Japanese blue is Western green?


Street in Tokyo Every Non-Asian Japanese language student will be confused at some point about the different meaning of the color green in Japanese. All of the sudden a traffic light, fruits or vegetables might be pronounced as blue (青い) in Japanese, although they seem clearly not to be blue! So why is actually something green colored actually called blue? Originally green was considered a shade of blue and did not need special distinction in communication. Based on Wikipedia not until the Second World War did Japanese educational materials distinguish between different colors of green and blue. In daily life I come across both namings, but two occasions still confuse me. I still struggle to get used to say that I like blue vegetable juice when the mix seems greener than spinach to me. Another example is the traffic light, when you drive or walk on blue. Below is the actual example of the description of the blue traffic light in this year’s official Japanese safe driving handbook.

safe driving book

Although some mishaps occur in daily life, but I have to say it is much less dangerous when the “go sign” can be misunderstood than the “stop sign”.

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)

3 thoughts on “Japanese blue is Western green?

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