Posted by: patenttranslator | April 27, 2015

The Mystery of Alleged Translation of “HOW TO RIDE MOTORCYCLES” from Japanese

1962 Safety Rules from Honda

Taken from a 1962 Honda Motor Cycle Instruction Book. Translated by Honda for the American Motorcycle Rider

1. At the rise of the hand by Policeman, stop rapidly. Do not pass him by or otherwise disrespect him.

2. When a passenger of the foot, hooves in sight, tootle the horn trumpet melodiously at first. If he still obstacles your passage, tootle him with vigor and express by word of mouth, warning Hi, Hi.

3. Beware of the wandering horse that he shall not take fright as you pass him. Do not explode the exhaust box at him. Go smoothingly by.

4. Give big space to the festive dog that makes sport in roadway. Avoid entanglement of dog with wheel spokes.

5. Go soothingly on the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon. Press the brake foot as you roll around the corner, and save the collapse and tie up.

I first saw this alleged translation from Japanese on Facebook. As I was unable to recognize obvious “nipponisms” in the text, which is something that I can usually easily see in translations from Japanese by non-native speakers of English, I decided to Google the alleged translation further to try to determine the real origin of the “Safety Rules”.

I did not find much about the origin of this alleged translation, but there were a few interesting comments about the origin thereof on Reddit.

Here is a sampling of some of these comments on Reddit:

1. This appears as early as the 1920s in various sources, entitled “Japanese Rules for Careless English Motorists as Posted in Japan.”

2. And yet something tells me it’s a lot more modern and a lot less genuine.

3. Search Google books for “there lurks the skid demon.” It’s word for word in 1921, 1922 and onward. I wouldn’t suggest its being genuine in any case.

4. The Portland Evening Express seems to be the original source.

I tried to link my post to the Portland Evening Express on Google Books, which indeed does have a somewhat similar text on its front page from 1921, although it is in fact quite different. Unfortunately, I assume that Google does not allow it because the link does not work.

So what really happened here? I concur with the wise heads on Reddit who concluded that this is not a genuine translation. Otherwise, how would it be possible that some of the “1962 Safety Rules from Honda” go back all the way to 1921?

I think that what we have here is probably based on some hilarious translation from 1921 that was greatly expanded in its hilariousness by the genius of the author of a fake translation, or possible several authors, sometime later, maybe later than 1962.

This is what happens for example also with beautiful, but often also sickeningly gruesome legends of many nations in many languages.

For example, according to a medieval chronicler in Bohemia called Cosmas, who wrote in Latin at the beginning of the 12th century, Czech girls declared war on men after the Queen of the Czech nation named Libuše died, and established their own, men-less society.

Cosmas is writing in this context about a beautiful heroine called Šárka who used her considerable charms to lure and induce somebody from the enemy’s camp, a man named Ctirad, to drink mead laced with sleep-inducing herbs (they had no pharmacies in backward Bohemia back then), and the girls then, while laughing at captured Ctirad’s stupidity, took their sweet time torturing the poor fellow before he died. (Warning: the description in this link is pretty gruesome!).

The girls in the end lost the war against the boys, according to legend, and instead of living in matriarchy, patriarchy was established once again in medieval Bohemia, although, of course, the war of men against women and women against men never really came to an end.

Some of what is described in this old legend is probably true, but we will never know how much is fact, and how much is fantasy.

And we may never know how much of this alleged translation was based on something that was in fact originally written in Japanese, although it is not completely impossible that a commenter on my silly blog will be able to establish with incontrovertible evidence what was the real story behind the alleged translation of the 1962 Safety Rules from Honda for riding a motorcycle.



  1. A marvellous post PT! There’s nothing more that I can say about it. 🙂


  2. I am happy you liked it.

    Did you like the music videos too?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sure did! Ronnie Scotts was a favourite hangout where I was looked after very well in exchange for providing some treats for the musicians. “Summer in the City” came just the year before the “Summer of Love” in California where I visited two great loves of my life – one in SF and the other in Berkeley – each of whom I had spent a lot of time with when each of them was visiting England for educational purposes.
      On quite another note, when I finally made it to the West Coast I was introduced to the Cockettes, a wild bunch of transvestites, at that time because my SF friend, though born-and-bred in NYC, was a seamstress and made their wild outfits for them. I was also spoilt by my other ex, who had created the restaurant of her dreams which is one of the most wholesome, attractive and highly regarded venues in Berkeley.


  3. P.S. After stating in my original response that “There’s nothing more that I can say about it” based on your very simple question I was somehow able to expound at a far greater length than I imagined I could and I hope I didn’t over-stretch my welcome here! 🙂


  4. “I hope I didn’t over-stretch my welcome here! :)”
    Oh, no, I enjoyed your extended comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Hi. Your post helped me find a credible claim that B. A. Hunt of British weekly “The Motor” made it up in 1918.

    Šárka is also the subject of a symphonic poem by B. Smetana.


  6. Hi, Hi, Mike:

    Glad I could be of assistance.

    Šárka is also the name of a dark haired girl who was sitting in front of me in high school, and of a picturesque valley on the outskirts of Prague, not far from the airport, where I used to like to take solitary walks in the seventies.


  7. […] I briefly mentioned one of the legends that Jirásek described in his collection, Legends of Old Bohemia in my post titled “The Mystery of Alleged Translation of “HOW TO RIDE MOTORCYCLES FROM JAPANESE”. […]


  8. I first saw these instructions in a genuine, printed manual that my then boyfriend’s grandfather had kept as he was somewhat of a hoarder. I know you have come to the conclusion that it isn’t real, however it was in a very old Honda Motorcycle manual that included genuine diagrams of the bike on the subsequent pages and other information. It is many years since he pulled it out as one of his treasures to show us, but I will get in touch with my friend and see if the grandmother allowed her husband to keep it when they moved home. I’d love to get some photos of it to prove it is genuine.


    • I suspect you are pulling my leg.

      But I look forward to having my carefully constructed theory debunked by your photos.


      • 100% genuine. I’ve been in contact with my ex about it but his grandfather passed away recently so we’re not sure which of the treasures his grandmother kept. Next time he sees her though he’ll try to find it. It saddens me thinking of history being lost


  9. Oldest source I’ve tracked down yet is “Motor Travel” magazine, Feb.1919.


  10. “The Motor” magazine, 3rd September 1918. I have a scan if anyone wants a copy.


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