Takashimaya still seems a little fuzzy on correct English, though.

2020 has beset humanity with one crisis after another, and last month it seemed like we’d finally found the root of the problem. No, it wasn’t a virus, divisive political stance, or even natural disaster that was out to get us.

It was the city of Kyoto itself.

At least that was the message being inadvertently sent by Japanese department store chain Takashimaya’s Kyoto branch in a lavishly large promotional poster. The intended meaning of “Let’s save the world, and this message is from Kyoto,” was instead interpreted by many as “Let’s save the world by protecting it from Kyoto,” thanks to some shaky English grammar and a less than ideal layout, which looked like this:

The “Save the World from Kyoto JAPAN” poster seen in the photo was put up on the north side of Takashimaya’s Kyoto branch on October 5, but it wasn’t until early November that the Internet really took notice of the sudden casting of Japan’s most traditionally hospitable town as a villain that must be stopped, and the chuckling spread around the world as photos of the poster went viral.

Takashimaya quietly removed the poster on November 9, and this week it finally addressed the situation directly by posting the following statement on its website:

“Recently, from October 5 to November 9, a poster was posted on a construction wall on the north side of our Kyoto store (along Shijo-dori Road), with English text which read:

Rising Again
Save The World from Kyoto JAPAN

To convey our intended meaning, a comma needs to be inserted between ‘World’ and ‘from,’ and omitting it resulted in the incorrect English phrasing.

Because of this, many people who saw the poster, as well as those who were involved in its creation and posting, were made to feel uncomfortable, and we deeply apologize.

In the future, we will be taking an increased amount of care in producing our advertising materials. We humbly ask for you forgiveness.”

Considering that anyone English-savvy enough to spot the mistake would also be able to immediately tell the “Kyoto is the bad guy” meaning wasn’t intentional, saying that it made people who saw it feel “uncomfortable” seems like kind of a stretch, unless we’re counting belly aches from laughing too much. Still, in Japan when you apologize, you apologize with the utmost earnestness, and it’s likely the snickering was genuinely embarrassing to some people who were peripherally involved in the gaffe.

However, while Takashimaya’s heart is in the right place with their pledge to take more care in their ad designs, they still might not have the firmest grasp on what went wrong. Simply jamming a comma between “World” and “from” gives us this:

But the grammar/punctuation isn’t exactly perfect here either. For starters, if we’re handing out commas, there should also be one between “Kyoto” and “Japan.”

And while there’s some wiggle room when using “from,” we might also want to have a comma between the sign-off and the writer’s name, like we would here:

Come to think of it, maybe Takashimaya wasn’t trying to frame “Save the world,” as a message from the city of Kyoto, but as a call to action for people in Kyoto specifically to be the first to take world-saving action, in which case it should be.

And that’s not even getting into the weird capitalization choices in the original version, where every word except “from” is capitalized, and “JAPAN” is rendered in all caps.

▼ The original version, once more for reference

But hey, at least Takashimaya now realizes that its poster could have used at least one more draft, and honestly, we’ve seen weirder English mistakes in Japan.

Source: Takashimaya via IT Media
Top image: Wikipedia/Jo
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