Decorative English

By on May 9, 2013

“I’m standing between Love & Peace and Hugme”. This was the position of a patient who got lost on her way to my office. What a lovely place to be! I knew exactly where she was and was able to guide her in. Situated on either side of a small cross roads in Daikanyama, Love & Peace is a café, and Hugme a shop that sells push-chairs (strollers).


The Japanese have a marvellous facility for thinking up intriguing names in English. It should be realised these are really for decoration and do not attempt necessarily to be correct. Thus, it is pointless for foreigners to feel superior and point out spelling or grammatical mistakes. Sometimes a presumably unintended error makes the slogan or the product all the more appealing. Ebisu beer used to say on the can ‘Brings you a good luck’. Drinking this tasty beer while contemplating the writing – it meant something. Then some pedant pointed out this was ungrammatical so it was changed to ‘Brings you good luck’ – which is so bland it is virtually meaningless. My favourite for an inspirational slogan is the well-known ‘Impossible is nothing’ (Adidas). Again, if it said ‘Nothing is impossible’ it would be just a cliché.


Within a 10-minute stroll from my office are to be found many examples of what I call Decorative English. Three enigmatically named clothing shops come to mind, being called Post Party Depression, Cor Blimey! and Dry Bones, respectively. Then there is Baby Hip (babies’ clothing). Sometimes the names are not what you think. Venus Lash – a beauty parlour where women can be fi tted with alluring artifi cial eye-lashes. And how about Love Girls Market – a women’s clothing store which is merely a direct translation of the Japanese: market which girls love? Sometimes they get it wrong, as with a beauty parlour called Slug. And sometimes it’s splendidly appropriate: a girl’s T-shirt with the word Milky emblazoned on the front. Yes, indeed. And what about Potavel? You would never have guessed it’s a shop which sells bicycles for pottering and travel!


The little shops themselves are invariably charming and immaculately presented, with one or two (or more) beautifully attired young lady assistants. A stone’s throw from the clinic is a candidate for the title of the world’s smallest shop. It’s about 1 x 3.5 meters and sells, as far as I can see, women’s ‘accessories’ – mainly rubber cords in every colour for tying up your hair. If a customer enters the shop the assistant has to stand outside.


Dr Gabriel Symonds is the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. Full medical services are available including out-of-hours cover. Tel: 03-5458 6099.

About Dr. Gabriel Symonds

Dr. Gabriel Symonds was the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. The clinic closed down in May 2014 after serving the expatriate community for 20+ years. Dr. Symonds has retired and the Tokyo British Clinic is now closed. Dr Symonds will continue to live in Tokyo and may be contacted by e-mail over any questions concerning medical records or related matters: He will be available from another address for: smoking cessation psychotherapy/counselling circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099