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A little while ago, in a neighbourhood in Tokyo, I came across this sign:

neighbourhood_sign

I'm not sure of the readings of the place names, but the sign is put there by the local police, 戸塚[警察署]{けいさつしょ}, in association with the local town council, 下落合東[町会]{ちょうかい}. The small text on the right side states that this area is under special focus for the prevention of home robberies, 侵入{しんにゅう}盗犯{とうはん}防止{ぼうし}重点{じゅうてん}地区{ちく}. All that makes sense to me.

What I'm wondering about is the main body, which says:

甘{あま}い言葉{ことば}と暗{くら}い道{みち}

気{き}をつけよう!

It's a little weird to me because various dictionaries I've looked at define 甘{あま}い言葉{ことば} as "sweet talk, flattery, alluring words" and so on, which, even if said on a dark street, 暗{くら}い道{みち}, don't seem to be particularly threatening.

Is the idea that people will stop you on dark streets and sweet talk you into letting them into their home so that they can rob you? That's the only way I can make sense of it all, but, it seems like such an unlikely crime with such low chances of success, that I feel I'm missing something.

What exactly is this sign warning people about?

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I think you're more or less correct about the meaning which I would loosely translate as

Be careful of dark alleys and people who are saying things that are too good to be true!

While I agree that the actual advice isn't terribly useful, I think the point of such signs is to keep such things on your mind so you're more aware of your surroundings in general.

So to answer your question: I don't think you're really missing anything.

  • As "user unknown" says in the answer below, I think I was trying too hard to connect the notification about home robberies with the main text, so maybe it's not so much missing something but trying too hard to add things together. :) – Questioner Sep 8 '14 at 2:45
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This sign is misleading. The first line 侵入盗犯防止重点地区, which mentions one kind of a crime, has no direct connection to the other part, which mentions another kind of crime.

As for the other part, it is pretty much ambiguous. One thing to note is that 暗い道 is used here with double meanings: the literal "dark road" and the metaphorical "hell of a life." It can be mentioning any kind of crime where a stranger comes to you with sweet words and brings you into hell; it can be about kidnapping, drug addict, prostitution, etc. In this respect, It is a bad sign. Its intention is not clear.

From your mentioning of the second part in the order あまい言葉と暗い道気をつけよう!, I can tell that you are clearly missing one thing. That is, this is a verse following the traditional 5 mora-7 mora-5 mora pattern. It only makes sense when read it as 気をつけよう!あまい言葉と暗い道. 気をつけよう is actually six morae, where five is expected, but it does not sound so unnatural. This is called 字余り. It is followed by the seven morae あまい言葉と and the five morae 暗い道. On top of that, the lines in vertical writing have always been read from right to left throughout history; never from left to right. Furthermore, あまい言葉と暗い道 is lowered against 気をつけよう! (in other words, 気をつけよう! is negatively indented), which also indicates that this line comes after 気をつけよう!. You seem to have missed all of these three clues.

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    I went left to right on the reading because the punctuation, the ! ended after 気をつけよう, but I see how it could be read the other way. So, bottom line, you're saying it's a haiku? – Questioner Sep 8 '14 at 2:42
  • @DaveMG 俳句じゃなくて『標語』と呼ばれるものだと思います。 – user1016 Sep 8 '14 at 5:34
  • @Choko, 標語は標語でも標語には5-7-5といった決まりはないはず。「標語としての川柳」でしょうかね... – dainichi Sep 8 '14 at 6:27
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    標語に575という決まりはなくて、ただ「口調がよいように俳句同様に五七五の型を取るものも多い」だけかな、と・・・ – user1016 Sep 8 '14 at 15:25

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