Japanese Stop Signs: Color, Shape, and Bilingual Translation

Japanese Stop Signs: Shape, Color, Text

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: May 21, 2024 4:29am CDT

Japanese Stop Signs: Shape, Color, Text

On the bustling streets of Japan, where tradition meets modernity, the stop sign plays a critical role in maintaining the intricate and everchanging Nihon-buyō dance of pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicle traffic.

Road signs and traffic lights act as choreographers directing the sequence of movements that travelers perform in real-time on Japanese roadways.

In this guide, we explain the unique aspects of stop signs in Japan, exploring their design, colors, text, and the rules that regulate their observance by drivers spanning locations like Tokyo’s Ginza district, including the many roadways situated along the Japanese countryside.

The following video provides an animated overview of this guide’s written and infographic materials about Japanese stop signs for your alternative learning style convenience.

As teachers exclaim to students in Japanese schools, 始めましょう (hajimemashou), which translates to, “Let’s get started.”

Discussing the topic of Japanese stop sign design and driving rules, that is.

What does a stop sign in Japan look like?

Design of Japanese Stop Signs

Stop Sign in Japan

The following provides a concise description of what stop signs in Japan look like accounting for the shape, colors, and wording:

  • Shape: Inverted triangle with rounded edges.
  • Color: Like the coloration of most stop signs across the globe, a Japanese stop sign has a red background with a white border and white lettering.
  • Text: The characters on standard stop signs in Japan are in both Japanese and English. The Japanese word 止まれ (tomare), meaning “stop,” is printed directly above the English word “STOP,” especially helpful to American tourists who can’t read Japanese.

Japanese Stop Sign Translation: Tomare means stop

Common Locations of Stop Signs in Japan

In Japan, government authorities commonly place stop signs at multi-way intersections to regulate traffic flow and ensure safety.

Stop sign in Japanese neighborhood

Their placement in these locations serves to enhance road safety and reduce the chance of accidents (i.e., head-on collisions) by controlling the movement of vehicles at critical junctures.

What are the stop sign rules in Japan?

Drivers Must Come to a Complete Stop at Stop Signs in Japan

More specifically, you must stop just before the stop line ahead of the traffic sign posted on the right side of the street. If there is no stop line on the road, you must stop before reaching the stop sign.

Article 43 of Japan’s Road Traffic Act contains these rules that require drivers to stop at designated places on roadways. You can read the exact wording translated into English:

…the vehicle or streetcar must come to a stop immediately in front of the stop line indicated by road signs or markings (or immediately in front of the intersection, if a stop line is not indicated by road signs or markings).

By requiring you to come to a complete stop, stop signs help to avoid collisions, regulate the right of way, and ensure the orderly movement of traffic.

Variant Stop Sign on US Armed Forces Bases in Japan

Stop signs posted on the intersection roadsides within the United States Armed Forces Bases in Japan are only in English (containing no Japanese characters).

However, their shape and color are the same as the standard red inverted triangle stop signs found throughout Japan.

Stop sign in US Army Base in Japan written in English

Historical Designs of Japanese Stop Signs Timeline

Since 1950, the requirements for the design of regulatory stop signs in Japan have changed several times. The following timeline depicts these design edits, some more noticeable than others.

Japanese Stop Sign Used From 1950 to 1960

Design of Japanese Stop Sign from 1950 to 1960 - Yellow Octagon with Black letters.

Japanese Stop Sign Used From 1960 to 1963

Design of Japanese Stop Sign from 1960 to 1963 - Red Octagon with White letters.

Japanese Stop Sign Used From 1963 to 2017

Design of Japanese Stop Sign from 1963 to 2017 - Red upside down triangle with white letters and white outline.

Japanese Stop Sign Used From 2017 to Current Day

Design of current Japanese Stop Sign since 2017: Red upside down triangle with bilingual white letters and white outline.

Closing Thoughts on Stop Signs in Japan

Stop signs in Japan are crucial traffic safety signs that can be recognized by their unique inverted red triangle design containing the word “止まれ” (tomare) printed above the word “STOP.”

Adhering to stop signs is not just about obeying traffic laws or respecting other drivers on the roadway in Japan or any other country on the planet we humans call home.

They facilitate caution, safety, and the right-of-way among cars and pedestrians on roadways.

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About the Author

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Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
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Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
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Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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