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  • FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign

    Posted by arudou debito on August 16th, 2009

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

    Hi Blog.  Please feel free to adapt this letter to your needs and send it to any corporate outlets of McDonald’s you feel are appropriate.  Please continue to express your disgruntlement where it can be heard (there is even the suggestion that people walk in to restaurants with indelible ink pens and wrote “racist” across the face of the “Mr James’” full-size display figure).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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

    Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGONPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association

    (一般社団法人)日本永住帰化移民住民協会

    [...], Sapporo, Japan

    FRANCA is registered with the Japanese government as an NPO.

    Registration number 4300-05-005413

    McDonald’s Corporation Headquarters

    2111 McDonald’s Dr, Oak Brook, IL 60523 USA

    cc:
    Walt Riker
    Vice President, Corporate Media Relations
    walt.riker@us.mcd.com
    Heidi Barker
    Sr. Director, Corporate Media Relations
    heidi.barker@us.mcd.com
    Louise Marcotte-Jervoe
    Director, Corporate Media Relations
    louise.marcotte@us.mcd.com
    Tara Handy
    Sr. Manager, Corporate Media Relations
    tara.handy@us.mcd.com
    Lisa McComb
    Sr. Manager, Corporate Media Relations
    lisa.mccomb@us.mcd.com
    Lizzie Roscoe
    Supervisor, Corporate Media Relations
    lizzie.roscoe@us.mcd.com
    Theresa Riley
    Administrative Coordinator, Corporate Media Relations
    theresa.riley@us.mcd.com
    Sue Atzhorn
    Administrative Coordinator, Corporate Media Relations
    sue.atzhorn@us.mcd.com

    To Whom It May Concern:

    We write to you on behalf of FRANCA, a human rights group concerned with the rights of non-Japanese residents in Japan.  Our goals are:  1) To eliminate negative public images and stereotypes of non-Japanese and multi-cultural Japanese; 2) To eliminate discrimination by race, nationality, ethnicity, and national origin; 3) To highlight the benefits of immigration and a multi-cultural society.  FRANCA works to achieve these goals through sustainable and effective lobbying, networking and public relations campaigns aimed at educating the public.  More about us at www.francajapan.org.

    We wish to bring to your attention a sales campaign launched this month by McDonald’s Japan that we find extremely problematic.

    The “Mr. James” character, representing the “Nippon All Stars” hamburger campaign, features a spectacled Caucasian narrating his love for Japan and Japan’s version of McDonald’s’ hamburgers.  Our association finds the following things problematic:

    • 1) The character speaks broken accented Japanese (using the katakana script, one used for foreign loanwords).  The impression given is that Caucasians cannot speak Japanese properly, which is simply not true for the vast numbers of non-native (and Japanese-native) foreigners in Japan.
    • 2) The character is called “Mr. James” (again, in katakana), promoting the stereotype that foreigners must be called by their first names only (standard Japanese etiquette demands that adults be called “last name plus -san”), undoing progress we have made for equal treatment under Japanese societal rules.
    • 3) The image used, of a clumsy sycophantic “nerd” for this Caucasian customer, is embarrassing to Caucasians who will have to live in Japan under this image.

    To illustrate the issue more clearly, would McDonald’s USA (or McDonald’s in any other country, for that matter) choose to promote, for example, a new rice dish with a “ching-chong Chinaman” saying, “Me likee McFlied Lice!”?  Of course not.

    Likewise, we do not think these attitudes perpetuating stereotypes of ethnic minorities within their respective societies should be promoted anywhere by a multinational corporation with the influence of McDonald’s.  We ask that McDonald’s Headquarters review McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” Campaign and have it discontinued immediately.

    We look forward to your favorable reply.

    Sincerely yours,

    ARUDOU Debito (Mr.)

    Chair, FRANCA Japan.  debito@debito.org

    Enclosures:  copies of relevant media materials regarding “Mr. James”

    From the food tray inserts:

    mcdonaldsmrjames001

    From stickers on every table:

    mcdonaldsmrjames002

    At every restaurant, a full-size cutout of “Mr James”:

    090813mrjamesfull

    Close up of the cutout:

    090813mrjamescloseup

    Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009, Sapporo Nakanosawa Branch):

    mrjamesoutdoorssmall

    ends

    53 Responses to “FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign”

    1. KG Says:

      Any chance of a FRANCA endorsed Japanese version addressed to ‘Manager of Mc Franchise’ that we can print out and proffer to our local outlets?

    2. AET Says:

      I started a Facebook group protesting “Mr James”. Feel free to join!

      http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=136293508102

    3. Ben Says:

      Here is my cookie cutter reply from McDonald’s USA about “Mr. James”, asking I should contact McDonald’s Japan.

      -*-*-*-

      McDonalds.CustomerCare@us.mcd.com
      Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 7:13 PM
      Message from McDonald’s USA

      Hello Benjamin:

      Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s.

      We’re sorry you were disappointed with this commercial. We take pride in producing commercial messages that will be enjoyed. We certainly never intended for it to offend anyone. Your comments have been shared with our advertising staff and independent advertising agency who work together to develop our commercials. Please know your feedback is helpful and will be considered in the future planning of our commercials.

      I’ve shared your comments with our corporate office in Japan that oversees the restaurants in this country. I’m certain your concerns will be addressed immediately, so that your future visits to McDonald’s can be more enjoyable.

      If you still wish to contact our office in Japan, please visit http://www.mcdonalds.com/contact/contact_us/restaurant_visit_outside.html for a list of our international offices, or they can be reached at:

      JAPAN
      McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd.
      Shinjuku I-Land Tower
      5-1 Nishi Shinjuku 6 Chome
      Chinjuku, Tokyo 163-13
      Japan
      Phone* : 81-3-3344-1063
      Fax* : 81-3-3344-6982
      Website* : http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/

      Once again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s.

      Jessica
      McDonald’s Customer Response Center

      ref#:6248429

      ————————————————————————————————————–

      Please do not “reply” to this email response. No “replies” can be received through this mailbox. If you wish to contact McDonald’s Customer Response Center again, please visit our website at http://www.mcdonalds.com

      You wrote:

      In Japan, the marketing for “Mr James” is racial and rude. I am shocked that this can happen at a company like McDonald’s.

      For non-Japanese living in Japan, I find it very insulting.

    4. Posts about race discrimination (best posts combined for review) as of August 15, 2009 | Discrimination Law News Says:

      [...] the furore the Mayor’s report has ignited in the Conservative Party, I might as well have done. FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign – debito.org 08/15/2009 Posted by debito on August 16th, 2009 UPDATES ON TWITTER: [...]

    5. gary townsend Says:

      Sugoi! Appare! etc. etc.
      But actually I doubt that an English letter to an American company will do much good. McDonald’s Japan is, as far as I know, pretty independent of its American parent.

      A Japanese-language letter sent to the Japanese headquarters would I think be far more effective.

      Or go and flame away, if possible in Japanese, at

      http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/cservice/information/q_a/form/attention.html

    6. debito Says:

      PRESS RELEASE SENT TO REPORTERS AND MAILING LISTS TODAY:

      PRESS RELEASE
      FRANCA PROTEST OF PROBLEMATIC MCDONALD’S JAPAN “MR JAMES” CAMPAIGN
      PROMOTING STEREOTYPES OF FOREIGNERS SPEAKING BROKEN JAPANESE, ETC.

      From Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org), Sapporo, Japan
      Released August 16, 2009, freely forwardable

      Hello All. Approximately one week ago McDonald’s Japan launched its “Nippon All Stars” burger campaign, featuring “Mr James”, a rather oddball-looking Caucasian singing the praises of McDonald’s Japanese-style hamburgers in broken, katakana Japanese.

      This is untenable in a Japan with ethnic minority residents. They are being ill-portrayed by this stereotype, and their lives may be adversely affected by this careless campaign by one of the world’s most influential multinational companies.

      We at registered human rights organization FRANCA find this extremely problematic, for reasons listed in our protest letter below. Please read and forward, and reporters please consider coverage?

      Thanks very much for reading. We will issue a Japanese version of the following protest letter when we are back from summer holidays. If you wish to express your discontent to McDonald’s Japan directly, go to
      http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/cservice/information/q_a/form/attention.html

      Background information at http://www.debito.org/?p=4136

      Arudou Debito
      FRANCA Chair

      (REMAINING TEXT AS IN BLOG ENTRY ABOVE)

    7. john Says:

      Compared to the UK media in dealing with a recent furniture incident.I have to ask this question.Are the english newspapers in japan going to run anything on this? or are they tacitly going to go along with this. Now, i am off to my local Mcds to speak to the manager.
      I just wondered if anyone knew.

    8. Jeff Says:

      “Here is my cookie cutter reply from McDonald’s USA…”

      Actually it may be Cookie Cutter, but it’s not a form letter (yet). The one I received is a little different, so this indicates that their canned response is evolving and more importantly we’re reaching people… either of which is the first step in moving a Corporate ship of that size. This is actually Good!

      —-
      Hello Jeff:

      Thank you for taking the time to contact us about a McDonald’s advertising in Japan. Customer feedback is very important to us and we appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concerns.

      First, we’re sorry you are disappointed with this advertisement. It’s certainly never our intent to offend anyone. Your comments have been shared with our advertising staff in Japan. Please know your feedback is helpful and will be considered in the future planning of advertisements in these countries. If you’d still like to contact our office in Japan to share your feelings personally, they can be reached at:

      JAPAN
      McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd.
      Shinjuku I-Land Tower
      5-1 Nishi Shinjuku 6 Chome
      Chinjuku, Tokyo 163-13
      Japan
      Phone* : 81-3-3344-1063
      Fax* : 81-3-3344-6982
      Website* : http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/

      Once again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s.
      Donnell
      McDonald’s Customer Response Center

    9. Orchid64 Says:

      I’m don’t know if they’ll pick this story up, but I’ve submitted this to The Consumerist. Let’s hope they at least mention it as it is a consumer issue.

    10. carl Says:

      Anyone going to organize a “Tama Chan”-style protest with scores of NJ dressed like Mr. James? It might be surprisingly effective: Unwitting McDonald’s customers might initally take the group as some kind of ad campaign tie-in, approach for a better look, and could then be given leaflets, or something.

    11. Brad Says:

      http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/movie.html

      This is just shameful stuff. The more I dig around on the blog site, the more embarrassed I feel for just how poorly thought-out this campaign was from the very start.

    12. jim Says:

      this kind of thing is exactly the reason why we all need FRANCA working for us. I glad to see that FRANCA took up this MONDAI

    13. Otis Says:

      I wrote my feelings about “Mr James” in Japanese on my on blog. My ranking was fourth on Google, until yesterday. When I checked Google again today it was at seventieth. Jeeee, I wonder what happened^^ Anyway here is a link to my blog, if you want to read my comment on Mr. James.

    14. Otis Says:

      Sorry, couldn’t get the link to work, so here’s the address.^^

      http://blog.goo.ne.jp/otis_eikaiwa/

    15. mitotourer Says:

      Letters in English to McDonald’s Japan should be fine as well. I never met the guy himself, but I know that there is at least one American expat high up in the McD Japan heirarchy.

    16. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      Nice to see people taking a stance against bad TV commercials. Even within the last 5 years or so I’ve seen even worse ads (the “Love CM” ad with the blue-eyed, big-nosed, katakana speaking monkey, the credit card ad which used the g-word, chocolate ads featuring a talentless member of a rapidly-approaching-middle-age boy band with the fake nose, etc) but was shouted down – sometimes by other NJs – as being “overly sensitive” for drawing attention to.
      Incidently, am I alone in noticing that “Nippon” is written in red in the first photo? Another take at “cool Japan” or “Japan is unique”?

    17. Zurui Says:

      [dropping point about "James" as a possible last name]

      I am waiting for the McDonald’s Japan response. I will post my opinion piece on BT with links to your post. Interesting how fast Micky D’s USA responded. Sort of reminds me of the eMobile response rate. If this were a Lotteria CM the outcome would probably be different.

    18. debito Says:

      I TOO GOT AN AUTOMATED RESPONSE FROM MCD’S. DEBITO:

      Hello Debito:
      Thank you for taking the time to contact us about a McDonald’s commercial in Japan. Customer feedback is very important to us and we appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concerns.

      First, we’re sorry you are disappointed with this commercial. It’s certainly never our intent to offend anyone. Your comments have been shared with our advertising staff in Japan. Please know your feedback is helpful and will be considered in the future planning of commercials in these countries. If you’d still like to contact our office in Japan to share your feelings personally, they can be reached at:

      JAPAN
      McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd.
      Shinjuku I-Land Tower
      5-1 Nishi Shinjuku 6 Chome
      Chinjuku, Tokyo 163-13
      Japan
      Phone* : 81-3-3344-1063
      Fax* : 81-3-3344-6982
      Website* : http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/
      * U.S. customers, dial 011 + before an international number, except in Canada, dial 1 + number.

      Once again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s.
      Lisa
      McDonald’s Customer Response Center

      ref#:6250863

    19. Mumei Says:

      Has anyone noticed that in three responses from McDonalds, they give their address as “Chinjuku”? Also part of their zipcode (163-13) seems to be missing.

      Just for the record:
      〒163-1339 東京都新宿区西新宿6-5-1 新宿アイランドタワー

      Source:
      http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/company/outline/gaiyo.html

    20. Black Tokyo » Blog Archive » The Big Mac Attack! Says:

      [...] for you to comment there as well): From Debito: “Hi Blog.  Please feel free to adapt this letter to your needs and send it to any corporate outlets of McDonald’s you feel are appropriate. [...]

    21. Jair Says:

      After writing to them in Japanese last Friday, I just got a form letter.

      “Thank you for your opinion. We will strive to make our products even better. Transmitted to our P.R. Department. Thank you.”

      Extremely disappointing. They didn’t even bother to say “sorry”.
      I doubt I will receive any further replies from P.R.

      平素よりマクドナルドをご利用頂き、誠にありがとうございます。
      また、弊社開設のホームページをご閲覧下さり心より御礼を申し上げます。
      Moreno様からのメールを拝見いたしました。

      この度は、弊社の「NIPPO ALL STARS」キャンペーンに
      関します貴重なご意見をお寄せ下さいまして、誠にありがとうございます。

      早速、本社の関係部署に伝えまして、今後の参考にさせて頂くよう要請を
      致しました。

      店舗のみならず会社と致しましても、お客様に満足頂ける商品やサービスの
      ご提供を心掛け、今後も一層努力して参る所存でございますので、何卒宜しく
      お願い致します。

      お客様にはこの度の貴重なご意見をお寄せ下さいました事に感謝申し上げますと共に、
      今後とも変わらぬご愛顧を賜りますようお願い申し上げます。


      日本マクドナルドお客様サービス室

      ■種別:ホームページについて
      ■タイトル:Mr. Jamesキャンペーン
      ■店舗/所在地:複数店
      ■利用日時:2009年08月13日 00時ころ
      ■問合せ内容:
      はじめまして。

      昨日、「Mr. James」が登場する日本オールスターズキャンペンをマック店内で目撃しました。調べてみると、なんとカタカナとローマ字のブログまで用意されています。
      非常に不愉快です。

      日本語が極めて拙い、ゲイシャフジヤマしか分からない、間抜けという偏見を使って笑いを取ろうとするところは差別でしかありません。

      仮に「悪意は一切いございません」と言われた方が立腹します。マックドナルドという大企業としてこんな偏見丸出しなキャンペンを利用しては無責任としか言えません。

      「まあまあ、よその国では同じでしょう」と思ったらそれも大違い。たとえば、欧米では残念ながら差別が未だに残っても、企業は決してこんな偏見を肯定するイメージは国民と行政国は許しません。先進国であり、かつ国際化を控えている日本には相応しくありません。

      観光客のみならず、留学や仕事で日本は長い人なお更悲しく思います。

      今一度考え直して頂いて、イメージキャラクターであるミスタージョンズの撤去をご検討下さいませ。

      よろしくお願い致します。

      Jair

      追伸:当方の住所と携帯番号の入力は控えさせて頂きます。メールでのご返信をお願い致します。

    22. let`s talk Says:

      So, all these automated responses mean they will not change anything.

    23. Not a native English-speaker anonymous person Says:

      It’s just an ad aimed at a Japanese audience (the same audience that is used and only pays attention to “charismatic” commercials). It would be pretty boring had it been a successful, average white guy speaking formal and correct Japanese.

      Also, I don’t understand how can this ad equal to “ching-chong Chinaman”. The prejudice is on the mind of the ones offended, not on the mind of the ones supposedly offending. It’s a logical fallacy. “Mr. James” makes no allusion whatsoever to nationality or race (like ching-chong Chinaman does), it’s you guys who are seeing it this way. There is simply no logical reason to think any individual belonging to any group is like “Mr. James”. Mr. James ― the character ― is this way.

      Mr. James is not adressed by “san” because he is a fictional character and that is the character’s name (this same reason applies as to why his name is written in katakana). Have you ever heard any real person preferentially referring to Superman as “Kent-san”?

      The only real valid claim is the usage of katakana by foreigners speaking Japanese, but then again, I think there is a probability that the biggest prejudice may be on the mind of the ones offended, thinking the Japanese meant things like “all foreigners can’t/don’t know how to speak Japanese correctly/well”, and not simply “that one specific character is not very knowledgeable in the Japanese language, has not mastered the pronunciation of the language, [and] hence the usage of katakana for his speech” and that it will further bad/false stereotypes about us. Assume good faith.

      Overall, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit (the burden of proof rests on who asserts). I’m white and I don’t think this is really racist/xenophobic/what have you, I do not feel offended, nor do I think this will further any stereotype about foreigners to most of the Japanese people (and exceptions to the rule won’t be a valid example to win any legal case). So I don’t think this is anything blatantly obvious. If anything somehow offensive, Mr. James is only a satirical persona and obviously exaggerated stereotype of one specific type of foreigner, and not all of them. (And an extremely rare type I might add, since the only people who actually live in Japan and speak like that are party boys and American military personnel with no real interest in speaking Japanese ― so I don’t really have any logical reason to think Mr. James characterizes anyone beyond himself, the exaggerated character of the commercial)

      I’m sorry, this is just my opinion. I think this is too much oversensitivity and political correctness (which adequately fit an oversensitive and political correct era). A little “gaman” would help. Just my two cents, although I know I will be bashed by the community for this.

      – Yep, in your personal opinion you’re not offended, so therefore the empirical burden of proof is insufficient. Sorry. Talk about logical fallacies. And I wish I could say that in Latin.

    24. Peter Says:

      Jair,

      You may have already noticed this yourself, but at the very climax of your letter, you asked for McDonald’s to rethink their “Mr. Jones” character…

    25. Yes, I can eat natto Says:

      I’ve been through a lot of different emotions today regarding this campaign, including being offended, and I even wrote a whole diatribe about the implications this has on Japan’s isolationist view of the world and the difficulties for foreigners trying to assimilate into Japanese culture with such negative stereotypes.

      But, I now think that the reason it hurts so much is because it’s pretty TRUE, at least during the “honeymoon period” of being in Japan for the first time.

      I’d love to see these ads run for the next 2 years, by which time Mr James has been dumped by his Japanese girlfriend, fired from his eikaiwa school, refused permanent residency and sitting in a gaijin bar complaining about how much he hates Japan. Possibly actually working at McDonalds because the teaching / extra work has dried up.

      Now THAT would be more realistic. Probably what’s actually in store for the performing monkey who’s doing the “acting”. He either has absolutely no idea what’s going on or the guy’s a tool.

      Ad agency ; “Have you got anyone who looks like the PC guy from the apple ads ?”.

      This ad campaign could backfire spectacularly for the ad agency. If not for the stereotyping story then, well, it’s an overweight guy selling hamburgers ?? It’s actually a more realistic portrayal of McDonalds’ customer base, right ?

    26. Not a native English-speaker anonymous person Says:

      > “Yep, in your personal opinion you’re not offended, so therefore the empirical burden of proof is insufficient. Sorry. Talk about logical fallacies. And I wish I could say that in Latin.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

      Another one. That is also appeal to ridicule.

      It’s not because I am personally not offended, it’s because it’s not something that appears to be blatantly offensive to most people (like “ching-chong Chinaman” saying “Me likee McFlied Lice!” [in the USA]) and doesn’t logically seem offensive. Try asking if people find this offensive in another place, besides your activist blog (these opinions are to be expected here). If you do find much more people who find it offensive rather than the ones (some) who do not, I would gladly retract my point, since I would be proven wrong.

      I understand the offended persons, but I don’t think a counter-campaign against this advertising is really valid/necessary (they do not seem to constitute a majority or sizable enough minority [with this view]). A simple essay/text/article highlighting the problems it may cause to the image of “caucasians” living in Japan would be enough.

      – Once upon a time, not that long ago, even the ching-chong chinaman stuff wasn’t seen as offensive overseas either (it was even a children’s song). But the people it did affect (no matter how small a minority) finally spoke up about it, and that’s why it’s impermissible now. We’re doing the same thing. We’ll try to convince enough people to satisfy your need for some kind of survey. Don’t feel like partaking? Fine.

    27. Miles Says:

      Here’s the reply I got from McDonald’s Japan. It’s just slightly different than the one Jair posted above.

      - – - – - – - – - -

      平素よりマクドナルドをご利用頂き、誠にありがとうございます。
      また、弊社開設のホームページをご閲覧下さり心より御礼を申し上げます。
      ●●様からのメールを拝見いたしました。

      この度は弊社の「NIPPON ALL STARS」の
      キャンペーンキャラクターについてご意見を頂き、誠にありがとうございます。

      早速、この度のご指摘は真摯に受け止め、本社担当部に伝え、
      今後の参考とさせて頂きたいと存じます。

      店舗のみならず会社と致しましても、お客様に満足頂ける商品やサービスのご提供を心掛け、
      今後も一層努力して参る所存でございますので、何卒宜しくお願い致します。

      お客様にはこの度の貴重なご意見をお寄せ下さいました事に感謝申し上げますと共に、
      今後とも変わらぬご愛顧を賜りますようお願い申し上げます。


      日本マクドナルドお客様サービス室

    28. J. Blaustein Says:

      I’ve lived in Japan for many years now, and, from my working experience here, I believe Mr. James does indeed portray quite accurately the image of the fresh-off-the-boat caucasian male, starry-eyed by Japan, and keen to try out his Japanese language skills. Is it the mirror being held up to the faces of these men, showing them that they are perhaps not as cool as they believe themselves to be which creates the need to cry foul with this particular ad campaign? I look around my office, and Mr. James is the norm, not the exception to the rule. Many Mr. James’ are treated with the deferential treatment afforded to movie stars back in the homeland. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually quite nice. But to get outraged because a commercial tells it like it is, well, come on guys, get a sense of humour. The commercial will be soon forgotten. But, if you must complain, do so by not eating those crap burgers. They’ll kill you!

    29. Behan Says:

      J.Blaustein, do all the NJ guys in your office dress like that character or speak Japanese in katakana?
      If they want to poke fun of Charisma Men that’s fine, but they are using a racist stereotype.

    30. Orchid64 Says:

      The Consumerist has covered this at: http://consumerist.com/5340185/japanese-mcdonalds-campaign-makes-fun-of-white-people-foreigners

      They’ve linked both to Japan Probe and this site as part of their coverage. Just a head’s up.

      I guess this will answer the question of whether or not other white people who do not live in Japan or frequent this blog find this offensive as the Consumerist’s audience is mostly American.

    31. Jean Patrick Says:

      Having read all of the commentaries here and everywhere I can see that most of the people just don’t get the real issue with macj “Mr. James”. The problem is not about racism, he could have been african american too, the problem is that it promotes a stereotype of foreigners in Japan, they can only speak in katakana, they are goofy enough to be treated by their first names and they are crazy about the “cool” things they discover in Japan (as with the NHK program).
      As long as this stereotype remains the foreign residents are not going to be treated fairly and with equal consideration other than being casual or temporary visitors in here.

    32. debito Says:

      POSTED BY JUSTIN IN THE WRONG BLOG ENTRY. DEBITO

      Justin
      Submitted on 2009/08/19 at 9:54pm
      One interesting note about the “Mr. James” ads: There aren’t any in the McDonalds across from Kamiyacho Station, just down the hill from the Hotel Okura. This is a gaijin-heavy area, with lots of us staying in the hotel or working in the offices nearby. If the “Mr. James” ads are so inoffensive, why is McDonalds Japan keeping them out of its restaurants in foreigner-heavy neighborhoods?

    33. Peter Says:

      Once again, sadly, Debito.org is too quick to leap to conclusions and shoot from the hip in response to perceived injustices. Consequently, the credibility of the movement is damaged and unable to attract a much wider audience.

      One does not have to do much research to realize the following allegations in the letter to McDonald’s are both misleading and factually incorrect:

      “2) The character is called “Mr. James” (again, in katakana), promoting the stereotype that foreigners must be called by their first names (sic) only (standard Japanese etiquette demands that adults be called “last name plus -san”), undoing progress we have made for equal treatment under Japanese societal rules.”

      A well-informed and cautious lobbyist would know three things: (1) never make an assumption about what someone must be thinking or feeling before confirming it first, lest the allegation itself be exposed as prejudice and ethnocentrism (e.g., did you ever bother to ask McDonald’s if the company was trying to “promote” stereotypes? If not, how can you be certain the company was attempting to “promote” something and why would you carelessly make such an allegation under the banner of an organization?), (2) worse, never attempt to make a factual assertion that can be easily falsified (e.g., “Mr. James”, despite Debito Arudou’s allegation, *is* a last name (or surname in British English) that can be supported easily through multiple sources,* (3) never make cryptic statements about how McDonald’s or other corporations are “undoing progress ‘we’ have made for equal treatment under Japanese societal rules.” What does that even mean in concrete empirical terms? It’s rhetoric that can be easily disregarded.

      Another problem…

      “3) The image used, of a clumsy sycophantic “nerd” for this Caucasian customer, is embarrassing to Caucasians who will have to live in Japan under this image.”

      Says who? Debito Arudou? FRANCA? Surely no one would be politically naive enough to claim that he or she speaks for *all* Caucasians who will have to live in Japan and yet you did by your poor choice of language.

      Incidentally, I wear glasses. So do many Caucasians. Are we “sycophantic nerds” Mr. Arudou because we wear glasses? I find it offensive that you assume that people who wear glasses must be considered “nerds.” I would like an apology, please, not to mention a retraction for the poor choice of words.

      Another problem….

      “1) The character speaks broken accented Japanese (using the katakana script, one used for foreign loanwords). The impression given is that Caucasians cannot speak Japanese properly, which is simply not true for the vast numbers of non-native (and Japanese-native) foreigners in Japan.”

      First, katakana is also used to emphasize statements, not just highlight foreign loan words. Second, many foreigners speak in broken accented Japanese….including yourself, Mr. Arudou (I heard you speak during a television last year). Unfortunately, you do not speak like a native despite living here for over 20 years. Should McDonalds be faulted for that? Third, the “impression” that Caucasians cannot speak Japanese properly may or may not be true, but it is simply an impression. Not a statement of fact.

      We all remember the parable of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. The more the boy cried wolf, the less people were willing to believe the boy when the wolf truly surfaced. Indeed, it is silly campaigns like these that undermine the credibility of an organization.

      LINKS (there are many more):

      * http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/4317/James.html
      * http://genealogy.about.com/od/surname_meaning/p/james.htm
      * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_(surname)
      * http://www.searchforancestors.com/surnames/origin/j/james.php
      * http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~daisy/jameskin.htm
      * http://all-surnames.com/James/index.html

    34. Ioannis Says:

      A ‘Not a native English-speaker anonymous person’ made the ludicrous claim that…..’Mr. James makes no allusion whatsoever to nationality or race (like ching-chong Chinaman does)’…..Wow! Are you seriously trying to tell us that a person that goes by the name of James and hails from the state of Ohio in the United States of A. is not a direct reference to a particular nationality/race???His ‘cute’ daughter is called Jennifer for goodness’ sake…
      Who are you trying to fool, non-native?
      Neither James Joyce nor T. S. Eliot would be proud of your allusion…..and I hope Debito will excuse me, but the only way to react to your irresponsible and tendencious statements is by the euphemism BULL…

    35. justanothergaijin Says:

      Is there going to be a letter in Japanese to take to our local mcdonalds?

      As a matter of fact…

    36. justanothergaijin Says:

      I know the character’s speech is written in katakana (usually reserved for loan words) and that his Japanese is not right, but the most frightening aspect of it is that, katakana ais understood by all young children (an important demographic for mcdonalds) will be able to understand/read it and their image of Caucasian people will be formed in Misuta Jaymuzuz image.

    37. Brap Says:

      I have to agree with “Not a native English-speaker anonymous person.” This is just way too much PC nonsense. I haven’t lived in Japan for several years, but every time I return, I encounter legions of middle-class white men who are outraged by the racial insensitivity of the Japanese. Yawn. Deal with it. Life is largely pretty cushy in Japan for foreigners, especially white men. Spend a few years in developing Asia, instead of safe, clean and easy Japan, and your grievances will start to look pretty petty. It’s a shame that a lot of more legitimate grievances faced by a lot of non-Caucasian foreigners in Japan get pushed aside for this tosh. End it already!

      – You lost me at, “I haven’t lived in Japan for several years.” It shows.

      Amazing how people who don’t even live here can pontificate at us residents and citizens with a straight face.

    38. Chris B Says:

      After complaining about the campaign (constructively) I got the following rather nice reply in excellent English I might add. (NB: I complained in English). Hopefully if enough of us raise the issues here they will genuinely think a bit more carefully before doing more campaigns like this in future. I think the issue is more one of naivete than out and out malicious racism (as it often is in Japan).

      “Dear Mr.[]

      Thank you for your patronage of our products and services.
      I appreciate your accessing to our website and providing us with your comments about the campaign.

      I acknowledge your discomfort with the campaign and will share your comments with relevant departments for their consideration in planning future campaigns.

      I thank you again for giving as the valuable comments and hope to serve you again under the Golden Arches in the near future.

      Yours truly,

      Customer Service Office
      McDonald’s Company (Japan), Ltd.”

    39. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Well, just half an hour ago I had a brief chat with the manager at the McDonalds near my office.

      I kept things as positive as possible, pointing out that if James’ Japanese were to steadily improve over the course of the campaign, and if by the end of it he were to progress to writing competent Japanese without all the goofy errors, that’s something that just about everyone could be happy about and would turn a negative stereotype into a really positive one.

      Unfortunately the campaign is only scheduled to continue until November, but it’s an “image character” after all, so why not have him master Japanese in that interval?

      She had studied English herself, and admitted that she wouldn’t be too happy if she went abroad and saw a Japanese “image character” speaking broken English and acting goofy.

      She took my opinions and business card and will pass them up the chain, and also directed me to the McD’s website and their customer service telephone number. We’ll see what they say.

    40. sri Says:

      Nerd characters are also very very common in American media. The stereo type has been developed there. Superman, Spiderman, Austin Powers comes to mind.
      American media is full of nerds, they even have nerd costumes for Halloween.
      The last fifteen years in Japan, the media had an American tough guy character. Tommy Lee Jones, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Keifer Sutherland, Richard Gere etc.

      More here
      http://www.japander.com/japander/index.htm
      Pander:n., & v.t. 1. go-between in clandestine amours, procurer; one who ministers to evil designs. 2 v.i. minister (to base passions or evil designs, or person having these)

      Japander:n.,& v.t. 1. a western star who uses his or her fame to make large sums of money in a short time by advertising products in Japan that they would probably never use. ~er (see synecure, prostitute) 2. to make an ass of oneself in Japanese media.

      Revenge of The Nerds, pick your battles.

    41. john Says:

      If people really think this character is fine then i hope they will be able to list the positive characteristics of Mr james?

      So please list them.

      Just to say pick your battles is telling people that chose this battle, that somehow its not worth it and devalues their feelings.

      Imagine telling the poor black woman to site at the back of the bus, and to choose her battle.She did and she won. I guess if you were black you wouldn’t devalue the small choice she made.
      After all it ws only a “BUS SEAT”

      This is a majority race having some fun at a minorities expense.
      I wonder if Mcdonalds japan had any white people around to discuss this campaign at its conception.

    42. Brap Says:

      Debito said: “Amazing how people who don’t even live here can pontificate at us residents and citizens with a straight face.”

      Japan will always be a part of my life. I visit every year, I’m in a long-term relationship with a Japanese woman and I’m moving back in a few months for good. I lived in Japan for years, I have tons of Japanese friends, I’ve been involved with the Japanese expat community in every country I’ve lived in, and I’m well aware of the often subtle discrimination that exists in the country you call home. Sometimes it isn’t even subtle — I recall being chased out of a shop in rural Ishikawa-ken several years ago by an elderly man screaming obscenities and racial slurs at me because I asked him for directions in Nihongo.

      But when I consider the difficulties I’ve dealt with in other parts of Asia — censorship, having to bribe officials to get basic paperwork done, dealing with harassment from the police and fending off physical attacks from groups of local men, to name a few — the troubles I’ve faced in Japan start to look pretty insignificant. When I consider the blatant discrimination that my friend’s wife faced looking for work in multicultural Canada (she speaks fluent English, is UK-educated and had worked in for a major Japanese investment bank for years before she ever set foot in Canada), any gripes I have about Japan REALLY start to look dumb. She got pigeonholed into working at a sushi shop in Toronto for a while after having arrogant white men baby-talk her at bank interviews.

      Japan is hardly alone in this discrimination thing — I’ve witnessed far, far worse examples of blatant racism in Korea, for example.

      As someone who has also been denied entry from places in Japan because of the color of my skin, I have to say that your onsen battle was admirable, Debito. You’ve accomplished a lot and you should be praised for your efforts. But the fact that you were able to take your complaints to court says a lot. You wouldn’t have even gotten past the basic complaint stage in say, China, for example.

      If you really care about racism and human rights, why not spend more time sticking up for South American factory workers, Filipino caregivers and other non-Caucasians who face far greater problems with racism than white men? Heck, Western women alone have much more to complain about than the average white man. This silly McDs campaign just undermines the legitimate work you’ve done to battle discrimination.

      Yes, racism is racism, but white Western men from privileged backgrounds have it far, far easier in Japan than pretty much every other ethnic minority. Maybe you need to get out of your Japan bubble for a while to realize how good you have it, Debito. So why not respond with actual arguments, instead of vague one-liners suggesting that I’m out of touch?

      – I’m not suggesting you’re out of touch. I’m saying you ARE out of touch if you can say all this about the issues or about me in particular. Doubly so if you think that discrimination elsewhere can justify the perpetuation of discrimination anywhere.

      I’ve been making arguments for years here, including about the issues above. Start reading. Further, start living here and we’ll talk in a few years. Thanks.

    43. Neil Says:

      I love the whole idea that there is somehow a scale of victimization, and only the people at the bottom have the “right” to complain.

      To Brap in particular:

      “When I consider the blatant discrimination that my friend’s wife faced looking for work in multicultural Canada (she speaks fluent English, is UK-educated and had worked in for a major Japanese investment bank for years before she ever set foot in Canada), any gripes I have about Japan REALLY start to look dumb. She got pigeonholed into working at a sushi shop in Toronto for a while after having arrogant white men baby-talk her at bank interviews.”

      You have just described the trials and tribulations of any non-Asian (male or female) trying to work for a Japanese company in anything other than an English-teaching, factory worker, or translation/copychecker capacity.

    44. Biscut Says:

      Regarding Brap’s last comments:

      I see your point of view. I realize there are harsher instances of racism in other parts of the world, and yes as white American I have led a very privileged life. But though many people believe that white people have it easy here in Japan, reconsider from this point of view:

      You have lived here a decade now and this is your home (not somewhere else). You’ve built a business or have a career and use Japanese daily to make a living. Perhaps you are a teacher that has to battle stereotypes related to English or English-speaking people that are obstacles to intercultural communication. Or you have a job where all of your colleagues are Japanese. The situation is much, much different when this is your home and you will spend the rest of your life here.

      And stereotypes affect people in all kids of ways besides just being stared at on the street. They can prevent you from being able to rent or buy a home, keep you from getting a desperately-needed loan, cause problems that affect your job, cause your kids to be harassed at school, or worse.

      There is a significant population here that are trying to be part of this community and contribute to it. I think the Mr. James campaign is a small part of how the media and corporations considerably affect the way people, especially children, think about white people here. That includes the aforementioned “significant population.” And not in a good way.

    45. Japanese McDonald’s Campaign Makes Fun Of White People, Foreigners [McDonald's] | Finance Money Financial News Says:

      [...] James : McDonald’s Japan has a gaijin clown [Japan Probe] FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign [DEBITO.ORG] (Thanks to Shari [...]

    46. Mr. Gaijin Says:

      This is absolutely not racism or discrimination!

      The guy who did the advertation should be ashamed that they make so much fun of him.
      the company (McDonalds) is American so they should now better.

      Don’t be upset about a Mcdonalds commercial, please get a life and start to worry about other things.

      The intention is not to offend foreigners in Japan…

      By the way, this is the first time I see something where they make fun of white caucasions!

      – Then you ought to watch more TV.

    47. Mumei Says:

      Other than TV commercials, they are also advertising on the trains as well.
      This afternoon I was riding and a little boy nearby got all excited and screams: “Papa, gaijin dayo!” Half expecting him to be referring to me I looked up just as the father pointed to the advertisement above my head and explained to the young boy: “misutaa jeemusu tte iun dayo.” (I lucked out.) Then they started talking about what the Japanese word “misutaa” means.

      Point being: people are noticing and kids are being influenced. I only wish that there could be better material to learn from.

    48. Max Says:

      I think it is a totally different perspective between who is watching the whole thing from abroad or honeymooning Japan in the first years of his/her stay and we who have been living, working, paying taxes here for a long time (and learnt the language)

      For honeymooners looks as an innocent and funny CM, but you need to be here for a long time, every day, [...]: because guys, it ain’t heaven here, also in Japan, as everywhere, there is racism, let do not forget. We know that discrimination in Japan is hidden and sly, you will never hear an harsh sentence but you will find descrimination hidden in daily little things, [...].

      That’s why we are very concern about this CM.

    49. Quick, Look Outraged! McDonald’s “Mr. James” advertisements in Japan « A Blog About Japan, Great Idea Says:

      [...] in Japan are none-to-pleased with such a geeky representation of them. They’ve drafted up a complaint letter and launched the “I Hate Mr. ジェームス(Mr. James)” Facebook group (90 members, [...]

    50. Well, At Least it’s Not Pot-Headed, Child Molesting Foreign English Teachers! | The Marmot's Hole Says:

      [...] Thus a non-profit called the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association (FRANCA), has written an open letter to the McDonald’s homebase in the US to shut down the ad [...]

    51. Kaoru Says:

      Curious in the linked video (practicing Japanese from a phrasebook) that the only thing he really gets and says normally and fluently is the well known tongue twister “tonari no kyaku ga yoku kaki kuu kyaku da” (mmmm, wakatta). I have to admit that little detail was actually quite funny.

    52. Michael Says:

      I have read with great interest the letter of protest and subsequent postings, and I have mixed thoughts about what I’ve read. I think strong, salient points have been made by many on both sides of the issue. As an American, I am sensitive to PC run amok. However, as an American living in Japan, married to a Japanese with a mixed-race/dual national daughter, I come down more along the side of FRANCA.

      I think anytime we allow negative stereotypical characeterizations to go unchallenged, no matter how small, well-intentioned, or couched in humor, we do both native Japanese and non-natives a disservice. Raising concerns enables conversations, and converstions more often than not lead to greater understanding and sensitivity.

      There are times and places for thick skin. There are also times and places for calling out inappropriate behavior. This is the latter.

    53. Chase the Gaijin » Blog Archive » Everyone knows that Americans always perfectly speak the native language of whatever country they might be in. It’s one of the perks of being an American. Says:

      [...] and showing badly pronounced Japanese. You can probably guess the reason why some people living in Japan would frown on McDonald’s current [...]

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