Translation trouble strikes as hotel ends up making a very awkward request.

In many ways, Japanese restrooms are a charming snapshot of the country’s highly developed concept of hospitality. Between their bidet functions, heated seats, and other clever design elements, the joy of pooping in Japan is on par with that of consuming the country’s delicious food that starts the digestive process.

So it’s probably a little startling when travelers from English-speaking countries see the signage in this Tokyo hotel that seems to imply that once you’re done wiping your butt, you’re supposed to carry the wad of used paper to another restroom entirely.

Japanese Twitter user @hiroshimilano snapped the above photo in a hotel “right in the middle of Tokyo,” and one that he says isn’t cheap either. Located next to the guest-use laundry facility is a restroom with diagrams accompanied by instructions in five languages, and the English is as shaky as a pair of butt cheeks expulsing the end result of a bowl of extra-spicy ramen.

So let’s take another opportunity to laugh and learn as we examine the three swings-and-misses, starting with the biggest one, which goes with the middle illustration in @hiroshimilano’s photo.

● 1. Japanese: “Toiretto peepaa ha gomiire ni irezu ni toire ni nagashite kudasai.”
English: “Please carry away the toilet paper to the restroom without putting it in a garbage can.”

Starting with something the translation gets right, “Toiretto peepaa ha gomiire ni irezu ni” really does mean “without putting the toilet paper in a garbage can,” which the staff likely wanted to include as a gentle reminder for guests from countries with sewage systems that aren’t designed with a capacity for paper waste (which aren’t uncommon in many other parts of Asia).

Things get weird, though, with “Please carry away the toiler paper to the restroom,” since it means, if anything, that you’re supposed to take the clump of turd-enriched paper with you to some other restroom, where you can hopefully dispose of it once and for all. Part of the problem here is the Japanese word toire, which does double-duty as a term for both “restroom” and “toilet.” In this case, toire should have been translated as “toilet,” since, as the illustration shows, the sentence is talking about the porcelain poop pot.

But what about “please carry away?” This looks to be a flubbed translation of nagasu, a verb which literally translates as “flow.” However, nagasu is always used with an object. For example, if a river is just flowing by itself, the word is nagareru. If the flowing of the river is causing something else to move, however, like when the current is carrying a leaf or a raft downstream, that’s nagasu, and the same concept is applicable to what happens when water flows down the toilet drain, taking used toilet paper with it. Unfortunately, the hotel’s translation doesn’t account for the fact that in English we use “flush” to talk about initiating toilet draining, which is how the sign ended up with “carry away the toilet paper,” which has a very different meaning from the original Japanese, which should have been translated as “Please flush the toilet paper down the toilet without putting it in a garbage can.”

● 2. Japanese: “Toire ha suwatte goriyou kudasai.”
English: “The restroom sits down, and please use it.”

Moving back up to the top illustration in the photo, once again we’ve got a case where toire should have been translated as “toilet” instead of “restroom.” Even if we fixed that, though, we’d have “The toilet sits down, and please use it,” which begs the question of how can a toilet, which doesn’t have legs, sit down?

This time, the trouble stems from ha (written は and pronounced “wa”), which is used in Japanese to mark the topic of a sentence. For example, if you wanted to say “Kaori laughed” in Japanese, you’d say “Kaori ha waratta,” since we’re talking about Kaori.

In the vast majority of situations, a sentence’s topic is the same as its grammatical subject, and there’s no need to translate ha into any sort of clunky English equivalent. There are exceptions, though, and in this case the toilet, being an inanimate object, isn’t the subject for the verb “sit” (since it’s you, the reader/toilet user, who’s supposed to sit). For this instance, ha should be translated as something like “as for,” which would give the English sentence the same meaning as the Japanese original: “As for the toilet, please sit down and use it,” or, in smoother-sounding English, “Please sit down while using the toilet.”

Once again, this notice is aimed at guests from parts of Asia (rural Japan included) where squat toilets are the predominant style, and so some people may not be familiar with the operating procedure for a Western-style toilet.

● 3. Japanese: “Botan wo osu to mizu ga nagaremasu.
English: “Water flows when I push the button.”

Here we see another appearance by nagareru/nagasu, this time with the subject mizu (“water”) attached. Again, this would be smoother if the translation accounted for the fact that when talking about toilets in English, the flowing of the water is called “flushing,” and there’s no need to specify the water, since that’s understood from the toilet context.

But having “I” here makes it sound like the author of the sign, or perhaps some other member of the hotel staff, has to come by and personally flush for you each time, which is going to be a problem for even modest-sized dookie deposits, let alone multi-flush follow-ups to particularly oily meals. This time, the problem is a result of spoken Japanese often omitting the subject when it can be understood from context. However, that generally can’t be done in English, and online Japanese-to-English translation programs (which the hotel likely used in creating the sign) often account for this by simply assuming the user is talking about himself and slapping “I” at the start of the clause.

Of course, unless you’re sharing the bathroom stall with other people, it’s obvious that “you” are the one pressing the button, which is why it’s not explicitly specified in the Japanese text, but that lack of information caused the translation program to drop the ball. After one last polishing of “the button” into “this button” (to account for the illustration showing multiple buttons), we finally get to what the Japanese text is actually saying: “The toilet flushes when you push this button.”

It’s a little disappointing to see a non-budget hotel (at least by @hiroshimilano’s standards) be so lax in their translation standards. Still, it’s nice to see an effort being made, however slight, even as we shudder to think of how baffling the sign’s Chinese, Korean, and Thai explanations may be. In the end, it’s a good thing the sign has pictures too, and that it didn’t have to delve into such complicated public restroom terminology as “middle-aged man indirect dick kissing.”

Source: Twitter/@hiroshimilano via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3)

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