Things started off OK, but didn’t finish quite right.

The Tokyo Marathon was only held for the first time in 2007, but it’s quickly become one of the premier distance running events in Japan. Conditions for this year’s iteration look to be just about ideal, with clear skies and mild temperatures forecast for the start of the race at 9:10 a.m. on Sunday. But while no participants have started running just yet, there’s already been a stumble from sponsor and supplier Asics.

Among other commemorative items, the sportwear company is selling a Tokyo Marathon 2024 Limited-edition Souvenir T-shirt through its online shop and at brick-and-mortar vendors. Available in white, black, or navy blue, the front of the shirt has depictions of some of the famous pieces of Tokyo architecture the runners will go by during the race, and on the back is a map of the course with “RUN TOKYO” written in large lettering.

That’s not the only bit of English text on the shirt, though. The beginning and end of the course are also marked in English, as “START” and…


Even in a country where the fondness for loanwords often outstrips skill at spelling them, this is a pretty big blunder. The English “finish” shows up frequently in signage, user interfaces, and graphic design in Japan, so it’s surprising to see that funish slipped through to the shirts’ production phase.

So how did this happen? One possibility has to do with the structure of the Japanese language. As we discussed in our explanation of how a sign in Japan mistakenly directed motorists to a fart for 30 years, in the Japanese language consonants generally have to be followed by a vowel. However, much like how Japanese famously doesn’t have an “L” sound, not every consonant/vowel combination we have in English exists in Japanese. Within orthodox Japanese linguistics, the only vowel that F can be followed by is U, which could explain why no one at Asics caught the funish mistake before the shirts were printed and put on sale.

There is a way to brute-force a fi sound when writing Japanese by using katakana, the script used for writing foreign language-sourced words. Even then, though, it involves using the katakana character for “fu” and adding a smaller version of the katakana for “i” immediately after.

However, this “fi” sound isn’t something that technically exists within Japanese pronunciation, and its rendering still contains the character for “fu,” so once again, “funish” might not have immediately jumped out as wrong to Asics’ Japanese staff, including whoever input the text in the design phase.

Then, of course, there’s the non-linguistics-related possible explanation, which is just that I and U are next to each other on a standard keyboard layout, and that funish was just an errant keystroke typo.

Regardless of how it came about, though, Asics has issued an apology for the mistake, saying “We deeply apologize for the trouble caused to our valued customers who purchased the affected items” and offering full refunds, even if the shirts have already been worn, adding “Moving forward, we will be making thorough efforts to improve our quality control, and we ask for your understanding and continued support.”

While it’s definitely an embarrassing mistake for Asics, Twitter reactions have been far from universally negative.

“Funish…ah man, that’s kinda cute.”
“I think they should just go ahead and make the actual banner at the end of the course say funish now.”
“I feel like even a junior high school student would be able to spell finish.”
“I bet someone got royally chewed out for this.”
“I think the designer and Asics person in charge of the project should both get fired.”
“I actually want one of these shirts even more now. It’s like a collector’s item. ‘I hope people think of it like Fun + finish = funish.’”
“It sounds like a mix of ‘fun + run + finish,’ meaning ‘Let’s have a fun run all the way to the end.’ I think this might be a misprint that goes on to become a new buzzword.”

In all fairness, “funish” is exactly the sort of pun-adjacent wordplay that Japan has a major soft spot for, so there’s a good chance that some people who ended up with misprinted shirts will be happy to keep them. For those that want a properly spelled finish to the situation, Asics will provide full refunds through its online return form here.

Source: Asics via IT Media, Twitter
Top image: Asics
Insert images: Asics, SoraNews24
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