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I found a sign on a door that says

非常時{ひじょうじ} 以外{いがい} 開放{かいほう} 厳禁{げんきん}

The door leads to the staircase outside of the building.
Here's what doesn't quite make sense to me: unless the case of emergency, am I prohibited from:

  1. opening the door (Opening it will get you in trouble) or
  2. leaving the door open? (Going through it is acceptable?)

I'm kind of scared to go through that door, to be honest.

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This is technically ambiguous because 開放 means both 開け放つ and 開けっ放しにする, but I personally feel this 開放 just means "to open" rather than "to leave open." Thus the sign should mean "emergency exit only."

  • ドア開放事故 or ドア開き事故 is a term that refers to an accident caused by sudden opening of a door of a car.
  • This ドア開放マニュアル describes how to forcibly break locked doors in an emergency.
  • Some examples on BCCWJ clearly shows this verb can mean just "to open."
    • コンダクターがキャビンの扉を開放した。
    • 操縦区画につづく水密扉が開放されて、淡い光が射しこんできた。
    • ときにはその扉は開放されたままで看守係は場内と仮眠室を行き来するのに関心を持った。

But the biggest reason is, "非常時以外はすぐドアを閉めろ" makes very little sense as a sign, from the security standpoint. I have seen many doors in Japan that are normally locked but can be manually unlocked in case of emergency. The sign OP saw is technically ambiguous, but I assume it refers to the same thing as this.

enter image description here

Note that 開放 usually means liberation or opening to public (garden, etc.)

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  • The sign I did not have this kind of measure as shown in the photo, but I just looked around the city to find this kind of thing. This makes sense. – Collapsed PLUG Aug 19 '17 at 4:05
  • やっぱり使っちゃダメなのねーw – Chocolate Aug 19 '17 at 14:30
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It's a set phrase, meaning: EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY.

"Do not open (this door) except in emergencies."

In my opinion, there is no doubt about the meaning among the native Japanese people because it's a set phrase of "signs." You can think of the interpretation of the Japanese phrase linguistically, but it's non sense in practical life in Japan. You should learn the meaning of traffic signs and this kind of signs just mechanically.

enter image description here

It is another thing that Japanese people obey/follow these signs. For example:

非常時以外駐車厳禁

You may see there are cars parking in the area, although it is not in an emergency.

Only for the handicapped

You may see non handicapped people may park in the place with the sign.

駐停車禁止

You may see cars stopping and parking in that area.

It's more like common courtesy and common sense to follow signs, in my humble opinion.

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  • えへへ!分かってなかったやつがここに一人w 👉 – Chocolate Aug 19 '17 at 2:53
  • ありゃ、そうおっしゃられると自説への自信が急に下がりますよ。99%から9%くらいに(笑) – user1118 Aug 19 '17 at 3:05
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    その戸を、完全に大開きせずに、ちょっと開いて通るのならアリとか、開けて通るけれどもあとをきちんと閉めておけばOKとかいう解釈は、一休さんが「この端とおるべからず」と解釈して真ん中を通れば良し!と言ったり、憲法9条は合憲である的解釈とかのような、「とんち」のある若者、「法学者や弁護士」、あるいは独自路線をいく「モンスター」的なヒトとかである、くらいに書くつもりでしたが、トーンダウンしちゃいまいた。DVつくだろうし・・・あは、書いてるし。 – user1118 Aug 19 '17 at 3:13
  • あ、いあいあ、すみません、そんなつもりは。 99 から 9 って、下げすぎーw ↑確かに言われてみれば~。どっちなんだろう、難しいー! – Chocolate Aug 19 '17 at 3:38
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    じゃあ、99%---> 35%! (ブルゾンちえみ風で) – user1118 Aug 19 '17 at 3:42
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EDIT: I stand corrected. See other answers for details.


TL;DR - It means the latter. However, it looks like some Japanese confuse the meaning.


I personally was confused with this phrase. This is because "開放" was accompanied with "厳禁" (strictly prohibited.) This raised a feeling that opening it would get me in trouble.

One of the results in my googling shows me that "開放厳禁" indeed means both. However, from the point of the meaning of each word, it should not mean the former.

I looked for "開放" in dictionaries and found that "開放" means "to leave something open" (It does not mean "to open something." The entry is found in デジタル大辞泉.) Hence the meaning is the latter - "Strictly don't leave it open unless in the case of emergency."

I did a further search on other Q&A sites and found that if the person who put the sign really didn't want someone to open that door, it should've said "締切," which means "Keep it (like windows or doors) shut," or "立ち入り禁止."

P.S. I went through the door after that because it didn't have any security measure (something like in naruto's answer.) I asked this because I saw that door sometimes used by somebody who doesn't seem to be a worker there.

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  • その辞書によれば「開放」とは「開け放す」ことでもあり、それは単に「すっかり開けること」でもあるらしいですが…。 – naruto Aug 19 '17 at 2:24
  • なるほど... 放の漢字(「放す」という語にも)にはほうっておくという意味があるので熟語的に考えれば開けたままにするのはずなのですが... – Collapsed PLUG Aug 19 '17 at 2:31
  • 何の根拠もなく「使ったらあかんのやろなー」と思ってましたw 「(非常時以外)カギ締まってんのかな?」とすら思ってましたw 今度から遠慮なく通ろうw – Chocolate Aug 19 '17 at 2:47
  • それが締まってないんですよね。普通に使っている人がいたので、あれ?と思って調べて見たんです – Collapsed PLUG Aug 19 '17 at 2:49
  • Thanks for all the answers, I feel I shouldn't update this answer too much because it would change my opinion too far, but I'll be sure to accept the other :) – Collapsed PLUG Aug 19 '17 at 4:09

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