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Humorous road signs mocking 'social distancing' between couples a Japan Twitter hit

The roadside sign jokingly describing a couple's emotional distance is seen in Izumi Ward, Sendai, on June 24, 2020. The sign has now been moved to the front of the shop Takachoshoten. (Mainichi/Takashi Kokaji)

SENDAI -- An idiosyncratic set of signs making light of concepts of social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak that were set up on roadsides in this northeastern Japan city have been gaining attention online.

    The pair that caught the public's interest read, "(This is) just the right distance from my wife," and, "My heart has been distant from my husband since long ago." The two signs playing on the English word "distance," which has seen increased usage in Japan during the viral outbreak, were posted to Twitter and retweeted around 40,000 times as of July 1.

    The signs are the handiwork of Choya Takahashi, 72, the owner of local clothing store Takachoshoten. For the last 10 years or so, he has been irregularly putting up signs with satirical material that pokes fun at the issues of the day, as well as making ones that coincide with the seasons, among others. He says that so far he's made at least 30 of the unique signs. They go up in the area around the entrance to the Nenoshiroishi district of the city's Izumi Ward where Takahashi's store is located. He said, "I did it hoping it might get the town some attention."

    A man who lives in Tokyo passed by the signs and photographed them, and then on June 8 he uploaded the images to Twitter, where they were soon shared widely. They were liked over 120,000 times, and among the comments received were people saying, "Thanks for the laugh," and, "I love the humor of these."

    The man who uploaded them said, "I just thought I'd put them up; I was honestly surprised by the unexpected response they got." The signs have now been moved to the very front of the store.

    Takahashi said, "In the middle of this coronavirus crisis, if people see the signs and smile even a little, then that makes me happy. It'd be great if a single sign could revitalize a town."

    (Japanese original by Takashi Kokaji, Regional News Department)

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