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Goin’ Japanesque!

Brand New Must-Have Information on Pictograms for Traveling in Japan

Today, pictograms are used all over the world. Since they are able to convey a message through a picture, it is very convenient for travelers who do not speak the local language. But did you know the pictogram actually originated in Japan? Today we will be introducing a few steps currently being taken, predominantly in airports, to minimize language barrier related issues. We promise it will come in handy for you in the future. Photo:


What is a Pictogram?

One of the most obvious examples would be the symbols and colors used to identify the male and female bathrooms. While the actual symbols may vary depending on the country, describing something using pictures or diagrams, instead of words, is a pictogram.


The Beginning of Pictograms

The creation of the pictogram dates back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. At the time, Japanese people were even more unfamiliar with the English language, and therefore decided to start utilizing the pictograms more seriously to convey messages for overseas travelers. The Tokyo Olympics was the first place where pictograms were used in signs and greetings for a sporting event. 


Food Pictograms

Currently Japan is proactively working to introduce a new pictogram category called “food pictograms.” For the people who have diet restrictions for whatever reason such as religion, by choice (vegetarian, etc.), and/or those with food allergies, information on food is crucial. In order to support these special needs, Japan has started using pictograms with symbols of ingredients used to visually convey exactly what is in the food. There is also talk about future plans to formally register this system with the International Standard Organization.

Not only are these pictograms used in restaurant menus, but also by the fake food displays in the showcase outside the restaurant. This way, customers are able to attain the necessary information on ingredients before entering the establishment.


Narita Airport Terminal 3


As a part of the Japanese hospitality, they have also incorporated creative ways to guide and welcome travelers through Narita Airport Terminal 3, which only recently finished construction.



The pictograms are displayed in various locations to help travelers. They are not only using traditional pictograms, but others as well. In the spirit of creativity, they have made the pictograms three-dimensional and larger than usual, so that they may be identified clearly from far away.

They have also placed directional pictograms on the ceiling with varying colors and large symbols. Since we are confident that you will be able to travel through the Japanese airports with this visual information alone, we hope you will utilize them upon your visit to Japan.

Related: Haneda Airport: So Much Excitement While You Wait for Your Flight

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