Vol. 28: Sign Lettering from a Land of Mystery Sent by the Gods

As I got off the plane in Bangkok, the stewardess bowed to me with both her hands put together in a prayer-like gesture. This made me feel like a bogus holy man. Seeing people greeting one another in the street in this elegant and courteous manner made me aware of how devoutly religious the people of Thailand are.

Buddhism finds its way into every nook and cranny of life in Thailand, and the people feel an almost divine reverence for their kings. Thailand is a mysterious country ruled by values that canft be judged by the standards employed in other advanced civilizations.

The lettering employed on the signs one sees soon after arriving at Bangkok Airport are so beautiful that they seem almost like a gift from the gods to the Thai people. The lettering looks superficially like Arabic or Sanskrit, but to me it seemed almost like hieroglyphics.

For instance, flowers and buds can be seen emerging from trailing vines like wild plants designed in the Art Nouveau style and with bees and butterflies frolicking above. Among them there were forms identical to bellflowers. I felt irresistibly attracted by the charming shapes with their wonderful sense of rhythm that seemed to have emerged from out of a fairy tale. I felt impelled to take photographs of any written characters I saw, not just outdoor signs but also information placards and road signs, and I had to work hard to suppress this constant urge.

1998 Copyright (c) All Japan Neon-Sign Association