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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 18th, 2014

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    Hi Blog. It’s times like these when people seem glad that a forum like 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!):

    (UPDATE JANUARY 22:  ANA has pulled the ad, so the link above is dead.  I have archived it for posterity as an .mp4 at  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:


    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’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)

    McDonald’s Japan sells burgers! (2009)

    Selling sweets! (2013)

    Mandom sells men’s cosmetics! (2005)

    Mini Stop Konbini sells Afro Melon Bread! (2010)

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

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


    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):


    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.
    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):


    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.


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

    1. Is ANA’s new TV commercial racist? Probably not. | Trends in Japan - Tokyo's latest Lifestyle, Culture and Innovation Says:

      […] This time it seems more tongue-in-cheek and we didn’t take offense at any rate. Debito, though, was less than impressed. […]

    2. Brian Says:

      Mail is nice but posting comments on the company’s twitter and facebook pages are maybe even more effective. It makes the conversation much more public and draws wider attention to your concerns. Also, has anyone seen the commercials for Budget Rentacar in Japan lately? I think they’re much more offensive than this.

    3. Rohan Says:

      I also wasn’t impressed by this ad either. Yes, it is pretty harmless but so wasn’t the Black and White Minstrel Show years ago? I’m sure no harm was meant by the producers and participants of that famous TV show. Regardless of whether it is harmless or not, there is no need to stoop to racial stereotypes to increase sales. This type of ad would be seen as very offensive in many countries those two pilots were white and suddenly sprouted black wigs, taped noses to give that cute little button look, and taped eye to make them, “slanty”, wouldn’t it?

    4. Jim di Griz Says:


      Yep, falling for the old ‘laughing at you, not with you, isn’t really racist’ trick again.

    5. Gman Says:

      These were bad, and I’m glad you gave them context against the other ones in the past. I’m curious about this Budget Rent-a-car one though… link would help.

    6. Baudrillard Says:

      More image over substance changes, like if We Japanese campaign hard enough the tired old cliches about Japan and the narrative we want to control, eventually by “explaining” Japan and THE RULES to foreigners, they will change their thinking.

      Wouldn’t it be easier to make some real changes rather than just try to change the world’s thinking? Err, no it wouldn’t. Well it worked before in the pre-Internet days.

      And doesn’t this just reinforce the old ”if you act (e.g. hug) like a foreigner you are no longer a real Japanese” belief? Thus, a farcical ad which most of the population will take as light comedy.

      Part of the revisionist Zeitgeist, along with Miyazaki’s latest film, either consciously or subconsciously. But given ANA’s recent willingness to kowtow to Abe’s political agenda, I would say its more a conscious part of a “back to Japanese values” campaign.

    7. JK Says:

      >“Let’s change the image of Japanese people,” the short dude agrees to it. And this is what happens to him:

      >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.

      I agree. That said, how do you think ANA could have ended the commercial without resorting to a racial stereotype? What do you think they could have done differently to change the image of Japan as it were?


    8. Kirk Masden Says:

      I’m interested in the “such a Japanese reaction” comment. It seems to me that the “You want a hug?” comment is sarcasm and that the “such a Japanese reaction” comment is a criticism of “Exciting, isn’t it!” Because we’ve seen other examples of big noses in commercials, that, unfortunately, seems a bit “Japanese” now, but I didn’t notice anything odd about “Exciting, isn’t it!” Am a right in thinking that the “Japaneseness” in this commercial is as imaginary as the foreignness?

    9. Brian Says:

      Someone asked for the Budget Rentacar ad link. Here it is:

    10. Richard Says:

      I too was astonished when I saw this commercial. At first I thought it was great thing that ANA were using real, not gibberish type of English, and then they blow it by the pathetic stereotyping at the end.

    11. Peter McArthur Says:

      Putting racial insensitivity aside for just one moment: I’m not sure I understand this advert. Can anyone explain to me what kind of impression / message they intended to project? Is putting on a gaijin nose and talking about hugging supposed to represent a Japanese airport offering international flights?

    12. SM Says:

      Here is a link for feedback to ANA. No need to fill in flight details, etc… Be sure to click “Agree” before “Submit”.


    13. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I really don’t get the point the ad is trying to make. “You want a hug?” Huh? If ANA really think that’s what makes Japanese stand out from foreigners, they are quite ignorant. Do Japanese hug each other at airport? Yes! I saw that several times– at the gate entrance of Narita Airport and train stations. Enough of non-sense.

    14. Brooks Says:

      ANA apologized but have yet to decide about pulling the ad.

    15. John (Yokohama) Says:

      Some reaction from ANA.

    16. dude Says:

      The problem is that too many Japanese people think this crap is funny.
      Efforts to educate them to their insensitiveness fall on deaf ears.
      If they think it is funny, then it is funny!
      All opinions to the contrary are trouble.
      We all must go along with the group!
      We all must be quiet, and let our leaders lead!
      Please do not voice your opinions! That is so… foreign. WE ARE JAPANESE! WE ARE SUPERIOR!
      We can make jokes about foreigner! Foreigner are funny!

      Look deeper. What is behind this ad? Are the people responsible for this ad sensitive? Or do they have a stereotypical view of foreigners? Two Japanese guys speaking bad accented English to each other? And the noses? What does this teach Japanese children, and half-Japanese children? And adults?

      The people who paid for this ad (ANA) and the people who produced it (DENTSU?) do not respect you (if they did, this ad would have been pulled already).
      They do not value your feelings, or your opinion.
      They do not care if this ad offends you.
      THEY DO NOT LIKE YOU – at least not enough to stop doing something that is obviously offensive.

      Now that you see that they think it is ok to mock and belittle you, do you really want to continue to give these people your money???
      Vote with your wallets people.
      You have many choices when choosing an airline. Some of the airlines don’t feel a need to insult you, to appeal to Japanese customers. Give them your money – and ANA will notice.

    17. Baudrillard Says:

      @ John above,more ANA arrogance. “ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura said 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.”

      This just sounds arrogant-the opinions (not “complaints”) are just”different”. No apology either. He leaves it to a female spokeswoman to do that.

      Is he too senior to have to apologize to non Japanese?

      Is it just me, or does this yet again sound like

      1. Explaining THE RULES, but the pesky NJs dont get it.
      2. Misogyny or Male Pride Japan again?

      Call me oversensitive but this is what Japan has made me and countless other NJs. Reap, now sow.

    18. Baudrillard Says:

      Aha! Postmodern media is to blame for this.Apparently DENTSU (those geniuses/old school boys/old farts) made the ad.

      Dentsu, as everyone knows, is above rapproach (e.g. Powers, working in Japan, 1990) as they control the media coverage of themselves. Thus they are non accountable. Dentsu is one of the “taboo” subjects in Japan.

    19. Johnny T Says:

      Judging by the comments here it doesn’t seem most Japanese get what the fuss is about.

      AFP=時事 1月20日(月)15時49分配信

      【AFP=時事】全日空(All Nippon Airways、ANA)は20日、先週末から放映が始まった同社の新テレビコマーシャル(CM)に対し、外国人をステレオタイプ化していて人種差別的だとの苦情が寄せられていることを明らかにした。個別に謝罪しているが、CMを打ち切るかどうかは未定という。


       問題となっているのは、3月から東京・羽田空港(Haneda Airport)発着のANA国際線が増便されることをアピールする30秒間のCMで、18日から放映中。ANAのパイロット制服を着た俳優の西島秀俊さんとお笑いタレントのバカリズムさんの2人が、国際線航空会社としてのANAのイメージアップについて英語で会話している内容だ。



       日本在住のある外国出身女性は、交流サイト・フェイスブック(Facebook)のANAのページに「たった今、ANAの新しいCMを見ました。本気なの? ANAはこれが問題ないと思っているんですか!? 」と英語で書き込んだ。


       ANA広報は20日、AFPの取材に、外国人を中心に新CMへの苦情が寄せられていることを認め、不快感を与えたことについて個別に謝罪すると共に、問題提起に対し謝意を伝えていると述べた。苦情があったことは広告担当部署に伝えたが、新CMの今後の扱いは現段階では未定だとしている。【翻訳編集】 AFPBB News

    20. arudou debito Says:

      Kotaku weighs in on ANA ad:

    21. arudou debito Says:

      Japanese airline sorry over ‘racist’ commercial
      AFP January 21, 2014

      Tokyo (AFP) – Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) said Monday it was modifying a TV commercial after apologising to customers who complained it used racist stereotyping, but insisted they had meant no offence.

      ANA started airing the new 30-second television advertisement on Saturday, aimed at promoting its beefed up schedule of international flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport in March.

      In the commercial, two Japanese men in ANA uniform discuss in English how they might boost the image of the airline as an international carrier.

      One of them says: “Let’s change the image of Japanese people.” “Sure,” replies the other, who is now wearing a blonde wig and an improbably long rubber nose.

      White westerners are often believed in Japan to have big noses, blue eyes and blonde hair, characteristics generally thought desirable among Japanese.

      The ad caused a stir among English-language users of social media in Japan.

      “I’ve just seen the new ANA advert…Really? ANA think this is OK?!” Angela Fukutome said in a message posted on ANA’s Facebook page.

      “If you are a foreigner and have planned to come to #Japan do not choose an openly racist airline like #ANA! Watch their Japanese commercial,” tweeted @sibylleito on Twitter.

      ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura said 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. We will modify part of the advertisement and will release the second version soon,” he said.

      The original TV spot was initially aired for Saturday through Monday and has now been pulled for now, he said.

      Earlier, an ANA spokeswoman acknowledged 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.

      Japan is largely racially homogenous, with relatively small immigrant communities.

      The commercial can be seen at:

    22. arudou debito Says:

      Criticism from an unexpected quarter:

      Especially given his dismissive attitude towards Toshiba’s similarly racialized ad campaign. I wonder if there will be similar scrutiny of him by the anonymous apologists/trolls on the site he runs specifically for them. (Perhaps not. They constantly play the man, not the ball, and in every case but this one (which is why it’s unexpected) the man is one of them.)

    23. aw Says:

      Japanese airline ANA apologises for ‘racist’ advert stereotyping foreigners as having big noses and blonde hair
      Airline said it had received ‘calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad’
      ADAM WITHNALL Monday 20 January 2014

      A Japanese airline has apologised after it received complaints for a “racist and offensive” advert which appears to suggest it is changing its image through racial stereotyping.

      The 30-second commercial for All Nippon Airways (ANA) was designed to promote its expanded offering of international flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, and first aired on Saturday.

      It shows two men in ANA uniforms discussing how “exciting” it is that the airline now offers services to Vancouver and Hanoi.

      When one of the men refuses a hug to celebrate, the other describes it as “such a Japanese reaction” and says: “Let’s change the image of Japanese people.”

      The other man says “sure” while putting on an accent – and is suddenly seen wearing a blonde wig and exaggerated fake nose.

      The advert has been met with anger on the airline’s English-language social media pages. Facebook user Dave Jenkins wrote: “Your latest commercial is racist and offensive. I’d like to cancel my mileage club membership.”

      Vicky Kirk Kobayashi asked when the “horrible, horrible advert” would be cancelled and criticised ANA for deciding to “go for the old tired big nose blonde gaijin gag”.

      Laura Macfarlane said: “Why would one of Japan’s premier airlines be willing to run an advertisement considered by many to be racist and offensive to westerners, and risk alienating a large percentage of its customers?”

      An ANA spokesperson said the airline had “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 the AFP news agency.

      “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.

      The ANA spokesperson added “The commercial was intended to be a humorous way of highlighting the increased number of international services ANA is operating from Haneda Airport. It was not our intention to cause offence and we apologize to anyone who was upset by the advertisement.”

      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.

    24. arudou debito Says:

      The form response from ANA to individual complainants (English original), courtesy ES:

      Dear Mr. XXXXXXXXX,

      We are in receipt of your email regarding our new commercial video on
      television and on our website which started from January 18, 2014.

      First of all, we deeply regret to learn that you felt unpleasantness and
      disappointment from our new commercial video and also regret the
      circumstances that prompted you to write to us.

      Although it is certainly not our intention to advocate racism and give
      offense, please accept our sincere apology if our television commercial
      gave such impression in any way.

      We have immediately forwarded your comments to the relevant sections
      involved for further review to be more careful about the contents and the
      images our commercial give, and can assure you that your opinion
      will be taken into consideration in improving them to provide
      all of our customers with high quality customer satisfaction.

      Mr. XXXXXXXXX, we thank you for taking the time to write and share your
      frank opinions, and we truly regret the negative impressions you received.
      Since ANA values your opinion, we look forward to having another
      opportunity to rebuild your confidence.

      Sincerely yours,

      H. Uchida
      Customer Relations
      CS Promotion
      All Nippon Airways Co. , LTD.

    25. bob Says:

      It really is time to inundate Japanese TV with this little nugget from the 40’s

      — Oh, but you see, “That cartoon is racist and will cause offense. The ANA commercial was just being funny and was not intended to cause offense…” is the counterargument you will likely get. You will have to untangle this cognitive process before you try to fight fire with fire.

    26. Bruno Says:

      #26 Bob

      Just head on over to Kotaku (, read the comments and you’ll be able to experience first-hand the mental juggling that people do to justify and try to explain that the ad is not racist, that it’s not racism when it’s about white people, or that it’s this kind of cartoon from almost a century ago that makes any racism coming from Japan justifiable.

      Counterarguments have already been made decades ago, are set in stone, and no “shoe on the other foot” reasoning will change the way some people think.

    27. Brooks Says:

      What I heard today on the radio was that the ad would be edited, but I didn’t hear what parts would be cut out.

    28. arudou debito Says:

      Another response from ANA to complaints. Compare texts:

      Dear Mr. XXXXXXX:
      We are in receipt of your email on January 18, 2014, sharing your disappointment with our new television commercial which started airing on January 18, 2014 (Japan Time).

      We genuinely regret the circumstances that prompted you to write us and unpleasantness caused. 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. However, we have received the opinions different from the intention of the company and decided to pull it off the air after careful consideration.

      Mr. XXXXXXX, we take this matter seriously and appreciate taking the time to write us.

      Gerry Nacpil, Supervisor
      – ANA SKY WEB –
      Customer Relations & Services, The Americas


    29. arudou debito Says:

      UPDATE JANUARY 20: Stating that they are now pulling the ad, ANA officially comments in a reply to complaints directly above: “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.

    30. JBar Says:

      I was surprised at ANA’s professional and sincere response to the feedback given regarding their commercial.

      I think there are a few reasons that ANA has responded well while companies like Toshiba and others just make excuses or stay silent:

      1) ANA published their commercial internationally on YouTube, so it was more widely exposed to the world’s view and open to criticism.
      2) This very directly affect them very badly because they just insulted a huge portion of the market they were trying to sell to.
      3) Maybe they just have more sensitive and empathetic people working for them that had the sensibility to do the right thing.

      I’d like to think that it’s #3, but of course all things must play a factor considering how much it will cost them to kill the commercial, or even re-do it.

      Anyway, kudos to ANA for their response. It made a difference for me. The next question is to figure out why this keeps happening. It’s hard to believe that in 2014 Japan’s socially appropriate sense of humor is about where America’s was in the 1960s or earlier. I know Japan is still very homogenous ethnically, but still, it seems like they have an odd duality in sensitivity and empathy. In other words, their culture tends to make them some of the most polite and sensitive people on the planet in some respects, yet when it comes to anything related to minority feelings, whether it’s women, racial minorities, or the disabled, they seem to have genuine difficulty understand what is offensive and hurtful and what isn’t.

    31. bob Says:

      Notice in the “apology”, they completely ignored their ignorance. Its as if they apologized for not carrying the two on a math test.

    32. Pete Says:

      While I deplore racism anywhere and everywhere, as a white heterosexual western male with a huge nose, I think we need to recognize our own privilege and keep our outrage in perspective. It’s not like we’re an impoverished underclass in any nation on earth. Perhaps that’s part of why this stings so much? Japanese people rather admire these traits (larger noses, mulitlinguism), even as they mock them. As another commenter says, here or on the Toshiba bread maker page, I’m more outraged about the growing hostility towards Japanese Koreans. Some of my own in-laws, who respect and accept me completely, are not shy about expressing some very shocking anti-Korean sentiments in my presence.

      — Fine. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Don’t let White Guilt get in the way of decrying the continuing practices of racialization. If you’re going to deplore it, deplore it. It is not a good practice within societies no matter who’s getting targeted.

    33. JBar Says:


      Point taken about keeping our outrage in perspective. However, I disagree that the issue is innocuous/benign. That is a harmful attitude that perpetuates the problem. I lived in Japan for five years as a “big-nosed, blue-eyed foreigner” (no blonde hair though), and can attest first-hand to the comical imagery being directly damaging, not just to a person’s emotions and confidence (as if that’s not enough), but to a person’s ability to be taken seriously as a normal human being in regards to employment, housing, and other areas.

      Yes, foreigners are not slaves, but they are illegally denied housing and not even considered for most non-English-teaching jobs unless negotiated through special in-betweens, due to the sentiment perpetuated by this type of imagery that people who aren’t Japanese are some special mysterious class of alien-like being called gaijin with comically enhanced facial features and incomprehensible language. In my five years there I regularly experienced everything from light-hearted jokes to more insulting things like a a couple guys following me home from the station, walking alongside me babbling incoherently to mock my Japanese as I spoke to my wife on the phone. When I walked into an apartment rental place once the whole office full of 8 people went dead silent and they all looked like they were gonna have a heart attack, except for two who looked like they were gonna kick my ass just for walking in the door. Fortunately, my wife is Japanese and secured a nice place for us at a good price. All of this despite the fact that I speak pretty fluent Japanese with a good accent (not that that should matter).

      There are way too many apologizers on these types of issues. And just like I wouldn’t give much credence to black people who said they didn’t mind racism from others (or even worse, those who thought they should “know their place” and deserved it), I really don’t give my credence to fellow non-Japanese who say they don’t mind racism from Japanese. It’s wrong no matter how much you want to self-deprecate and even if you think it doesn’t hurt you, it does hurt others.

    34. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I also found this news in Japanese language. I saw many commenters making comments via facebook in Yahoo! Japan. It really made me sigh when I saw so many commenters spewing hatred toward NJ/foreigners for being paranoid and overblown. These folks have no clue about ignorance and stereotyping, and hence stuck in a crappy JP online forum 24/7.

    35. Jim Di Griz Says:

      I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and put it out there….

      ANA only took action after receiving complaints because this advert was seen outside of Japan, and they are worried about being blamed for ‘making Japan look bad’ (ie; letting the tatemae slip) when eyes are on Japan for the 2020 olympics, and because Abe’s Yasakuni visit, the Taiji dolphin hunt, and the whaling are all coming up negatively in western media.

    36. Baudrillard Says:

      Airline said it had received ‘calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad’

      Sounds like an attempt, either deliberate or unconscious, to marginalize the complaints as “just from foreigners, so it doesn’t matter”.

      At least this time ANA etc are being taken to task in the international media.

      But I am waiting for the “Japan as victim/Japan bashing” syndrome to kick in.

    37. Baudrillard Says:

      Pete,”a white heterosexual western male with a huge nose, I think we need to recognize our own privilege”- point taken but youre also confusing racism (which sometimes benefits Caucasians in Japan, but increasingly doesnt!) with exclusionism.

      And as a western male, you may be grudgingly “respected” due to the constraints of tatemae (and international politics, after all Japan needs America and Engrish study etc), but still will be “excluded” even after taking Japanese nationality due to your race.

      That is partly what this site is about.

    38. Ken Says:

      I don’t think ANA was being racist here. “Racist” would be if their flight attendants were asking Japanese passengers if they wanted to be re-seated rather than assigned a seat next to a foreigner. The ad was out of line, though. I guess they’ve seen the gag fake long-nose thing so many times (without many complaints) that they just thought it was normal. Hopefully they’ve learned a lesson from this.

      My wife (who’s Japanese) and I (white guy) have flown ANA before, and we’ve been very happy with them. On our honeymoon, they upgraded us for free and the flight attendants put a nice gift bag together for us. ANA screwed up with this ad, no question, but 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.

      — As you say, hopefully they’ve learned a lesson from this. But “hopefully” isn’t quite deterrent enough to keep this from happening again elsewhere. Only when business leaders see NJ as a credible market to lose due to inconsiderate behavior will they change their marketing strategies. Otherwise, as archived within this blog post, it’s a game of “whack-a-mole”.

    39. Flyjin Says:

      Hey!“has received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad.” This is also just so racist/exclusionist. Why mention they are “foreigners”? How do you know? What if they are of multiracial origin? Arent they, first anf foremost, customers first?

      They just dont get it on so many levels. I don’t know where they re-education campaign can begin, in very early childhood perhaps?

      I d say thats three strikes and out for ANA. This, the (sc/d)reamliner, and their obedience to Abe over the disputed air zone are all good reasons to use another carrier.

      They clearly dont put their customers first.

    40. manule Says:

      Just another wonderful example of how lost and disconnected from the global reality this company is. I mean DENTSU. Don’t just blame it all on ANA or Toshiba. They are just followers of the malpractices and anacronisms of big corporate Japan. Leave it all in the hands of the wise and old and don’t even dare to question their judgement. That’s why now everybody seems to be clueless as to why the rest of the world is offended, when the reality is that those golf playing-sake drinking-women chasers lords of the Tokyo nights, are anything but competent professionals in the field of marketing and advertising. For Christ sake! even the target public is wrong! The message should be intended for the potential costumers, foreigners, and that is clearly not the case…pathetic.

    41. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Sorry Debito, not sure where to post this;

      Can some one explain to me what the link is between relaxing zoning regulations and attracting foreigners to the country is, please?

      I thought that the J-gov admitted it’s effort to attract 2000 elite NJ had been a failure, and yet this article quotes Abe as repeatedly saying that allowing homes, hospitals, and schools to be built next to factories will encourage NJ to live in Japan and make their lives easier.

      I am sure that Japan will now be inundated with visa applications from wealthy NJ desperate to live next to a concrete factory…

      Sounds to me like Abe wants NJ in ghettos where they can walk to their factory jobs, and their kids can go to school, without appearing in the lives of ‘nice’ Japanese people.

      Pertinent bits:

      […] According to Hatta, the changes will make it easier to construct residential buildings in business districts in designated zones, creating opportunities to improve urban planning and make cities more enticing for employees of foreign companies.[…]

      Introducing special economic zones is a cornerstone of Abe’s effort to create opportunities for Japanese companies, along with steps to boost industrial competitiveness and open up the country more to international trade.[…]

      “Labor and other issues are more important and will have an impact over the long term, but this will have a strong impact in the short run,” Hatta said of the building deregulation. “The focus, as far as attracting foreign nationals is concerned, is to make living in city centers comfortable,” Hatta said.

    42. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Debito, re: Ken Y-N.

      I think that you should amend you comment about him above. Over on the stalker site he is apologizing his hat off, making it clear that he never said the ad was racist in his opinion, only that he knew some people who would say that it is racist.

      Leopards and spots, and all that.

      — When you spend years modeling your online persona as “anti-” someone or something, and surround yourself with acolytes who demand that ideology from you constantly, you’re stuck when you finally discover you actually agree with something your antagonist might say. KY is stuck. He’s got to backpedal or lose credibility as the “anti-Debito”.

      The perpetual effigy burners might counter that I’m in the same situation. Luckily for me and this site, we’re anti-discrimination. That’s an easier position to defend and not contradict than KY, who is merely anti-me.

    43. Chris B Says:

      How on earth do these sort of racist commercials get made? It beggars belief. Let’s assume for a moment that the head of marketing/PR at ANA is some 89 year old, slightly senile “executive” who does nothing buy stamp things junior members (presumably 70 year olds) put in front of him. Surely no corporate marketing team or agency worth their salt puts out any commercial without test screening it on a sample of the target market first. I mean the ignorance and professional negligence is astounding. How are Japanese companies going to compete internationally with this level of incompetence?

      Furthermore would it be so difficult for a company like ANA to put out a really uplifting, sophisticated advert showcasing a more open minded international company – I mean you wouldn’t know it from this advert but many Japanese are not actually racists at all, in fact many of them are quite well educated, open minded and welcoming to people of all walks of life and all backgrounds.

      Finally, really pathetic to see so many apologists for this drivel leaving comments on ANA’s facebook page etc.. saying they couldn’t see why it was racist and that the advert was hilarious. (I mean racism aside, the advert is in no way funny, just sad and pathetic.)

      And if they really want to apologise, why are he adverts still up?

    44. Brooks Says:

      Peter Barakan said yesterday it was a tacky and tasteless ad, but I thought it was worse than that. With code sharing, ANA works with United in their alliance, as well as with other airlines. Offending customers and potential customers is a dumb idea.

    45. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Ken, #39

      Being maliciously/intentionally racist is one thing. Being unaware of racial sensitivity is quite another. While I agree that ANA doesn’t intend to offend NJ residents, I still hold their display of cultural ignorance on race and cultural assumption (toward both Japanese and NJ) accountable for the consequence. It all came out from their bad marketing strategy—i.e., false description of particular people for consumer product.
      Also, I’m not sure I feel comfortable with your description of ANA employees (i.e., ground staff, flight attendants, etc.) as “working class folks.” It just sounds like they are slave to their employer and hence, have no rights to disagree with their employer over company policy, working condition, and any business decisions affecting their employment. That’s what many pro-business/for-profit business leaders like to use to defend their publicity stunt by painting outsiders (i.e., protesters, civil rights group, unions) as “evil.”

    46. bob Says:

      Debito, re:Ken Y-N

      Couldn’t agree more that the Rirakkuma-fetishist (I’m still trying to erase that photo from my memory) will counter anything you say. After all, thats his only identity in life.
      I suggest you start a Cancer Awareness campaign. No doubt he’ll claim the following day that cancer is “not all that bad” and “overblown”.

    47. Chris Says:

      Hello all! New to the discussion here. If anyone cares to pipe in on the ANA facebook page, there is getting to be quite a discussion. I”m not used to the general points being raised in favor of the advertisement and white-face, so my head was spinning from reading the idea that Japanese cannot discriminate because they are not white kind of concept. I was surprised how strongly this is stated as if it is a fact, and I feel perplexed since Japanese are not a disadvantaged minority in Japan or even a financially impoverished country with little sway in the world.

    48. Baudrillard Says:

      -I suggest you start a Cancer Awareness campaign. No doubt he’ll claim the following day that cancer is “not all that bad” and “overblown”.

      He already does downplay cancer, with his constant belittling of Debito’s concern about “FOOKOOSHIMAR” and his downplaying of the effects of radiation.

      I think his creation of an identity as a happy go lucky carefree gaijin who loves all things Japan, is the ultimate denial that anything could be wrong.

      Lets slap a happy face on and live the dreamy day! 元気 出して! (literally, “courage”. So I move that J-courage is to act genki, as opposed to e.g. “Dutch/Liquid Courage”).

    49. Baudrillard Says:

      @ Manule,yes DENTSU have a penchant for tasteless, sexist ads as well: I do recall several low key scandals and arrests, usually of a sexual nature or the one I knew of, fraud with the former madame of an SM parlor, but here is a very public one

      But like the LDP, its a virtual monopoly.

      It controls nearly a third of all traditional advertising in its native Japan. Critics complain that it wields too much influence over the Japanese media. “There is no question that the company has enough power to control information in Japan,” says Shigeyuki Niitsu of Tokyo’s Takachiho University.

      Of course ANA are going to use Dentsu, but maybe its time to consider Asatsu DK or another one (if there is any significant difference, which I personally doubt).

    50. Baudrillard Says:

      Fascinating tangent on Abe’s links to Dentsu, the first time around (2006)- fake democratic meetings with people paid to ask/answer staged questions.

      “the contract for administration of the first meetings was awarded to massive Japanese ad agency Dentsu with no competitive bidding.”

      Maybe this is why Dentsu keep getting these big contracts and keep coming up with tired old racist/sexist ads without pause?

      I bet if ANA pull the ad, Dentsu get to keep their money anyway.

    51. 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.

    52. kirk Says:

      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.

    53. 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!

    54. 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

      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.


      Miho Minagawa
      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 Thanks for reading, ANA.

    55. XY Says:

      >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.

    56. 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!’

      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).

    57. arudou debito Says:

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


    58. john k Says:


      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…”


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

    59. arudou debito Says:

      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.

    60. univerman Says:

      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.

      — 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’s Posting Guidelines: The IP of this poster:

    61. 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?

    62. Flyjin Says:


      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.

    63. 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?

    64. arudou debito Says:

      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.

    65. bob Says:

      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.

    66. 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.

    67. arudou debito Says:

      Food for thought:

      Japan’s Nose Obsession:

    68. Kirk Masden Says:

      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.

    69. Don MacLaren Says:

      “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):

    70. Karjh12 Says:

      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.

    71. Nicotine Says:

      “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.

    72. 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.

    73. bob Says:

      “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.

    74. Chris B Says:


      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.

    75. Kirk Masden Says:

      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:



      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.

      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.”

    76. Kirk Masden Says:

      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.

    77. john k Says:


      “..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.

    78. Kirk Masden Says:

      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:

      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:

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

      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.

      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:ミツコ_つり上がった目で見た世界

      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.

      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.

    79. manule Says:

      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…

    80. 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.

    81. Nick Carty Says:

      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.

    82. Kirk Masden Says:

      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).

      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.

    83. Kirk Masden Says:

      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.

    84. Mister D Says:

      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.

    85. Richard Says:

      Anyone seen this?

      Big nose gaijin strikes again. It’s the cm at the bottom of the page. It’s for ANA’s card.

    86. univer Says:

      discussion to ANA’s “Racist”TV-AD,Japanese reaction

      — Not much of a discussion. And the subtitler (I assume it’s you) veers madly from the script… IP address:

    87. 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!


    88. Jim Di Griz Says:

      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.

    89. Loverilakkuma Says:

      Don’t be surprised. As of September 23(JST), the Japan News website posted that racist ad to feature Harvard Business School for adopting ANA model as “corporate strategy” class.

      See here:

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