NEWS | Feb. 22, 2018

Bilingual Stop Sign Showcases U.S.-Japan Partnership

By Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

MISAWA CITY, Japan. -- Misawa City police installed a new Japanese-English stop sign at an intersection near Misawa Air Base, Feb. 15, 2018.

This intersection has seen a few changes in stop signs since the base's early days, but the reason behind this change is especially pertinent in the midst of the 2018 Olympic games. From 1950 to 1963, the octagon-shaped sign displayed both Japanese and English writing on it. In 1963, the sign transformed into an upside down triangle with only Japanese writing. In 2018, the stop sign maintains its shape but reverts back to showing both languages.

The sudden change is an effort to make the sign more recognizable to tourists traveling through Misawa. As the world has had its eyes turned toward the Republic of Korea during the ongoing Olympic games, Japan is already looking toward its future role as the 2020 Olympics host. With the number of spectators projected to attend and travel throughout the country during this time, the Japanese decided a bilingual stop sign would be helpful to visiting guests.

“These signs are being purchased in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo games,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Patrick C. Gordon, the 35th Security Forces Squadron commander. “We’re improving the understandability of local traffic regulations for foreign nationals, and Misawa gets to be one of the first districts.”

The bilingual stop sign is not only practical for tourists but showcases the combined efforts and close ties between local U.S. and Japan agencies.

“This is a great gesture of acceptance by the local community,” said Gordon. “For the Misawa police to install a sign with a foreign language shows their willingness to be friends and partners. This also aids in a better understanding of what the safety regulations are at intersections.”

While the new stop sign offers many safety benefits, it also helps newcomers who aren’t familiar with the native language here acclimate to their surroundings a little easier.

“A driver who doesn’t read Japanese would be able to read these new signs,” said Nobuhiro Izumida, the Misawa City Police Station Chief. “I believe the new stop signs will help prevent accidents from occurring.”

Izumida has not only issued new stop signs to be installed to prevent traffic accidents but as a friendly reminder of what their stop sign means.

“The stop sign serves as a reminder to new personnel that we are in a different country and not all traffic signs are the same,” U.S. Air Force said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Valenzuela, the 35th Security Forces Squadron police services NCO in charge. “They serve as a reminder of what Japanese stop signs look like. This might help individuals remember when they are traveling throughout Japan.

Although safety while driving is important, building long-lasting relationships is key for a successful community.

“Our working relationship with the Misawa police is just phenomenal,” said Gordon. “They partner with us on any and every aspect of community safety possible. It’s a great pleasure to work in a community like this. We owe it all to our counterparts and appreciate what they are doing with their own time and budget to support us as a community."