In Japan, English words set to be added to stop, slow signs

Yasuyuki Arashiro, a construction worker with Kochi Construction directs traffic during the replacement of sewer pipes on Nov. 16, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.


By JAPAN NEWS/YOMIURI Published: December 15, 2016

TOKYO — The National Police Agency is set to change Japan's stop and slow down signs by adding English words to the current designs, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to sources.

As the number of visitors from abroad is expected to increase, the new signs are aimed at preventing traffic accidents involving foreign travelers. The NPA will canvas public opinion regarding the plan from Friday to Jan. 14 next year.

After revising the related laws, the current signs will be replaced with new ones starting in July next year.

The current "Tomare" (stop) and "Joko" (slow down) signs were introduced in 1963. This will be the first change to the displays.

The inverted triangle shapes will stay the same, but the English word "STOP" will be added below "Tomare," and "SLOW" below "Joko."

Stop signs are currently placed in about 1.7 million locations nationwide, and slow down signs in about 1,000 locations. They will be replaced with new ones when their renewal period comes, with priority to be given to signs in places where many foreign tourists visit.

According to the All Japan Rent-a-Car Association, the number of foreign tourists who rent cars has sharply increased in recent years, particularly among tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Last fiscal year, about 140,000 cars were rented by foreign tourists in Okinawa Prefecture and about 40,000 in Hokkaido. The figure for Okinawa was up 68 percent from the previous fiscal year, and the figure for Hokkaido was up 71 percent.

Some foreign tourists have complained about the current signs, saying they are difficult to understand.

Furthermore, an increasing number of foreign visitors with an international driver's license have been involved in traffic accidents in Japan, with 216 accidents of this kind recorded in 2015. In response to the situation, the NPA recognized the necessity of English translations for the stop and slow down signs to help prevent traffic accidents.