Shocking & Politically-incorrect Japanese Products

Photo credit: toritorin on flickr

Posted By Nathan Hoernig

Lost in Translation

Sometimes, things just don’t work in other languages/countries.

In Japan, if you say “otsukare-sama desu” to a loved one, it has positive connotations. However, if you say that same thing, translated to English, it would come out as something odd like: “Oh, you’re tired!” Who knows, you could end up getting slapped for implying that someone looks terrible—instead of politely acknowledging that the person worked hard that day and deserves a rest.

This article aims to present a few of those, “don’t try this at home” products. These items, in one way or another, just would not work overseas in an English-speaking country. None of them are too heavily frowned upon here in Japan but could warrant the aforementioned slap if applied in a foreign environment.

Let’s see what sort of trouble we’ve roused up!

Pocari Sweat

Yeah, we had to start off with a good one.

This one speaks for itself. How well do you think a sports drink would sell overseas if it had the word “sweat” in its title. Probably not so well. We’ll have to change the name a bit before we start pushing it overseas.

With how liberally English is used here in Japan in packaging and advertising, it’s no wonder the mistake circled on the above image is as minimal as it is. Don’t worry, Japan. We English-speakers don’t do so well with hyph-ens e-ither!

Pungency Milk Tea

pungency tea bottle

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “pungent” implies:

Actually, the true definition of “pungent” has a positive connotation as well. However, you most likely didn’t know that and if you did, congratulations on making it all the way to the letter “p” in pursuit of reading the dictionary front to back!

We’re willing to venture that most English-speakers would make that negative association. Again, a Japanese beverage that might not get so far amongst English-speaking populations.

What really sets it all off is, if you do a Google search for “pungency” (at least here in Japan), just below two negative definitions for the word, is the website for the tea! Talk about bad luck.

White Lover Cookies

Shiroi Koibito literally translates into “White Lover”. That’s the translation of the characters written on the lower edge of the packaging.

If you didn’t already guess, the white refers to the white chocolate sandwiched between two thin, vanilla wafers.

We will refrain from stating the obvious issues this could cause if brought to a western country.


beano snack bag

This is a soy-made Japanese snack that goes by the name of “Beano” (those bright characters on the left side). Do you make any associations with the word “beano”?

If we’re not mistaken, it’s a little green pill you take when you’ve got gas pains in the lower stomach. Again, maybe not a good name for a consumable. As a matter of fact, soy beans cause gas for many people!

Mohejiya Kids’ Beer

That vertical strand of playful Japanese characters says “Kids’ Beer”.

Okay, okay. We have candy cigarettes in the states, but considering the sensitivity of modern-American consumers, we’re pretty sure you couldn’t sell “kids’ beer” and get away with it. Our bet is that within three months, some parent will get upset with its implication that drinking “beer” is okay for children and sue.

Let’s not ignore the facts though, it does have a cute label!

We humbly offer our services!

As a formal offering to the companies above, our company would like to offer our native-English skills in support of optimizing your products for foreign expansion.

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