Walking around Japan, it can seem like every other T-shirt in sight is plastered with English that looks like it was concocted by a tipsy translator. China isn’t immune to these linguistic missteps either, as travelers who’ve run into some of the country’s less-than-clear English signage know.
But this isn’t a phenomenon that only runs from west to east. Recently Twitter users in Japan have found themselves on the opposite end of the situation, snickering at head-scratching Japanese text showing up on clothing from Spanish apparel company Zara.
Founded in 1974, Zara’s path to success has been providing fashion that, while not necessarily the cheapest option, is still within the price range of fashion-conscious working professionals. Chic and stylish, most of their clothing has a mature, sophisticated look to it.
Still, Zara’s designers figure there’s room for a little playfulness in their customers’ wardrobes. To that end, they whipped up some designs for lighthearted prints sprinkled with Japanese text.
Granted umami, the word written in Japanese, is a noun, so the translation should really be “deliciousness” instead of “delicious.” But still, we can get what they were going for here, with a mental image that’s supposed to go from “food” to “Japan” to “miso soup” to “I miso you.” It’s a nice try, even if the pun is so bad it’s making Japanese Twitter user Monharpo cry.
We’re not sure what station the culinary train of thought is headed to on this one, though.
Yup, that sure is ramen. Well, actually it’s four pieces of yarn made to look like the popular noodles, but still, the shirt says “ramen” in Japanese.
▼ On the plus side, this is way less likely to result in hard-to-remove oil stains than when you get real ramen on your shirt,
Sort of like with the miso soup tee, one of these two shirts, found at a Zara branch in India, has a logical basis. Even with a decorative splotch/red sun blocking the second “A,” that’s clearly supposed to be Japan written on the white shirt, with Japanese text meaning the same directly below it.
What’s a little more confusing is why the red shirt has the Japanese katakana characters for “France” on it.
Stylish as the script may look, maybe you want something that feels a bit more personal than the nation-wide scope represented by the shirts above. In that case, there’s this option that also sports a couple of Japanese-style kaomoji emoticons.
Written large across the shoulder blades is the exclamation “A wonderful story!” This is followed by “Love letter = first love” on the lower back. For good measure, you’ll find “romance” on the front, just to make sure that whether you’re coming or going, everyone knows you’re in the mood for love.
Finally, right now in the Czech Republic, Zara has this design in stock.
Splashed across the top is kawaii, or “cute,” one of the more recent Japanese vocabulary words to start diffusing into the non-Japanese-speaking world. This overachieving shirt isn’t done yet, though, as it’s still got two more languages it can’t wait to try out.
Next up is the English command COME WITH US, which honestly seems more kowai(“scary”) than kawaii. However, almost as though it realized it was too harsh, the shirt next offers us a friendly “Thank you,” in Italian.
Okay, time for the big finish. What are you going to go out on, crazy multilingual Zara shirt?
Yuyake. Or, in English, “sunset.”
Silly as they may be, Japanese Twitter users don’t seem too bent out of shape over the odd use of their language. “I guess this is what it’d be like if you translated the English on the shirts people in Japan wear,” mused one, who said he could actually see himself wearing one of Zara’s creations for kicks. And hey, you could make a valid argument that seeing a foreign language as cool, even if you don’t understand it, is preferable to being unreceptive to anything from a culture other than your own.