Japan has an emperor but it doesn't have a queen. Therefore, it makes no sense to see a sign in Japan telling you to do something "for the sake of the Queen." And yet, there was a sign which seemed to do just that.

Reproduced with permission from Ken (@kenchan_198002)

In a Tweet which has 179,000 likes and 43,000 retweets at the time of writing, Ken (@kenchan_198002) snapped a picture of the peculiar sign and posted it with the following message:

"For a second there, I thought I had to get off my bike for the sake of the Queen."

Sign: For the sake of the Queen, please dismount your bike or motorbike and walk it (don't ride it) when you pass through (here).

What's going on?

The problem lies with these two kanji characters:

Reproduced with permission from Ken (@kenchan_198002)

Seen in the photo, it's the kanji 女 for woman and 王 for monarch, and together they mean "queen," which doesn't make sense. But if you are familiar with Japanese and have lived in Japan, then it probably will only take you a few moments of reflection to realize what the sign is supposed to say.

This should give you a hint:

kimubert, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It says 安全第一 anzen daiichi or "safety first." Appeals to "safety" are ubiquitous in Japan, since you'll find them in construction sites like the picture above and all manner of public signs. Do you see the connection now? The first two kanji 安全 anzen have a lot in common with 女王

Either because of the angle at which Ken took the photo or the way in which the sign was attached, the pole is partly hiding the top half of the kanji 安全 and it looked like 女王 as a result.

In other words, the sign said: "For safety, please dismount your bike (...)," which makes a lot more sense.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.