Japanese Idiom: The Crying Signboard

Photo by tokyoform on Flickr

Photo by tokyoform on Flickr

Today’s idiom paints a fun mental picture and is uniquely Japanese. So what exactly is a crying signboard?

kanban ga naku – 看板が泣く (かんばんがなく)

Meaning: a signboard cries

The Japanese are big on their signs. Walk down any major street and you’ll see them plastered to the fronts and sides of buildings. The idea behind a “crying sing” is that the business has done something wrong or poorly and now their outside sign is embarrassed or crying. You could say it’s similar to the English expression “ruined their good name” but a bit more colourful.

Here’s an example sentence from the book 2001 Japanese and English Idioms:

Sonna hinshitsu ga warui mono o uru to, kanban ga nakimasu yo.


For selling such poor-quality products, the store’s sign is crying.

Let us know if you’ve ever heard or used this idiom before :)

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