ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!

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Hi Blog. It’s times like these when people seem glad that a forum like Debito.org exists.  I say this based on the large number of people who submitted information about the new ANA commercial on Haneda Airport’s increased international flights. Seems that somebody, anybody, should express outrage.  Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Here it is (courtesy lots of people; thanks!):


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jgzAOCmWA0

(UPDATE JANUARY 22:  ANA has pulled the ad, so the link above is dead.  I have archived it for posterity as an .mp4 at http://www.debito.org/ANAHanedaAd2014.mp4.  Thanks JK!)

Well, let’s have a think. With two Asian guys speaking only in English (one saying he’s Japanese — the noticeably shorter guy) noting that Japan will have more international access (Vancouver and Hanoi are mentioned as their destinations), the message of the ad is that the image of Japan will change. “Exciting, isn’t it?”, says the Japanese bloke. The taller dude says, “You want a hug?” When nothing happens (i.e., no hug), he oddly says, “Such a Japanese reaction.” When the tall dude says, “Let’s change the image of  Japanese people,” the short dude agrees to it. And this is what happens to him:

ANAHanedabignose

Yeah, that’ll do it.  Put on a wig and a fake nose, and that’ll change Japan’s image.

Actually, no it won’t.  This is in fact business as usual, given how Japan has a nasty habit of racializing commodities.  Check out but a few examples of racist Japanese commercial campaigns from Debito.org’s archives (click on images to see more information).  Then I’ll comment about the ANA one:

Traveling to Nagasaki (let’s gaijinize ourselves!) (2010):
nagasakitabinetto nagasakitabinetto2

Toshiba sells breadmakers! (2013)
toshiba2013suipanda1

McDonald’s Japan sells burgers! (2009)
mcdonaldsmrjames001

Selling sweets! (2013)
vibesumadara3

Mandom sells men’s cosmetics! (2005)
MandomAd2

Mini Stop Konbini sells Afro Melon Bread! (2010)

Publisher Zuiunsha resurrects “Little Black Sambo” without historical context! (2005)
Sambooriginal

Selling party favors! (Tokyu Hands 2008, still on sale on Amazon)

COMMENT ON ANA’S AD CAMPAIGN:

Well, I have the feeling that once again, a major Japanese company left their advertising to one of the big-name ad firms (as Toshiba above did), and they once again just thought they were being cute by sticking a wig and a big nose on somebody and making them look “foreign”.  After all, who would complain?  Japan is after all a homogeneous society with no racial issues (not!).  Chuckling old-timey OBs on the board who make all the decisions and expect everyone to knuckle under thought nothing of it, especially since (check out that screen capture again):

ANAHanedabignose

the guy looks remarkably like Robert Redford!  Who to a lot of Japanese (especially to the generation who haven’t had a Brad Pitt update yet) is the prototypical and idealized Westerner!

But some people, myself included, take a dim view of this campaign.  Let me quote an esteemed friend of mine:

========================

Dear ANA,
I’m not sure you know this, but are you aware that most of your foreigner customers are from places like Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur? And that most of them probably don’t have blond/orange hair?
Oh, and even the ones with blond hair probably don’t have noses like a tengu goblin.
And pretty sure that Japanese people enjoy being hugged and have emotions. Well, at least the Japanese who aren’t sticks in mud CEO boardroom types with no sense that the world doesn’t really resemble their 19th century, “we are so different from you funny looking white gaijin” Meiji Era mentality.
Look forward to seeing your 2020 customers. They may surprise you.
Sincerely,
A Big Nose White Guy who speaks Japanese

========================

Quite.  If ANA really wanted to change the image of Japan, they should have had the guys hugging!  Arudou Debito

========================

UPDATE JANUARY 20:  Stating that they are now pulling the ad, ANA officially comments in a reply to complaints below (English original):  The intention of this commercial was to highlight how international flights from Haneda Airport will increase from March 30, 2014 and to encourage Japanese to travel abroad more and become global citizens.”

Interesting mindset.  Good to know what ANA was thinking.  But do you think this advertisement accomplishes that?  Are “global citizens” therefore Robert Redford lookalikes?  In light of this, the advertisement is to me even more problematic.

UPDATE JANUARY 22:  ANA’s campaign expands to the Hibiya Line in Tokyo (Courtesy of JK, click on photo to expand in browser):

ANAHanedaHibiyapic012214

UPDATE TWO, JANUARY 22: FYI, the Japan Times has tapped me to do my next Just Be Cause column early on, you guessed it, the ANA advertisement.  Already filed, it will come out Saturday, January 25 JST.

UPDATE: HERE’S THE JAPAN TIMES ARTICLE.

89 comments on “ANA ad on Haneda Airport as emerging international Asian hub, talks about changing “the image of Japan” — into White Caucasian!

Comment navigation

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    @Jim #42

    Thanks for the article on Abe and yet another of his plans to stealthily loot the assets of Japan’s hard-working savers while they stand up and cheer for him as he does it. Who does this guy, and the sycophants in the media, think they’re fooling?

    Home prices in Tokyo are around ¥120,000 to ¥150,000 per sq. foot (0.09 sq. meter), Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle said last year. That compares with about ¥280,000 to ¥400,000 in Hong Kong and ¥200,000 to ¥250,000 in Singapore, it said.

    Well, sure, after the catastrophic fall in the yen — something Abe directly engineered — this looks like a big gap. I won’t comment on Hong Kong, but plug in the 2011-2012 Singapore dollar exchange rates, when one yen was worth closer to 1.6-1.7 cents compared to today’s 1.2, and you get ¥140-150k on the low end, which matches up with the higher end of the Tokyo scale, meaning that the gap isn’t much of a gap.

    Land prices in Tokyo, when expressed in any major currency other than yen, are plummeting because all those other currencies now buy a lot more yen than they did a year and a half ago. And Abe’s “solution” is to “reflate” Tokyo land prices? Maintain a strong currency and you’ll have that naturally, without destroying anyone’s savings.

    It’s clear that he wants another bubble. And it will end badly for anyone not rich, connected, and over 60.

  • This must of really P’d allot of people off, I saw it mentioned in a Japanese newspaper an oyaji was reading on the train.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Mark in Yayoi,

    The part that gets me is comparing Tokyo to HK or Singapore in terms of attracting foreign companies/ NJ! Start with immigration policies!

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    Some slightly different wording in their reply to my complaint.

    “Dear Mr. xxxxxx,

    Thank you for your email received on January 21, 2014 informing us
    of your disappointment with our new advertisement, which began airing
    on January 18, 2014.

    The intention of this advertisement was to highlight the imminent expansion of
    international flights from Haneda Airport, while encouraging Japanese citizens
    (among whom are the ANA employees depicted) to travel abroad and become
    greater players on the “global stage.” However, the self-depreciating humor
    contained in the video has been interpreted in a manner which differs significantly
    from ANA’s intention.

    While there was no intention whatsoever to portray anyone in a negative light,
    we recognize that some have found the commercial offensive, and deeply regret
    any resulting uneasiness or displeasure caused. Moreover, we also recognize the
    need to be more careful about the contents and the images portrayed in our
    advertisements.

    As we at ANA are highly sensitive to the opinions of our valued customers,
    after careful consideration we have decided to temporarily cease further usage of
    these advertisements, and release a revised version shortly.

    Mr. xxxxx, as the goal of ANA is to offer an unsurpassed level of excellence in
    service to customers from all countries and cultures, we are sincerely grateful to
    you for having taken the time to share your views. We would like to assure you that
    we take this matter seriously, and hope to have the opportunity to serve your travel
    needs in the near future.

    Sincerely,

    Miho Minagawa
    ANA SKY WEB
    Customer Relations,
    CS Promotion
    All Nippon Airways Co., LTD.”

    — She took out the bit about “global citizens” I called “problematic”. I think they’re reading Debito.org. Thanks for reading, ANA.

  • >I don’t think they meant any malice at all. Don’t boycott them; that’s only going to hurt the innocent working-class folks (ground staff, flight attendants, etc) who had nothing to do with the ad.

    >They are just followers of the malpractices and anacronisms of big corporate Japan.

    I don’t know why we should have to assume the best out of a company that has publicly demonstrated a willingness sign off on openly racist commercials and inability to sincerely apologize afterward. Even if everyone in the board room was genuinely too ignorant to grasp how offensive this ad was, that situation was in all likelihood generated by a combination of long-seated discriminatory hiring practices and the socio-ontological magic that makes racism invisible to dominant racial group.

    FWIW, the argument can be made that giving money to ANA will hurt the working class people in other airlines. If you’re going to fly, you might as well give your money to companies that are not literally advertising their racism.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    BBC News picks up the ANA ad.
    Unfortunately, parachuted reporter Wingfield-Hayes falls for the tatemae of ‘it’s not racist, we so envy your blonde hair and big nose!’
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25838396

    As pointed out above, the majority of the worlds NJ citizens are lacking those particular attributes.

    The theme of the advert is change, and they use the most sterotypical depiction of forgeiners that the Japanese have always held. In simple marketing terms, didn’t the concept get flagged by anyone in Dentsu or ANA as not ‘changing’ anything?

    BTW, MIY #52, I agree with your whole comment, but I think that Japanese savers seem happy to be ripped off as long as Abe blows concepts of national pride up them.

    — Dispute the “parachuted”, as he has done excellent work in the past. Alas, he fell for the fallacy that “if it’s positive, it’s not derogatory racism… (therefore not really a form of racism worth the fuss)”. Yep, “Blacks are good dancers”, “Asians are good at math”… etc. He needs a bit of schooling on the perforative aspects of racialization and their effects. Especially when, as I’ve argued before, it’s not a level playing field in Japan regarding racial stereotyping (i.e., no right of reply by the groups being stereotyped).

  • Debito

    Fame at last:

    The Independent Newspaper in the UK

    “..Blogger and writer Arudou Debito criticised the advert as being the latest example of Japan’s “nasty habit of racialising commodities”…“They once again just thought they were being cute by sticking a wig and a big nose on somebody and making them look ‘foreign’,” Mr Debito said…”

    *http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japanese-airline-ana-apologises-for-racist-advert-stereotyping-foreigners-as-having-big-noses-and-blonde-hair-9072651.html

    — I know. See Comment #24 above, thanks!

  • UPDATE TWO, JANUARY 22: FYI, the Japan Times has tapped me to do my next Just Be Cause column early on, you guessed it, the ANA advertisement.  Already filed, it will come out Saturday, January 25 JST.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HWuOUxU2dQ

    ANA didn’t do anything wrong.
    They made ad toward Japanese peoples.
    Gigantic nose,blond hair,blue eye,broken Japanese…
    These things are typical “GAIJIN”foreigner image(irrespective of age or sex) in Japan.
    harmless,Just funny,peacefully,traditional Japanese way.
    sorry,This is not Racism…
    of course,”GAIJIN” is not discriminatory language.
    No problem.
    Japanese peoples does not understand at all,why they are so upset about this AD.
    gaijin mendokusai

    Seriously,If they complain they should go back to their own country…GO HOME.
    Go ahead ANA, you should not apologize.
    ignore stupid foreign noisy minority.
    they want to twist Japanese society to suit themselves.
    it is same problem about ‘whaling’.
    Japan need resist stupid foreign pressure,
    We must defend the right to freedom of expression.
    Japan is Japanese people’s country.
    thx

    — Thanks for commenting, and especially for the compendium of racist Japanese media I’ve been dying to archive. You have made my point better than I could: That the attitudes implicit to ANA’s ad are but the tip of the nose iceberg in Japanese society.

    As per Debito.org’s Posting Guidelines: The IP of this poster: 116.64.72.225

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    @61 Univerman

    Well, if making the commercial is freedom of expression, so are the protests from people who feel offended by it.

    Or is the right to freedom of expression limited to big advertising companies like Dentsu and not regular people who have to watch their garbage?

  • @Univerman,

    OK, 我々 外人 (wareware gaijin) will stop complaining AND Just STOP GIVING MONEY TO ANA. The company loses money and is bought by your old and now rich friends, the Chinese.

    Hows that?

    We complain because we care about the future of Japan. You obviously just want to keep everything the same as it was 70 years ago.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Univerman (for real)? riposte

    “BBC comedy program about Hiroshima/Nagasaki double atomic victim didn’t do anything wrong. Also, Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”.
    They made comedy for British/American people only to enjoy black humor.
    Small genitals,brack hair and eye, crooked teeth and broken Engrish, cannot pronounce L/R…

    You see, British and American humor is from a unique culture, and it is difficult for a non British, especially a non European, to understand the jokes.
    These things are typical “CRAZY JAPAN” image(irrespective of age or sex) in The Western media.
    harmless,Just funny,peacefully,traditional British or American black humor way.
    sorry,This is not Racism… so WE don’t know why the Japanese Embassy complained all the time.
    of course,”Jap” is not discriminatory language.It is just short for “Japan”, like “Brit”” is short for British. “Yank” for American, etc.
    No problem.
    British peoples does not understand at all,why the Japanese Embassy are always so upset about anything in the media that is not 100% positive of Japan, as if Japan must be only seen as a heaven on Earth. A bit like North Korea.

    Nihon politicians mendokusai. Always causing conflict with other Asian countries.

    If Japanese complain then Foreign investors, money, armed forces, should indeed go home. ANA should stop flying outside Japan and be a “Japan Only”carrier, with a much smaller market.

    Go ahead Obama,do Japan passing and
    ignore stupid noisy minority Japanese government.
    they want to twist the US-Japan security alliance to suit themselves.
    it is same problem about ‘whaling’.
    The West and UN need resist stupid “Japan is unique culture/western ally (haha)/is a poor victim of WW2, nasty S. Korea and China/japan bashing boo-hoo pressure,
    We must defend the rights of Whales.
    Pacific Ocean is everyone’s ocean, and whales and other endangered species must be free to live in peace.”

    Hai, re-branded. How does it feel now the shoe is on the other foot?

  • Here’s an insightful comment on ANA issue from a friend:

    It’s not a matter of whether caucasian people personally take offense at the ad. It’s about feeling embarrassed for Japan, a nation we all (at least those of us who live here and/or are citizens of) presumably care about and want to see do well.

    This kind of lame racial humor, in a commercial by a major Japanese corporation and created by Japans’s largest ad agency, harms international perceptions of Japan. It leaves me desperately hoping that Japan develops a better understanding of how its actions are perceived overseas by the very people whose opinions of Japan it claims to care so much about. Commercials like this airing in 2014 make Japan look like a backwards laughingstock on the world stage.

    Even worse, by portraying acceptance overseas as something that depends on superficial looks and mannerisms, the commercial focuses Japanese people’s attention away from a discussion of what it would really take to improve Japan’s image abroad. A resolution of the Yasukuni issue? An end to dolphin kills and “scientific” whaling? A more liberal immigration policy? More opportunities for women in the workplace? Whatever you may think about these issues, they can’t be covered up with a wig and a rubber nose.

  • Had a very interesting conversation about the ad with a well-schooled, intelligent Japanese friend last night. She is middle-aged, hip, and fluent in English although not well-travelled. She stated that the ad was not racist/discriminatory for two reasons.

    Firstly, Japanese have a universal inferiority complex with whites, and therefore the ad only re-enforces their wish to be white, or “cool”.

    Her second, and most predictable point was that it is not possible to be racist against whites since the white races have so long been the dominate race (her words). Of course, when pressed for her reaction if say, Air Canada had a white dressed up in kimono saying “Me Rikey go Japan!”? Racist.

    As someone said before, there is no shoe on the other foot reasoning here.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    “Firstly, Japanese have a universal inferiority complex with whites, and therefore the ad only re-enforces their wish to be white, or “cool”.”

    Echos of a conversation I had with a Japanese guy last night where he said the big nose stemmed from envy.

  • This is related to John and Bob’s last posts about what I am calling “nose envy” and power relations.

    I’ve been talking about this with students in my classes, including a mixed class with Japanese and non-Japanese (including Western) students. One point that has come up is that many Japanese people seem to have an admiration (憧れ) for Western noses. This “nose envy” is hard for Westerners to understand because a big nose is usually seen as something to laugh at rather than admire. At any rate, perceptions do not seem to be exactly the same.

    Another point is that, generally speaking, people in English-speaking countries have become more sensitized to stereotypical depictions. Japanese people I speak with are often not bothered by stereotypical depictions of Japanese or Asians — even the buck-toothed stereotype.

    This is not to defend ANA. They clearly failed to realize or consider how their commercial would be viewed by non-Japanese and how promoting stereotypical images is problematic. Ironically, their commercial was extremely “Japanese” in this regard.

    In discussing the issue in a mixed classroom (Japanese and non-Japanese) I think the students really came to understand perspectives that they had not been aware of. In the same way, I hope that this becomes a “teachable moment” for people in Japan who are oblivious to non-Japanese perspectives. I also hope that non-Japanese people recognize that, while there is no need to excuse ANA’s insensitivity, it is also good to understand that the thought process behind the images may be somewhat different from what one might first assume.

    P.S. We also talked about the influence of power relations. A student from Canada pointed out that, here in Japan, she felt absolutely powerless. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Japanese people might do well to consider that, in Japan, being white does not give one as much power as they might imagine.

  • “Though Japanese seem to be keenly aware of racism and human rights abuses in American society, in my experience they are very poor at addressing these issues in their own country…The Japanese media is often overtly racist in its portrayal of foreigners. There are numerous times I have seen Japanese actors on television made up in “black-face” or “white-face,” and there are at least as many negative images of Latinos, Southeast Asians and other foreigners.”

    Above is from a letter of mine published in Mainichi Daily News, October 31, 1998. Sadly, it sometimes seems little has changed since that piece was published.

    FYI, here it is (BTW, I didn’t write the title of the piece, MDN did):

    http://donmaclaren.com/pros_and_cons_of_japan_bashing.html

  • So how about the classical protest of “taking it to the streets”

    Book a flight with ANA ,buy a strap on big nose,put it on after
    boarding and observe the response of the flight attendants.

  • “Firstly, Japanese have a universal inferiority complex with whites, and therefore the ad only re-enforces their wish to be white, or “cool”.”

    Three Japanese people (independent of each other) have also said this to me regarding the ANA advertisement. I don’t necessarily agree with their position. The advertisement was clearly using the gigantic nose and ridiculous wig in order to be humorous … otherwise why not actually just use a Caucasian person? I think it’s very telling that if the Japanese people in the advertisement were replaced with Caucasians dressing in blackface or yellowface the issue of whether or not it was racist wouldn’t be debatable. Regardless of the feeling behind it, it is racist to dress up as someone of a different race in order to mock them for comic effect. At the very least it shows a breathtaking ignorance of how that portrayal would be viewed by non Japanese people.

    I also disagree with the position that it’s impossible to be racist towards Caucasians because of their power and privilege. Sorry but in Japan it is the Japanese who are powerful and privileged and people of other races are minorities here. We are not powerful in this society. We cannot enter certain establishments or rent certain apartments (another problem in and of itself). Although I must be careful of generalising I do feel that many Japanese people see non Japanese as caricatures of real people. If you are Caucasian you are something to be objectified. I have been ridiculed, mocked, envied, sexually objectified, stared at or touched without permission more times than I can count. Although there are a lot of things I love about Japan these frequent encounters are very dehumanising and advertisements like this reinforce this attitude towards non Japanese.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Kirk, #68

    Thanks. I think your last statement hits the nail on the head. Whiteness power plays out in relation to place/space where particular race (i.e., WASP) is pre-dominant. Many people who assume the superiority of white privilege across the cultural borders without question tend to overlook the fact that Caucasians are NOT the most representative of NJ in Japan. They might be able to influence the mindset of some Japanese people, to some extent. But they cannot control the institutional discourse of cultural norms and assumptions predominant within the Japanese society.

  • “Japanese people I speak with are often not bothered by stereotypical depictions of Japanese or Asians — even the buck-toothed stereotype.”

    Not the gov’t, however. They often have nothing more important to do than scour foreign television looking for the smallest perceived slight.

  • @Univerman

    Actually it was racist, it was racist against everyone, Japanese and non-Japanese, I’m surprised you couldn’t understand that. It also makes Japan and a flagship Japanese company look ignorant and stupid. Most foreigners in Japan are here because we love Japan and care about it, we want to help make sure it is as good a country as it can be. If you don’t complain about bad things in your country, then you don’t care about your country or the lives of your fellow citizens and residents. If foreigners all went home, then ANA wouldn’t have much of a business would it? Finally just because something is “traditional” doesn’t make it the right thing or the best thing. Do you want Japan to freeze in time or go backwards and become a primitive, backwater of the world, known for how closed minded, insensitive and uneducated its population is or do you want Japan continually improve itself, staying at the top of innovation and be the envy of the world for it’s intellectual prowess and vibrancy? Most of Japan’s success in the last 60 years came by leading innovation, not by following archaic tradition without thinking. What people like you need to understand is that criticizing specific flaws and mistakes in a country is not the same as attacking the country (or its people) in its entirety, in fact it is a sign of love for that country.

    — I think we’ve replied enough to “Univerman”. Any more comments and he’ll be pleased the he provoked so much anger (as that’s how trolls get their jollies). So no more comments addressing him in specific will be approved.

  • Thanks Bob! Your point is well taken. I can think of several example of the Japanese government responding to what it deemed to be inappropriate depictions or references:

    Fukushima:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/12/french-fukushima-cartoon-offends-japan
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/13/french-fukushima-cartoon_n_3920349.html

    Hiroshima:
    http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jan/23/bbc-apology-atomic-bomb-jokes

    Can you think of an example that would be close to the one we are discussing here — an example that focus on a visual stereotype?

    — I certainly can (just doin’ my job!):

    In 2003, for example, a Hungarian TV show punk’d people by getting one of their reporters to pose as a “slanted-eyed Japanese” named “Micuko” and ambush local celebrities. Note that the “humor” there too is “for domestic consumption”… but the Japanese embassy filed a formal protest and got the show pulled off the air.
    Link: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20030516b5.html

    Friday, May 16, 2003
    Hungary TV pulls ‘slanted eyes’ show
    VIENNA (Kyodo) Hungarian television station TV2 has told the Japanese Embassy in Budapest it plans to suspend a popular show that mocks Japanese and drew the ire of the local Japanese community and Japanese diplomats in Hungary.

    The program features a Hungarian TV reporter who wears a black hairpiece and fake teeth, and passes herself off as a goggle-eyed Japanese woman, using the stunt to ambush and interview Hungarian celebrities.

    Apart from that caricature, the prime-time TV show, “Micuko — the World in Slanted Eyes,” pokes fun at everyday Japanese life and Japanese customs.

    The Japanese community in Hungary was furious and the Japanese Embassy filed a protest with TV2 as well as the Hungarian Foreign Ministry late last month.

    Hiroshi Abe, an official at the embassy, said Wednesday that “Micuko” producers told the embassy late last week that TV2 decided to suspend the show for three months beginning next month.

    The show will return in September under a new name and the producers promised to make other changes, Abe said.

    Abe said the embassy will keep an eye on the show when it comes back on the air and will take action again if the changes are not satisfactory.

    “The show can only be described as racially biased,” Abe said. “The problem won’t disappear if only small changes are made, like changing the name of the show.”

    TV2, which started operation in 1997, bills itself as Hungary’s first commercial broadcaster. Its official Web site says the station provides entertaining and informative programs targeted at the nation’s “young, urban population.”
    ENDS

  • Early in the discussion Baudrillard wrote about “image over substance” in the commercial. That’s a point I’ve been thinking about recently. The “let’s change the image of Japan” theme continues in their advertising (I just got a frequent-flier e-mail from them that follows that theme) but it’s entirely unclear what exactly needs to be changed and what the new image (or approach) should be. It seems to be more about a vacuous, superficial “image change” (e.g., a new hairstyle) than any real shift in approach or perspective. Perhaps that’s why they couldn’t resist using the big-nose stereotype. It’s an obvious visual difference that allows them to be vague about what they are really trying to say.

  • #76KM

    “..It’s an obvious visual difference that allows them to be vague about what they are really trying to say…”

    But there is is the problem. That sums up Japan nicely. Its aim is to be vague, so in their eyes, not to “upset” anyone. The structure of the language and the honorifics and the “customs” simply support this notion. In being constantly vague in an international and global market place just isolates their myopic and outdated mentally more and more.

    They may wish to isolate themselves, for “protection”. But their MO is now having the reserve effect. They are very slowly being isolated by the rest of the world because of their actions, I would surmise.

  • Thanks, Debito, for your excellent augmentation of my comment (#75). The information you provided led me to the following web page, which provides more detail:

    http://hollywoodjapanfile.blogspot.jp/2011/02/ushi-van-dijk-netherlands-1999-gene.html

    The author, Matt Kaufman (who introduces himself as being a former columnist for Kansai Time Out) explains that it is difficult today to find actually images of Micuko but that the character was played by Judit Stahl. Here are some addresses where you can find images of Judit Stahl as Micuko:

    http://www.kreativ.hu/magazin_media/cikk/teves_vetelkedo
    http://www.bigprint.eu/UserFiles/Image/Referencia/0152_City_light_papir/4799fe112ad5f_midilight_day_MICUKO.jpg
    http://www.bigprint.eu/UserFiles/Image/Referencia/0152_City_light_papir/4799fe2d56c4c_midilight_night_MICUKO.jpg

    It’s hard to find a picture of Judit Stahl where she is not playing Micuko but is showing her teeth. Here’s one:

    http://www.pophalo.hu/kepek/szereplok/51/51964/stahl01.JPG

    When playing Micuko, Judit Stahl does indeed seem to be wearing large fake teeth — a visual analogue of the big nose in the “foreigner” stereotype.

    According to Matt Kaufman’s article, the Micuko character was based on a character called Ushi Hirosaki that was played by Wendy Van Dijk. Though I couldn’t find any videos of Micuko, there are quite a few on the web of the Ushi character.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSyE3cYWOuw
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tFHOhE_euA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkGpsvRA80A

    The appearance is quite similar so I assume that the performances of the two characters are similar as well.

    Matt Kaufman asks “Could it be that Wendy Van Dijk is the female Sacha Baron Cohen and she created a ‘foreigner’ character that is even more brilliant than Borat?” His answer is “no.” Wendy Van Dijk’s character is pretty lame.

    Finally, let’s look at some of the information about this that is available in Japanese.

    The following Japanese-language references to the Micuko issue all mention the false buckteeth and the wig:

    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ミツコ_つり上がった目で見た世界
    http://www.asyura.com/0304/dispute10/msg/186.html
    http://www.47news.jp/CN/200305/CN2003051501000036.html

    The following pdf from the Hungarian Nihonjinkai includes detailed critiques (in Japanese and Hungarian) of the Micuko (Mitsuko in Japanese) character, beginning on page 30.

    http://www.danube4seasons.com/danube-communication/pdf-images/donau-56.pdf

    Here’s part of the critique from page 35:

    一部日本人の身体的特徴をことさらに誇張した醜い容姿に作り、且 殊更に誇張した下品な含み笑いを頻繁に繰り返す仕草を演 じさせ、一般聴衆に日本人女性に対する誤った印象を生出すこと。

    Summary (not a strict translation):
    It is criticizing the grotesquely exaggerated and ugly presentation of certain physical attributes of some (not all) Japanese people. This appearance combined with the vulgar humor and repeated gestures produce a distorted image of Japanese women.

    Sounds pretty close to the criticisms of the big-nosed humor to me. Perhaps Japanese people who fail to see anything wrong with the big-nosed stereotypes could be asked to ponder the critique presented by the Hungarian Nihonjinkan. I’m sure that the Japanese people in Hungary knew what it felt like to be view through a stereotype, something that some people who have never lived outside of their home country may have a hard time understanding.

  • Right on. And that is the answer to the classic question of International Business 101. Why Japan didn’t invent the Ipod? Well, because long ago they disconnect from the world’s trends and feelings, impairing themselves to lead and guide like before. The technology and the knowledge is there but the human empathy for the rest of the world is not. Ah…! By the way, I don’t know one japanese with inferiority complex, on the contrary, I know a lot with some kind of superiority complex that makes them constantly lecture and teach about the better ways of their culture and how eating that stinking crap called natto makes you more intelligent…

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    Kirk, that was a gold mine.

    Notice how speaking with a fake accent was also cause for offence…

    Just a couple of other points I’d like to add from various points in the discussion.
    Yes, there is some element of truth to nose envy, but rembember that in Japanese, describing someone as “hana ga takai” can also mean they are proud or conceited. (I’ve heard several people, for example, describe JAL cabin attendents as “Tengu” – the idea that they are up themselves or snobs is expressed with a nose reference)

    Also, notice that when dealing with outsiders, some Japanese people’s sense of “omoiyari” is nowhere to be seen. Yep, that whole “ometenashi” show was for just that – a show.

    As to the lack of offence at buck-toothed stereotypes – there is no offence as long as the creator is not identified as NJ. Maybe because in Japan these are not steroypes of a race/nationality, but an individual’s – with mockable traits.

    And, as to claims of over-sensitivity, well the Japanese can also be all over the map on that one. (Apparently a car ad featuring Yosui Inoue’s “Ogenki desuka?” and the slogen “Ikiru yorokobu” [joy of living] was pulled because Hirohito was on his death bed!)

    Hopefully, the fuss made over the ANA commercial will serve to make the advertising companies think twice. Otherwise, we’ll just have to shoot down each offensive ad as it comes.

  • I detect a tatemae-honne dynamic in the CM. “Let’s change the image (=tatemae) of Japan”, says one of the ANA pilots in the CM. Doing so, it is suggested involves just an external change in appearance, like the attached nose and wig, to give the impression that Japanese have changed. However, the commercial implies (wink, wink) that adopting the customs of Westerners such as hugging is just like putting on a Noh mask. When the interaction with foreigners is over, people can take off the mask and revert to their essential Japaneseness.

  • Here’s a video that I hope might move discussions with Japanese people forward. It’s a comic skit with a foreign student called Tom (played by JINNAI Tomonori).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox7GYye39Wk

    This is something that I think foreigners who understand Japanese and Japanese people could watch and laugh together. Notice that a big nose and a strange accent isn’t needed to convey “foreigner learning Japanese.” But, a wig is used.

    I’ve often told students that whether or not you can laugh together is an important point. It might be useful to look at the differences between well-crafted humor at which everyone can laugh and low-level exploitations of stereotypes that make the people being depicted cringe.

  • Just saw the new commercial. It is almost exactly the same commercial except that the problematic visuals are avoided by moving to a screen with text.

  • This commercial is so bad and so off-target, that I can’t truly decide if it is racist, ignorant or it is plain childish.
    Nevertheless this commercial has so many flaws that if I were ANA I would be pissed off to who ever was the advertising agency…I would get my money back.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    RE: #86

    Anybody who would make that kind of posting is, by definition, a sick, deplorable loathsome and likely deranged human being.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    LRLKKM

  • Debito, I think ‘Univer’ thinks we are all non-Japanese speaking NJ who can be wound up to say something racist. If ‘Univer’ is responsible for the subtitling, I would suggest that your being trolled by a wannabe netto-uyoku.

    — Of course. He craves attention, and is still trying to get his jollies by winding people up. The good news is, he’s substantiating the points we want made. Again, most of these types don’t get irony.

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