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It’s time once again for an episode of Why Does Engrish Happen in Japan? If you missed the first installment (which we really should have given a clever name like Why Does Engrish Happen in Japan? ~Unexpected Opening to the Truth~) you can check it out here.

Today, we’re taking a look at a hotel in Japan that seems to be clamping down on solo peeing, with a sign posted in its lobby that requests visitors “Please refrain from using the bathroom alone.”

At first glance, this might seem like the sort of announcement you’d come across in a love hotel that specializes in a very specific kind of clientele. That’s not the case, though, as the very bottom of the sign identifies the location as a branch of the Richmond Hotel, which offers mid-range accommodations for both business and leisure travelers.

▼ The atmosphere is more “comfortable” than “kinky.”

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While Richmond has properties all over Japan, none are in any neighborhoods so rough that you need to have a friend watch your back while you take a leak (honestly, Japan is so safe that taking a dump without backup is never something to worry about). And while many Japanese hotel chains have become more conscious of the environment over the last decade, their eco-friendly policies are usually along the lines of not replacing the guestroom toilet paper roll until it’s completely used up or only providing a new set of towels during a two-night stay if the customer specifically requests it. In other words, the Richmond Hotel isn’t asking that guests maintain a ratio of at least two deposits in the bowl for each flush.

So now that we’ve eliminated those possible explanations, let’s move on to the real culprit, mistranslation, and break it down like a bunch of bilingual DJs who’re overly fond of shouting “Word!” in multiple languages to try to amp up the crowd.

▼ Even if he’s in it, M.C. Linguistics is too dedicated to his field to ever use the word “hizouse.”

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First, let’s take the original Japanese and write it out using the English alphabet.

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Otearai nomi no goriyou ha goenryo itadaite orimasu.

The o in otearai and go in both goriyou and goenryo are just prefixes tacked on to make those words more polite. It’s a common practice in the service industry, but they’re not really critical to understanding the phrase, so let’s chop them off.

While we’re at it, itadaite orimasu is a more refined way of saying itadaku, so once we’ve scrubbed all the polish off this refined way of speaking, we’re left with:

Tearai nomi no riyou ha enryo itadaku.

Tearai, while literally meaning “hand washing,” is a common way of saying “bathroom” in Japanese. Riyou is the noun “use,” making tearai no riyou “use of the bathroom.”

We’re going to skip past nomi for right now, but ha (or wa, if you’re spelling it phonetically), simply marks “use of the bathroom” as the subject of the sentence. Enryo means “refrain,” as in “refrain from doing something,” and while itadaku is often used to mean “receive,” it can also mean “have (someone do something).” So the direct translation from Tearai no riyou ha enryo itadaku would be “We will have you refrain from using the bathroom,” or, phrased more naturally, “Please refrain from using the bathroom.”

Whoever translated the sign into English stumbled over nomi, though. Nomi means “only,” or “just.” For example, if you go to the hair salon and just want a cut, with no shampoo or coloring or perm, you’d ask for katto nomi.

Nomi can also be used in talking about people, though. For example, a special offer that only students are eligible for could be described as gakusei nomi, or “only for students.” And while it might be wordier way to phrase it, you could also describe that gakusei nomi offer as “for students alone” and still be grammatically correct, in the sense of “for students alone, and not anyone else.”

Unfortunately for the Richmond Hotel, “only” and “alone” aren’t perfectly interchangeable in English, and it ended up with “Please refrain from using the bathroom alone.” Really, the sign’s Japanese text says “Please refrain from only using the bathroom.”

In other words, the hotel is asking that people not stop in just to use the lobby restrooms without also being guests of the hotel or its attached restaurant. Why is this an issue? Because this particular Richmond Hotel is located in Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist destinations. The neighborhood receives huge crowds of travelers, both foreign and domestic, who flock to the area to see its famous Sensoji Temple, and apparently a lot of them also have been making use of the Richmond’s restrooms regardless of whether or not they’re staying at the hotel. The Japanese text at the very bottom of the sign directs those looking for a restroom to instead use the public ones located between the hotel and Sensoji.

▼ Kanji safari fans can also spot the characters for goriyou again.

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So don’t worry, while Japan is totally down with communal bathing in its hot springs, peeing and pooping are both still private matters.

Source: Reddit via Byokan Sunday
Top image: Imgur (edited by RocketNews24
Insert images: Richmond Hotel, Wikipedia/Mbdortmund, Imgur (edited by RocketNews24