How different it is from country to country…! The Mysterious World of Pictograms | FRIDAY DIGITAL

How different it is from country to country…! The Mysterious World of Pictograms

A hot topic at the Tokyo Olympics! Simple but profound: A large collection of unique signs not found in Japan

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Pictograms drew attention at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics held this summer. It is said that the origin of pictograms dates back to the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, but it was not until the 1960s that a common global standard was established. Mr. Keiichi Koyama, a sign designer and the author of “World Pictogram”, explains.

U.S.A. Cart prohibition (left)
After carrying the purchased items from the store to the car, only the shopping cart is left on the spot.

Ecuador: No boomboxes (middle)
Warning sign at a bus stop. Note the right edge of the image. This is because there are many people who perform on the bus, such as hip-hop artists.

Netherlands Toilets are here (right).
A sign for a service that tells you where to go to the nearest restroom by phone is now used for toilets.

In Europe, people with different languages often live in the same place, so it was thought more reasonable to use pictograms like this. It is probably because of this background that pictograms were introduced at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, the first time many foreigners visited Japan after the war. In Japan, people have been using family crests and store signs as pictograms since before the Edo period. That can be said to be a kind of pictogram.

Pictograms have been a part of our lives since ancient times. In foreign countries, we often see signs that use unfamiliar pictograms. Takuya Shuto, a travel blogger who has visited 150 countries around the world, explains the appeal of pictograms.

The interesting thing is that the designs change depending on the climate, religion, and culture. Some of them are only recognizable to the inhabitants of the country when you see them for the first time. For example, in Malaysia, where squalls are common, there are signs on the traffic signs indicating places to take shelter from the rain, and in Namibia, where public transportation is scarce, there are signs prohibiting hitchhiking, as many people seem to do. It is fascinating to see how succinctly a country’s national character is expressed.

Please enjoy the world of unique pictograms found in each country.

Thailand: Priority for monks (left)
Look at the symbol on the far left. The symbol on the far left is a reminder not to violate the precept against contact with women on crowded buses.

Austria No Trespassing (middle)
A variation of the circle with diagonal lines prohibition mark. It is common in Europe and conveys the strong intention of prohibition.

Bahamas: Beware of drunken people crossing the street (right).
This is not a warning to drunks, but to cars. This is a sign of a country that loves to drink and is famous for its rum.

Namibia: No hitchhiking (left)
Many people hitchhike as a way of life. It is sometimes restricted because it leads to parking on the street and sudden slowdowns.

Hong Kong Prayer room (middle)
Mainly seen at airports. Some have an illustration of a mosque, but the simpler ones can accommodate a variety of religions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Excessive exposure prohibited (right)
Near a mosque in the city. This is a pictogram seen in Muslim countries, but the bosom of the woman is strangely sexy.

India: Chewing tobacco is prohibited (left).
Many people enjoy chewing tobacco, called gutkha, and it has become a social problem.

Thailand Ban on bringing in durian (middle)
Durian is often seen in hotels in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. It has a strong aroma, but is popular because of its taste.

South Korea: Tanks are allowed to carry up to 40 tons (right).
In a rural village. You can see that tanks used to pass through here on a daily basis. It is said to be a remnant of the Korean War that broke out in 1950.

Australia: Cattle collision warning (left)
A cow that does not move even when hit by a car. There are also designs of kangaroos and other animals.

Chile: Beware of high-voltage lines on the ground (middle)
This is not a lightning bolt, but an electric current caused by high voltage lines. It makes me wonder if it is safe to just use signs to warn people. ……

Thailand: Ban on street vendors (right)
This pictogram is unique to the country where there are many street vendors such as food stalls. I feel the Asian taste in the balance bar.

Indonesia: Prohibition of molestation (left)
In the capital city of Jakarta, the commuter rush is so great that passengers are forced to climb onto the roof, making molestation a social problem.

Malaysia: Danger (middle)
A sign in a school zone. It doesn’t say what the danger is, but there is a hairpin curve at the end of this road.

Malaysia: A place to take shelter from the rain (right)
(Right) There is a rain shelter under a multi-story intersection at the end of the sign.

From “FRIDAY” December 17, 2021 issue

  • PHOTO Keiichi Koyama, "World Pictogram" (B.N.N.) Takuya Shudo

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