Cram school’s message would be ordinarily be inspiring, but takes on an inadvertently dark, potentially dangerous atmosphere.

The “Daigaku” part of Nagoya Daigaku Station’s name means “university,” and both Nagoya University and Nanzan Universities have campuses within walking distance. In addition to the school’s current students, the subway station is also used by high schoolers hoping to attend the institutions and coming to take entrance exams or tour the campus.

So it’s no surprise that a lot of the ads found inside the station are of an educational nature. For example, here’s one from cram school chain Kawai Juku that says “We’re here to help you become a Nagoya U student.”

Because of how difficult entrance exams are, preparing for them is a long process, with many students attending cram school lessons throughout their final year of high school. Cram schools ideally want to not only fill their students’ heads with knowledge, but also keep their spirits and energy levels up, as demonstrated by another Kawai Juku poster that reads “Take a look around the testing room. In spring [when the school year starts], you’ll have lots of friends.”

Even the most optimistic teens, though, will eventually experience some measure of self-doubt, and midwinter, in the final days before students take their entrance exams, is the most stressful of all. Cram school chain Yoyogi Seminar wanted to display empathy with an ad that shows it knows this is a tough time for many of its students while also reminding them of the importance of perseverance, and to be fair, the words it chose, in and of themselves, are encouraging and inspiring:

“When you think ‘I can’t go on,’ if you take just one step forward, that’s where your goal is.”

Nice, right? It acknowledges that studying is hard, but also holds out the promise of hope that all that hard work might be about to pay off. When things start to feel overwhelming, sometimes it helps to just concentrate on the next baby step.

Unfortunately, that sentiment got kind of lost because of where in the station the ad was placed: on a platform pillar, right by the train tracks, as shown in this tweet from Japanese Twitter user @tsugumi_none.

With jumping in front of a train being one of the more common ethos of suicide in Japan, and educational pressure a common contributor to teen depression, suggesting that the end of stress and other negative feelings might be just a step away takes on a darker meaning if “step” is interpreted literally in this location, and other Twitter users were quick to agree with @tsugumi_none’s opinion that this isn’t the right place for this ad.

“I just can’t imagine what they were thinking putting that poster up there.”
“The phrasing is eloquent, but this isn’t the place for it.”
“They really should think carefully about where they put this.”
“Looks like the just slapped it up there without giving it much thought.”

In Yoyogi Seminar’s defense, the ad doesn’t look to be specifically tailored to this particular station, and odds are the same design is also used in other locations where it couldn’t be construed as anything other than a kindhearted message about not giving up. And thankfully, it at least appears that the poster is oriented such that if you’re standing in front of it and reading its encouragement to “take one step forward” you’d actually be moving towards the center of the platform, and away from the tracks.

In any case, it’s obvious that neither Yoyogi Seminar or Nagoya Daigaku Station wants depressed teens to kill themselves, and it’s a near certainty that no one involved with the poster’s design or placement realized its potentially unfortunate implication at the time it went up. But since hindsight is 20/20, in order to help people remember they have things to look forward to in the future, even if they don’t yet know what those things are going to be, it’d probably be best to relocate the poster.

If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.

Source: Twitter/@tsugumi_none via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Kzaral~commonswiki
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