Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”


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Hi Blog.  Following the “foreign driver” stickers put on cars to stigmatize the NJ tourists (and NJ residents renting cars) in Okinawa and Hokkaido, now we have the Fukuoka Prefectural Police taking it upon themselves to associate bad driving with foreigners.  Based upon one cited accident (Japanese drivers, after all, never have accidents, right?), the police put up a multilingual sign to caution everyone, and apparently teach NJ how to drive all over again.  How presumptuous.  Let’s see what submitter XY has to say:


Date: August 22, 2016
From: XY

Hi Dr. Debito,
I am a long-time reader – and very occasional commenter – on your blog. However, this Obon I encountered a sign at a rental car office at Fukuoka Airport that was hard to ignore. The sign is attached.

The multilingual translations of everything BUT the warning up top [which specifically mentions “foreign tourists driving rental cars” (gaikokujin ryokousha no unten suru renta-ka-)] seem quite disengenuous to me, almost as if the intention of the author was to create a literal honne/tatemae on the page:

Tatemae: we want everyone to be safe on the road so we have put these reminders out for everyone’s good, even our foreign guests.

Honne: beware, there are dangerous foreigners on the roads of Kyushu. We are doing our omotenashi to remind them of the “common sense” of driving as you can see below, but you need to be extra alert because there is only so much we can do to control their foreign ways of driving

Not the best vibe to be giving off exactly 4 years before the Tokyo Olympics if you ask me.

By the way, a very cursory web search brought up this article, which I am pretty sure reports on the same accident that the poster describes:

I cannot read to the end without an account, but my initial thoughts are:

– There are assumptions galore. The article mentions police making a poster to warn people of the “prohibited” act of dozing off behind the wheel, imploring them to take rests, etc. Incredibly, it implies that these practices are not common sense for people who are not experienced driving in Japan. This argument might hold a sliver of credibility if there was testimony from the driver proving that one of these factors was a cause of his accident. But the article gives no such proof.

– The article offers many statistics to show that the number of foreigners renting cars has indeed increased. Unfortunately, it does not bother to provide statistics proving that this has resulted in an increase in accidents (above and beyond the normal expected increase with more drivers on the road). Even if they did provide evidence showing an increase in accidents, they would still need to go a step further to show how this is directly related to foreign drivers and not something else (the rapid aging of licensed Japanese drivers, perhaps??).

When you take away the need to consider your foreign audience — this article being designed for domestic consumption only — it seems to me that this is another classic case of the Japanese authorities using foreigners as a punching bag for societal angst.

Cheers, XY


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2 comments on “Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Hey look, when they have to take the part about ‘foreigners’ out of the translated version, it proves that they are not merely racist, but they know they are, and they know it looks bad.
    So they think they can hide it.

    Typical Japan.

    — Again, the implicit conviction that Japanese is some kind of secret code that foreigners can’t read.

  • Louis Carlet says:

    I agree that it’s racist only to the extent that they mentioned the ONE accident involved foreigners. I can’t see the statistics that XY mentions, but the implication is not that foreigners are inherently worse drivers. The implication is that foreigners would naturally be worse drivers in unknown terrains (not just Japan). Whether that’s true or not, we don’t know but I think some are misunderstanding the intent. There is no warning against foreign drivers. The accident is SINGULAR not plural. A single accident and seven injured.


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