Mysterious sign in Japanese and Russian

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Victor Steinbok sent in the following photograph:


VS noted:

Warning along the usual lines — original source unknown and unverified and pic appeared on a Ukrainian Russian-language site, accompanied by an extensive commentary on the state of the Russian state. Still, given all that, it's worth a look.

The pic is claimed to be a sign on a Chinese-leased storefront in the Russian Far East (Trans-Baikal). The sign loosely translates, "Entrance into our store is prohibited to Russians". Loosely translated because the original is not in Russian — it's Russian Chinglish.

I'm somewhat skeptical because the sign looks a lot like how Russians think Chinese speak Russian. But it's certainly possible it's authentic. I'll let you translate the Chinese.

I told VS that the "Chinese" was actually Japanese and asked him what he meant by "Russian Chinglish".  He replied:

The "Russian Chinglish" was a reference to very broken grammar in the red sign.

The claim that it was a Chinese store came from the accompanying Russian text. For all I know, the sign could've come from some Japanese checkpoint in the Kurils. As I mentioned, I know nothing about the origin of the sign other than what's in the post, and I consider the source unreliable. But I don't think it's photoshopped.

From Petya Andreeva (a Bulgarian who also knows Russian):

The Russian grammar is not correct; indeed, I would say it sounds very much like Chinglish would. I get the overall meaning, but there are obvious grammar mistakes excluding the weird verb usage, in terms of pure grammar, the ending should be "в нашем магазине"). The entirely correct way to say this is:

Русским вход воспрещён в наш магазин.

I consulted with Russian students and they agreed with me.
Hope this helps. I read about this online and it seems that some shops and local businesses in Turkey and also in Malaysia put up similar signs against Russian tourists; I have no idea if this is related to this sign and if it is a consistent phenomenon.

An anonymous correspondent remarks:

As for the Russian, your friend is right. It appears Google-translated or something.

There are stores where Americans aren't permitted in Okinawa. I met some friends who lived in Korea and said that Russians would ride the ferry from Vladivostok for shopping day-trips. I suspect that they do the same thing in N Japan, and the locals probably aren't pleased.

So much for the Russian.  Grammar-wise, the Japanese on the sign presents no problems.

According to Nathan Hopson:

The Japanese is correct and as appropriate as it could be to express this sentiment:

Roshia-jin no nyūten okotowari 

"Entry into the store" (入店 nyūten)
"of/by Russians" (ロシア人の Roshia-jin no)
"politely declined" (お断り okotowari)

Why this sign would need to be in Japanese is the real mystery to me….

From an anonymous correspondent:

There is nothing wrong with the Japanese on the sign.  It is prohibiting Russians from entering this shop.  But, "prohibit" might be too official for the nuance of  'o-kotowari' [o (polite prefix)+kotowari (nominal form of kotowaru (v)].  It has more personal (emotional) tone.  Something like "we refuse (or don't want) Russians to enter this shop".   For official prohibition or prohibition by law, 禁止(kinshi) would be used–ロシア人の入店禁止.

Miki Morita sheds light on the larger context for this sort of sign:

I think that this sign is possibly from a certain location in Hokkaido where many Russians visit. I found this newspaper section which deals with similar language on signs in Japan.  I am not sure if this one is from the Russian Far East.

Ironically, similar signs against Japanese have been posted in China:

"Dogs and Japanese not admitted" (3/2/13)

[Thanks to Hiroko Sherry]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 9:34 am

    When I click on the link for "this newspaper section" in Miki Morita's note, it doesn't load properly, so I'm repeating it here.

    Also, when I click on "Source" under the photograph at the top of the post, it just embiggens, so I'm repeating that here as well.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 9:38 am

    Hmmm…. That didn't work either, so, much as I dislike putting long URLs in posts and comments, I have no choice but to give them here:

  3. thunk said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 9:41 am

    The Russian grammar is, as many people have explained in the post, bad.

    The twitter post on top (with the extensive commentary) roughly says "I don't know where in the RF (Russian Federation) Obama can't enter, but in the Transbaikal the arrangement (?) is already completely strange."

    Posted by some "свидетель вовы" guy– a "witness to Vladimir", who in this case probably refers to Putin.

    The Obama stuff likely comes from the Russian Media portraying him as evil, along the rest of the Anti-Putin American leadership.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 9:45 am

    Well, on my computer at least, I can't seem to get from WordPress to the linked sites, whether embedded or given directly as URLs. If the same thing is happening to you, I suppose that you'll have no choice but to copy and past the URLs into your browser.

    I've been so patient with this because, for those who know Japanese, the first site in particular is important for understanding the context for the prohibition on the red sign.

  5. thunk said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 9:45 am

    Also, the twitter handle refers to a popular Russian internet meme, a plush "stoned fox" created by a British artist:Упоротый_лис

  6. FM said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 10:41 am

    @thunk: more like "…but in the Transbaikal these days the situation is quite different."

  7. Jonathan said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 11:28 am

    Isn't the Obama reference because "ロシア人の入" could resemble "Obama" if you squint really hard and don't know Japanese characters?

    ロ = O
    シ = ???
    ア = b
    人 = A
    の = M
    入 = A

  8. Bill Poser said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 11:44 am

    I once left my house in the care of a grad student while away travelling and returned to find a note on the door in Cyrillic letters. Naturally, I assumed that it was in Russian but was dismayed to find that I could not understand it. At first I worried that this was due to my poor Russian, but soon it dawned on me that the note was not in Russian but in Japanese. The note told me where she had hidden the key. She figured that Japanese in Cyrillic letters would confuse any potential burglars.

  9. D.O. said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

    Reference to Obama might be a gesture to causal anti-Americanism or racism (allegedly) prevalent in Russia. The second part of the header (after coma) translates something like "but in Transbaikal the situation is completely different". расклад here refers literally to hand distribution in a card game, but it's colloquial meaning is "situation" . The caption below photo is "Already in Transbaikal leased by Chinese"

    A small-letter inscription at the edge of the photo shows that it comes from the web-site "ДЕМОТИВАЦИЯ ПО-РУССКИ" (demotivation Russian-style), which is devoted to parody on motivational/inspirational/etc. posters with attempts at clever captioning (mostly fail) .

  10. Profan said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

    To me (a native Russian speaker), this just looks like a fairly common Ukrainian attempt to demean / ridicule Russians on the Internet. Since the overthrow of Ukraine's previous president and a military conflict in eastern Ukraine, there is a proliferation of anti-Russian sentiments in the Ukrainian section of the internet. The common theme here is that Russia (the alleged aggressor against the Ukraine) it at its death throes, about to collapse / fail / disintegrate etc. The implication of this sign (which I suspect is fake) is that Russia is so weak that the Chinese dictate who may or may not enter a store in Russia's own territory.

  11. Nanani said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

    The Japanese looks awkward. It's halfway between officialese and a more florid style often seen on shop signs.

    I would guess the writer of the sign is not a native or educated Japanese speaker either.

    Google-translated by someone who doesn't know the difference between Chinese and Japanese, maybe?

  12. Bathrobe said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

    The Japanese seems fine to me. It is exactly what someone who would want to (bluntly) refuse entry to Russians would write on a sign.

  13. PeterL said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 3:32 pm

    It wouldn't surprise me if the sign is from this collection or similar: …some of these go back 10+ years, and seem to be mostly related to use of hot spring baths, but also include hotels, restaurants, bars, sports stores, etc.

    (Debito Arudō is an anti-discrimination activist in Japan … on one hand, I agree it's not nice to be discriminated against (it's happened to me, but it can be amusing to see the reaction I get when I reply to the "offender" in Japanese); on the other hand, it's not nice to share a public bath with people who don't know how to use it — but I've also seen enough Japanese who don't follow proper sanitary etiquette.)

    BTW, the word "mise" (店) in Japanese can have a wider usage than the English word "store" or "shop" … it's often used for restaurants, although I don't know how likely it would be for hotel or a public hot springs bath.

  14. krogerfoot said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 6:16 pm

    As PeterL says, these kinds of signs barring foreigners or particular nationalities from various establishments are not unknown in Japan. Hot-spring spas in Hokkaido have struggled to accommodate Russian visitors—not only tourists but also sailors—and haven't always done so very gracefully.

    It's not much of a mystery why the sign would be in Japanese as well—it lets Japanese patrons know that the establishment is foreigner-free.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    March 27, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

    I now have a copy of the entire text in Russian. It's too long to put in these comments, but if someone is really interested in seeing what it says, I'll send it to you individually.

    Because of security concerns, I'm not sending you to the site.

  16. heji said,

    March 28, 2016 @ 7:12 am

    The Japanese on the sign is appropriate and common style on signs, not of non-educated. I don't know how to handle with specific abbreviated styles grammarwise as on signs or as is called headlinese, though that is a kind of the style. 一見さんお断り (ichigen-san okotowari, (we) refuse first-time guests (without invitation)) is also a common notice sign at exclusive restaurants.

    @PeterL: "Mise" is hardly acceptable for hotel. At least, ホテルに入店する is impossible. 入館 (nyuukan, entry into hall) and 入室 (nyuushitsu, entry into room) fit for "entry into hotel", but not either make much practical sound. In this case, 宿泊 (shukuhaku, staying) and 利用 (riyou, using facilities) is better. For public bath which is not of the hotel, 入店 is also acceptable.

  17. Doc Rock said,

    March 28, 2016 @ 5:17 pm

    In the mid-1980's I traveled to the Japanese port of Niigata 新潟 & out to Sad Island 佐渡島 and was surprised to see signs in Russian in a number of stores around the port area of the city until I learned that Niigata was often a port of call for Russian ships. I could slog through the signs having had a year of Russian at Rutgers in 1959.

  18. Doc Rock said,

    March 28, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

    Sado not Sad!

  19. Chris C. said,

    March 28, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

    Jonathan — Obviously, the シ is an apostrophe.

    So it's O'bama, and I suppose Irish aren't welcome either.

  20. BZ said,

    March 29, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

    If you search for the phrase on Google, you can find an inaccessible page from 2010 which attributes it to Malaysia.

  21. DaveO said,

    March 29, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

    Surely the picture you searched for is right there in the URL:

  22. Victor Mair said,

    March 29, 2016 @ 2:22 pm


    No, not surely.

    If you strip that long URL I provided into your browser, you'll get something else with 6 photographs, which is what I wanted. Your jpg is only one of the 6.

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