Traffic safety figures on Okinawa get your attention ... and a smile

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Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Traffic safety figures on Okinawa get your attention ... and a smile

by: Shoji Kudaka | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: May 15, 2018
Have you noticed an old statue on Okinawa that resembles a police officer standing by the road?
 
The weathered man looks like he’s waving hello at you.

Well, despite the friendly appearance, the statue is there as more of a warning. If you see him, it’s likely that there are kids crossing the street.
 
Commonly called “Koutsuu Anzen Ningyo” (traffic safety doll), it used to be more prevalent on the island. Now, it is difficult to even spot one. But, those who drive to White Beach from Kadena Air Base might spot them along Route 8.
 
The statues wear a band that says, “Traffic safety,” while their pants say, “Slow down, watch out for kids.” Since the messages are in Chinese characters, they may not make any sense at first glance. But, despite the foreign writing, the officer himself should be a sign to heed caution.
 
Traffic safety statues are not just limited to Okinawa. Other locations throughout the country have them, and they can take on various “personalities.” Some take the figure of a boy who seems like he’s about to dart across a street. 
 
They are commonly called “Tobidashi Bouya” (Dashing out boy). There are variations to the name such as “Tobidashi Ningyo” (Dashing out doll), “Tobidashi Kozou” (Dashing out kid) and “Tobita-kun” (Mr. Dashing out). 

On Okinawa, there are several boy statues for traffic safety, but they seem to be in no hurry to cross a street. They are commonly called “Sony Bouya” (Sony Boy). In a t-shirt with the name of the tech giant on it, the boy just stands still, coolly casting a gaze on the street. 
 
According to several sources, “Sony Bouya” was a cartoon character before being used for traffic safety. Although he is thought to have once been located throughout the country, the boy is now found only in Okinawa. There is one near Gate 3 of MCAS Futenma.
 
The unique form of traffic safety figure does not stop there on Okinawa.
 
Another statue can be seen along a road to White Beach, especially around an intersection called Yokatsu. It is a place where a road to Katsuren Castle and a road to White Beach meet. When you drive by the intersection, the small red octopi-looking things can be seen waving at you.
 
You might think it’s a prank by children, but the statues are in fact installed for traffic safety awareness.
 
They are modeled after Kijimuna, a legendary Okinawan demon who is known for being mischievous. Seeing the small creature may put you on guard, but no need to worry. 
 
The concrete brick they stand on says “Koutsuu Anzen” (traffic safety).
 
Another one can be found specifically in Miyako island. Commonly known as Miyakojima Mamorukun, this police officer has nationwide name recognition. The white-faced officer is so popular that people will often dress up as him to run in races.
 
Whatever forms or personalities they take, traffic safety statues are designed to advise drivers to slow down and drive safely. Their humorous look hopefully produces smiles as well, making it hard for drivers to get angry. So, the next time see you one along a road, please smile and avoid the road rage.