Companies, characters and mascots use kawaii humour to spread an important message. 

It’s been a while now since countries abroad started practicing social distancing. Here in Japan, however — where the number of reported coronavirus cases was comparatively low until recently — social distancing and the recommendation to stay roughly two metres (six feet) away from people outdoors is only now starting to catch on.

To help spread the word on what social distancing looks like, companies and individuals in Japan are now coming out with a variety of ideas, ranging from eye-catching posters and cute characters to add some light to the serious message.

Pandaid, a site built by Eisuke Tachikawa, the founder of NOSIGNER, a design company that focuses on “social design” to improve society, has come out with a series of memorable posters anyone can use.

Each poster comes with an illustrated explanation of the benefits of social distancing, showing how few people the virus can infect after 30 days of social distancing.

The posters use a number of familiar, everyday items from Japanese culture to get the message across, including tatami straw mats

▼ And the ubiquitous mama chari (“mama chariot”) bicycle.

Well-known companies have also been getting on board with the message by separating logo components, in the same way as companies have been doing overseas. Shizuoka-based news site SBS has created a couple of short videos to show their logo practicing social distancing.

▼ And Resona Bank’s logo is distancing as well.

Resona Bank has also made news for introducing a cute system at their branches to keep customers one seat apart from each other while waiting to be served at the tellers.

It’s not just companies promoting the importance of social distancing with humour, as this video shows Kendo players demonstrating what two metres looks like…even if it does make it impossible for them to bout.

The term “social distancing” is actually a hard one to understand for a lot of Japanese people, as it doesn’t immediately make sense in its straight, borrowed-from-English katakana form (“ソーシャルディスタンシング“) nor its literal translation “社会的距離” (“shakaiteki kyori”), which fails to capture the nuance of keeping a physical distance from others.

As people attempt to get their heads around the concept of “social distancing” in order to apply it to their everyday lives, the official mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamon, appears to have a much better way of getting the point across.

This poster, which has been officially released by the Kumamoto Prefectural Government, drops the words “social distancing” altogether. Instead, it says “Kuttsukanai“, with the word “mon” added at the end, a signature flourish that references the “mon” at the end of “Kumamon”. Kuttsukanai translates to “don’t stick” or “don’t keep close”, and is bundled up with connotations of not impinging on personal space or going towards someone. As the translation suggests, it’s widely understood to mean “keep your distance“, making it an easy-to-understand message that everyone needs to hear right now.

So whether you’re taking your social distancing cues from a beloved prefectural mascot or a tatami mat on the floor, remember to keep your distance between people as much as possible when you go out. And if you’re shopping at a convenience store where there’s plastic sheeting between you and the store clerk, even better.

Sources: Pandaid, Kumamoto Prefectural Government, SBS, Yahoo! Japan, J Town Net
Top image: Pandaid
Insert images: Pandaid, Kumamoto Prefectural Government ©2010熊本県くまモン ©2010kumamoto pref.kumamon

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