Swing by this lovely town and enjoy “five times bonus points” as promised by one of their signs.

Ginowan City in Okinawa Prefecture is mostly known for housing the Futenma US military base, but one special area has been carving out a peculiar little niche of notoriety for itself online. The neighborhood of Maehara inside the city is becoming increasingly known as the “Town of Interesting Signs.”

Images of these slabs of white plywood with hand-painted jokes and pun-filled messages inexplicably posted on random street corners can be widely seen on the internet. It was all enough to pique the curiosity of our Kim-Jong-un-haired reporter Masanuki Sunakoma and get him to head down to the tropical prefecture to check them out first hand.

Maehara might be a little hard for first-time visitor to track down, but all Massanuki had to do was search for the Maehara Community Center (真栄原公民館) in his car’s navigation system, and it was all too easy after that. Travelling cautiously down Prefectural Highway 34, he caught the first glimpse of a sign.

▼ “5x points if you pass through Maehara.”

Masanuki wasn’t sure what these points were going towards, but he was strangely pleased to be getting a multiplier for them on this adventure.

While he was still contemplating what he had just seen another board popped up. This time a wild Pikachu appeared.

▼ “Pikachu is good and all, but this city is ‘becoming beautiful’ (bikachū).”

Of course this sign is a pun on the Japanese word for “currently undergoing beautification” (bikachū) and the most famous of Pokémon (Pikachu). This was the first example of the two core elements of Maehara signs: puns and civic-mindedness.

For example, this sign at first glance appears to read, “I grabbed some big luck.

But if you look closely, the word “un” which means luck has a tiny “ko” at the end, changing it to “unko” or “turd,” turning the translation into “I grabbed some big turds.” Perhaps a reminder for people to pick up their dog droppings?

Many signs are absurd and full of human spirit at the same time. Or, at least, they appear absurd but might actually have some inside-joke meanings that escape out-of-towners. It’s hard to say sometimes.

“Let’s take care (itawarō) of the elderly. Karate breaks boards (itawarō).”

▼ “Let’s get pumped Oh! Get pumped street!”

▼ “Everyone, if you pick it up, it’s not scary.”
More poop-pickup reminders?

Masanuki began to feel compelled to hunt down as many of these signs as he could. Wandering through the streets of Maehara, he managed to find 20 in total, but some were slightly different than the standard white plywood ones.

These two signs appeared to be an advertisement for something, containing a telephone number on the bottom… but they pointed at nothing.

▼ “Oh! Left! Oh! Left!”

▼ “Oh! Right! Oh! Right!”

When he got to the Maehara Community Center, Masanunki learned that the signs were the brainchild of a city council member Yasuji China. China must be a father because the dad-joke vibe is strong in many of them.

▼ “Be careful of people stealing your belongings (okibiki)
and of loud snoring (ōki ibiki) too.”

▼ “Lots of alcohol (arukōru) ready here (arukō)”

▼ “To all the middle-aged people (chūkōnen),
be gentle (chūkōnein) when stressed.”

When they’re not cracking dad-joke puns, these signs are giving more sober community-oriented puns.

▼ “Let’s make fewer children who wait and more children who are great.”

▼ “Don’t break trees (ki wo oranai),
or you will also break your spirit (ki mo oresō).”

▼ “To those who cross too quickly, the light is red!”

Other signs seemed to be less jokes and more straight up complaints, such as this one about the traffic situation when going from Maehara to the neighboring area of Ojana.

▼ “It takes five minutes to walk to Ojana, but 15 minutes by car. Why?”

Not all of the signs are authored by China himself, he also accepts suggestion from residents, many of whom have really seem to embrace this strange campaign. As a result we can’t be sure exactly the meaning of some of them.

▼ “Be careful of using cards too much, and of bending the cards too much.”
I’ll have you know my 24-karat-gold Pikachu card is in mint condition.

▼ “Burnable garbage day — it’s the day garbage wants to burn.”
Now all I can see is happy little anime-eye garbage bags being incinerated.

▼ “By ari kuri uri ū, understand the Okinawan dialect.”
Um… excuse me what?

This sign seems to be completely impossible to understand unless you are from Okinawa… possibly even just the Maehara area.

After asking around, I could find that “ari,” “kuri,” and “uri,” are the Okinawan equivalents to “are,” “kore,” and “sore,” which roughly translate to “that over there,” “this,” and “that” in English. Understandably, those are important words to know in the regional dialect, as the sign indicates. The “ū” however, remains a mystery.

Funny, poignant, mysterious, and just plain weird, these crudely-made signs seemed to have it all. When Masanuki thought he had seen every one, he headed out of Maehara and was greeted with one last board.

▼ “Let’s go home now. It’s always a blast.”

The signs are also said to be updated regularly, so if you happen to find yourself in Maehara, “The Town of Interesting Signs,” there should be some new ones ready to greet you. (Apparently there are other things to do there too?)

…and if you do go, seriously, please ask someone what that “ū” means.

Photos: SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]