I quickly threw together this post to answer the question, “What do you find most unusual, crazy or strange about Japan?” for the July Japansoc Blog Matsuri. One thing that comes to mind is the attention given to Japanese dialects.
The relationship of this poster and dialects is in the text, which I’ll explain here as I have explained before on another blog.
「海外」means “overseas” or sometimes could be translated as “abroad.”
「行き」means “to go.”
You may be wondering, why is 「春」in there? This is a joke, or pun, on Kansai dialect, or more precisely, Kyoto dialect.
In Kyoto-ben, you can put 「はる」(haru) after a verb to make it polite. For example in this case they are making a pun with 「海外に行きはる？」which means, “You’re going overseas?” in polite Kyoto dialect… And replacing the 「はる」with 「春」which means spring and is also pronounced “haru.”
There are lots of these puns on Kansai dialect, and other dialects around Japan. The fact that Japanese has so many homonyms makes it easy to come up with these puns, and the attitude towards the dialects make them completely (mostly?) harmless.
Of course we also have a variety of dialects and different ways of speaking in the United States. We have our accent imitations, and our southern drawl jokes and what not, but people would often find them offensive. I have rarely (if ever) seen someone take offense at a dialect joke in Japan. Am I wrong?
Maybe my interest in Japanese has just made me oversensitive.
Check out our Kansai-ben iPhone application to learn more about Kansai-ben. It introduces hundreds of Kansai-ben expressions!