Japan’s use of the English language – Part 1: Marketing

If there’s and R or an L, it will probably be wrong!

Far be it from me to mock anyone for their inability to speak a non-native language, as a language learner I know how frustratingly difficult it can be in some cases to be spot on! However, the Japanese seem to have a particularly complex relationship with the English language. It is commonly used in advertisements in all forms of media, all over the country. It is also used in restaurants and public places to make life easier for tourists. However, the English ‘L’ and ‘R’ seem to baffle the Japanese every time. Because the Japanese language does not have either of the sounds, an English learner is forced to approximate the sound, and often get it wrong. This problem not just isolated to Japanese English speakers, and not just limited to the ‘L’s and ‘R’s!

The use of Japanese characters on Superdry’s clothing is likely as baffling to the Japanese as their use of English is to us!

Just as SuperDry uses Japanese characters on its clothing, Japanese marketeers  use English words on their products. The term “Let’s”, followed by a noun, is common on Japanese products and often leaves a sense of wonder and confusion as to what it could mean.

“Let’s Vitamin”

In the case above, it’s clear that vitamin is a noun, but the marketeer charged with this product boldly attempted to use it as a verb! This is not just limited to the slogans used on products, but it occurs in product names too! The amazingly named ‘Pocari Sweat’ is a classic example of a marketing team attempting to name a product. Pocari Sweat is actually an isotonic beverage designed to replenish electrolytes after exercise and is not, as the name might suggest, a can of sweat.

lotte milkis.jpg
Lotte Milkis – a “new feeling of soda beverage”


The Korean / Japanese conglomerate, Lotte, has many products with bizarre English phrases written on them, such as Milkis, a strange tasting carbonated drink. I’ve had it a few times, and I can’t really pin down the flavour. While the phrase “new feeling of soda beverage” seems strange and confusing out of context, if you’d tried Milkis, you’d be more inclined to believe its claims.

Daiso – “Life Coordinate Shop”

Quite what a ‘life coordinate shop’ is, is beyond me. Most of the products therein were labelled only in Japanese, making it very hard to work out what exactly was for sale. It remains a mystery to me to this day!


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