Gas station signs

ハイオク: 148?
レギュラ: 137?
軽油: 115?

What meaning do the question marks have?

  • I did think there was at least a tiny chance it might be linguistic. As it turns out I would say it's neither linguistic nor cultural but definitely off-topic. Jun 26, 2011 at 10:08
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    Something is being communicated here through written communication - one half of linguistics - in a manner which someone more familiar with the Japanese language than I am may be able to interpret. Even an answer like "this has nothing to do with a Japanese language," if authoritative, would be better than closing the question and leaving it ambiguous. Jun 26, 2011 at 11:21
  • When I see those question marks, I usually think that there's some sort of competition, or chance of the price changing (like maybe 700 yen for the first 20 customers, 780 yen after) but this looks different. In the background you can see the digital sign, which says 137.2, where the other sign says 137.?. I think that the decimal of the price changes too often for the red sign to give an exact figure so they just stuck a question mark there to say "It's 137 and a bit yen". Either that or there just isn't enough room on the red sign to fit it all in.
    – nevan king
    Jun 26, 2011 at 12:32
  • @Garrett: the way SE works, off-topic questions are closed as early as possible and ultimately deleted (I kept it undeleted so we could have that conversation and to leave the possibility of re-opening). Regarding this very question, the simple hypothesis was definitely 'no link to language/linguistics' and the burden of germaneness on its supporters. As @hippietrail pointed out, it's probably not culture-related either. As @nevan also points out, the digital sign in the background confirms the "can't be arsed to change it" theory...
    – Dave
    Jun 27, 2011 at 16:27
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    nevan and Dave, the digital signs in the back have question marks too - you can see them quite clearly on the bottom two prices. They are not "2"s. Jun 29, 2011 at 14:26

1 Answer 1


I traced the photo to this place in Okazaki (Aichi prefecture): photo of the gas station

On their web page, they claim to offer the cheapest gas based on a crowd-sourced survey of gas prices elsewhere in Japan. The numbers shown on the signs are based on these survey results:


Further down the page, it mentions that the prices are rounded up to the nearest whole yen, which is why there are question marks displayed instead of numbers:


As you can see, the price at the bottom of the sign is for 18 litres of kerosene (灯油). This number has no decimal point, so the last digit hasn't been replaced.

As Dave suspected, these question marks have very little to do with 日本語 at any level. But I hope someone finds this useful and/or interesting :-)

  • Yeah, that's where I took the picture in the OP. But I could have told you that. :P How did you "trace" it? At any rate, thanks - I didn't think to try searching their web site for an explanation. Oct 24, 2013 at 1:08
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    OMG why did the kerosene become so much cheaper compared to the OP?
    – ithisa
    Oct 24, 2013 at 2:19
  • @GarrettAlbright I just searched for ユニーオイル羽根現金スタンド. Only took a minute :-)
    – r3mainer
    Oct 24, 2013 at 9:52

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