer a large parking area and have the run down look of shops that have been in business for years and years. They’re the kind of places long-haul truckers like to stop for a meal and a nap.

One such ramen shop has made news recently when its rather unique billboard was blogged about. In bold, black letters, the sign reads, “There’s nothing good here!”

That’s not something you would normally brag about, and yet the brazenness it displays is strangely persuasive. One’s immediate reaction is perversely to go check it out.

The store, Tonpuku, is in Katori in Chiba Prefecture. It’s found along a national highway with nothing more notable than a driving range nearby. I don’t know exactly what they are trying to communicate by telling their customers they don’t have anything good, but, by all accounts, the food really is mediocre. That bizarre sign is its only selling point.

The posters listing the menu also have a strange appeal, thanks to the wise sayings written on them. According to the blog of a writer whose parents live nearby, these are some of the gems they’ve seen there:

-Don’t forget the things done for you, but try to forget things you do for others.
-Warm blankets for Afghan children and hot ramen for everyone.
-Winners go for yakiniku, losers come here.
-There’s so much autumn eggplant that I even let my daughter-in-law have some! Special on eggplant with garlic sauce.
-Go ahead and take a picture for your friends, but not while driving!

They’re the kind of sayings that make you think “ah ha!” at first glance, but then you stop and think “Wait. What?” And in the end, you aren’t able to decide whether they’re just the usual type of slogans or nuggets of profound wisdom.

In any event, the shop is definitely engaged in some unique marketing, using phrases that catch the eye and draw people in. I’m sure the people who live nearby are always wondering what the shop’s owner will post next.

Personally, I think “Don’t forget the things done for you, but try to forget things you do for others” would make a great proverb. I’m just not really sure what it has to do with Chinese noodles…

A wise saying. And a cheap price.

[ Read in Japanese ]