On Sunday morning I wrote a blog post about a new All Nippon Airways commercial that used a big rubber nose and a blonde wig to imitate the racial features of non-Japanese people. The link got shared quite a bit on twitter and Facebook, and several people indicated they would be using the contact information mentioned in the post to contact ANA directly and complain about the ad.
Given the success achieved through complaints about a Choya commercial in 2008, I expected that ANA would probably pull their commercial too. However, I was not expecting the scale of the reaction:
The expected apology and cancellation of the ad took place. But it also made the news in Japan! NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, mentioned it in their news report. And it made the front page headlines of Yahoo.co.jp, the most popular website in Japan.
It also got considerable attention from English language media:
The ad caused a stir among English-language users of social media in Japan.
ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura says the carrier wanted to express the importance of the planned expansion of international services from Haneda and to call on Japanese to go out to see the world.
“But we have received opinions different from the message that we wished to convey,” he said.
“We will modify part of the advertisement and will release the second version soon.”
Earlier, an ANA spokeswoman acknowledged the carrier “has received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad.”
The article on Yahoo has received hundreds of comments, almost all of them expressing surprise at the idea that there is anything at all objectionable about the commercial (aside from the fact that it was boring). Many netizens mention existence of worse racism towards Japanese people in America and other Western countries, as if that somehow cancels out the complaints of people who don’t care for Japanese commercials crude racial humor. Most seem unaware that while crude imitations of the physical features of Asian people were commonplace in the past, it would be utterly unthinkable for an American company to create an such an advertisement today, and TV networks probably would refuse to air it if it was created.
Update (2/21): ANA has stopped airing the commercial and will make a new version with less possibility of offending potential customers.
All Nippon Airways has a new commercial airing on Japanese TV. It highlights ANA’s new international routes through Haneda Airport, and it’s supposed to be funny:
Two Japanese men in ANA uniforms are discussing the new possibilities of international travel that ANA is offering. One of them says, “Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” And then we get the supposedly humorous ending. One of the Japanese guys is suddenly wearing a blonde wig and a big rubber nose.
The makers of this commercial obviously intended it for a Japanese audience. The thought probably never crossed their mind that some people, especially foreigners, are highly un-amused by this kind of racial humor. But the end result is crude racial humor: har har har, he’s got a huge nose like a gaijin!
The reaction made some longtime residents of Japan cringe:
“Come on, I’d expect better than this bignose stuff from an international company like ANA! Most Japan-resident foreigners I know find such behaviour either tiresome or downright offensively racist.”
A few years ago, I wrote a post calling attention to a commercial advertising Choya umeshu. In a pretty classy move, Choya actually issued an apology about the ad and stopped showing it on TV. Their intent was not to mock the physical features of a different racial group, but they came to realize that non-Japanese were seeing it as such. It seemed like a step in the right direction.
But alas, the rubber noses continue to pass as acceptable humor in advertising. And, ironically, ANA is doing it in a commercial about changing the image of Japanese people. Unfortunately, the commercial only seems to reinforce the image of Japan as a country with a “tactless tendency to stereotype other ethnicities on local media.”
If you would like to contact ANA and complain about this advertisement, feel free to use the contact form on their website. They also have customer relations phone numbers that you can call:
0120-029-787 (toll free)
03-5756-7109 (PHS, from overseas)
(Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
Update: Just one day later, and this issue is already getting media coverage. Apparently ANA is only apologizing to individual people who call up:
An ANA spokeswoman said the carrier “has received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad.”
“We apologised to each of the customers for having caused uncomfortable feelings and also thanked them for bringing up the issue,” she told AFP.
“We have passed on the issue to the section in charge of the advertisement, but as of now we have yet to decide how to deal with the commercial,” she said.
It’s a strange response. If your company has decided to issue apologies for an advertisement, why keep showing the ad?
Categories: Japanese TV
This weekend, Japanese voters will head to the polls to elect new lawmakers. Some expect that the election will drive the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) out of power and replace it with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by former PM Shinzo Abe.
If you’ve watched much Japanese television over the last couple weeks, you’ve probably noticed that political parties are running a modest number of commercials. It’s a little more tame than the kind of stuff that goes down in America, where parties and political groups flood the airwaves with ads that harshly attack opponents.
Let’s look at a few examples.
First, we have the LDP’s commercial:
It’s a very simple commercial with a very simple message. Shinzo Abe repeatedly calls on voters to help him “take back” Japan and return the country to economic prosperity.
The DPJ’s commercial is also very simple:
This one has Prime Minister Noda standing in front of a red screen as the camera slowly zooms in on his face. In contrast to the LDP message, Noda emphasizes the need to move forward and create a future that we can proudly leave to our children and grandchildren. Their slogan notes the importance of determination.
Both major parties have pretty boring commercials. The smaller parties have less to lose, so they can take a risk by making their commercials creative and/or entertaining.
Although I have not seen them aired on television, the Japan Communist Party’s YouTube channel has uploaded several issue-specific ads. For example, here is one about raising the sales tax:
As cute birds bathe, they discuss how raising the sales tax might make it hard for them afford daily baths. They wonder why they, the common folks, have to suffer from such a tax increase. Shouldn’t the government tax rich people instead? (Another ad sends the same message with a conversation between two men eating oden.)
The JCP also has an anti-TPP advertisement:
Cute little onigiri are discussing the impact of a free trade agreement with the United States. Japanese farmers work hard to produce rice, but if Japan joins the TPP, say goodbye to those cute rice balls! (In another ad, pushy American beef is trying to force Japanese beef off a supermarket shelf.)
The JCP has a few other ads too. One has a light bulb telling voters to support the complete abolition of nuclear energy in Japan. Another anti-nuclear ad has a hermit crab that fears for his life and wants Japanese people to remember the scary explosion that occurred in 2011. In one ad opposing U.S. bases in Okinawa an American aircraft replies to Okinawans’ safety concerns by saying everything is okay. The aircraft speaks Japanese with a shitty American gaijin accent. Another anti-base ad has cute fish playing up fears about Osprey aircraft.
Here is the CM for Your Party (or “Everyone’s Party” in Japanese):
Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe races across the screen on a skateboard! So hip and cool! Watanabe says there are more important things to do than raise taxes. The CM also emphasizes the party’s total opposition to nuclear energy and focus on economic recovery.
The Happiness Realization Party, a right-wing party that is linked to the Happy Science spiritual movement, was known for some pretty extreme advertisements during previous elections. Unfortunately, their CM for this year is a bit more boring:
One of their leaders outlines their major policies: 1) protect Japan from China’s nuclear weapons by strengthening defense (within the U.S.-Japan Alliance), 2) stop attempts to raise the sales tax, and 3) move forward with the development of nuclear energy in Japan.
On a recent edition of the “Panic Face” television show, Nigerian-born celebrity Bobby Ologun was dressed up as a gorilla for a hidden camera prank:
The prank was meant to fool his youngest daughter. Bobby and his two other kids tricked her into believing that they were filming a travel program. When visiting the town, they were shown a “shrine” to the local “gorilla god.” According to fake legend, if one of your family members turns into a gorilla, you can offer bananas to the gorilla shrine and the god will transform your family member back into a human.
When Bobby and the kids went to bed that night, everything seemed normal. But in the middle of the night he got up and a special effects team transformed him into a gorilla. He crawled back into bed before his youngest daughter woke up. When morning came, she was told that daddy had turned into a gorilla while sleeping!
After some initial shock, she took charge of the situation. She helped Bobby hide in a closet while she went to find the gorilla shrine, which happened to be only a short walk from the hotel. Television staff disguised as townsfolk guided her to the location of the fake shrine.
When she offered bananas to the shrine, the gorilla god spoke to her! It was actually her father, but she apparently did not know it. After telling the gorilla god that she loved her dad and wanted him back, Bobby appeared in human form and revealed the prank to her.
Categories: Japanese TV