Racist 2013 Toshiba commercial for product APB-R100X, SuiPanDa combination ricecooker/breadmaker


eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「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)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg

Hi Blog. A bit of a racist slam-dunk today. World-class company Toshiba seems to think that domestic commercials will only be seen within the putatively hermetic Japanese domestic market. And that there are no people in Japan who might take offense at being racially caricatured.


The advertised product in question:  A rice cooker that can also double as a bread maker — Toshiba SuiPanDa Model APB-R100X.  The issue:  Gaijinizing the user to promote bread consumption.  As submitter RS put it:

Hello Debito, I’m not sure if you have seen this commercial or not, but perhaps you may be interested in it.


UPDATE: (Link is now dead, but video archived at Kotaku.com here, thanks:)

And if you want your own copy, here’s the ad in mp4 format:

It’s clearly racist, and even kind of seems like the minstrel shows in the US in the 1800’s (which were incredibly racist). It’s pretty unbelievable that this commercial seems to be new, and is from such a major corporation…

Just in case it gets taken offline, some stills, for the record:

toshiba2013suipanda2 toshiba2013suipanda3 toshiba2013suipanda4 toshiba2013suipanda5 toshiba2013suipanda6

Note the accented speech rendered in katakana subtitle for the Gaijinized Japanese actress, complete with blond hair, appended big nose, and overexuberant gestures and speech patterns.  Not to mention the dichotomous stereotype that people who eat bread (as opposed to potatoes or some other kind of starch) are automatically “Western” (youfuu).

COMMENT: Well, to me, not so unbelievable. Debito.org has collected a veritable rogues’ gallery of  Japanese commercials and product lines that use biological memes of racism to hawk product — some of which were taken off the air when people protested (click on photos for more information):

Of course, you are welcome to protest this as well. Here’s the Toshiba website with the product in question:

And here’s Toshiba’s online feedback: https://www.livingdoors.jp/csqa/form.php
Phone and Fax numbers here: http://www.toshiba.co.jp/csqa/contact/support/living_sonota/index_j.htm#contactInfoArea

Many Japanese advertisers just never seem to learn.  It’s up to us to tell them.  Arudou Debito


UPDATE JUNE 29: Here are two other commercial spots for other Toshiba products, featuring the same businesswomen actresses in the same vein, but without the racialization. As a friend pointed out elsewhere, “Toshiba could have communicated the same message more effectively by interviewing a master baker or some other expert.”

Courtesy of Kotaku. Note that in these videos, these people are co-workers who know each other. Gaijinized in the breadmaker commercial, she’s an unknown stranger. Once again, Gaijin are the perpetual “Other” who don’t belong, even with all the NJ working for Japanese corporations.


UPDATE TWO: Toshiba is clearly aware that this commercial is problematic because they’ve immediately removed it from their website.


That’s kinda funny.  A world-class electronics company thinking that it can just remove their racist advert without comment, retraction, or apology, and that would be it?  Not very media- or tech-savvy, are they?

Download your own copy from Debito.org in mp4 format, for posterity.


UPDATE THREE:  Even funnier, Toshiba’s racist advertisement goes against its own Corporate Standards of Conduct!



14. 広告活動
2. 東芝グループ役員・従業員の行動基準
3. 政治、宗教等については広告表現の対象とせず、また、人種差別、心身障害者差別等を想起させ、人間の尊厳を傷つけるような表現を用いません。

54 comments on “Racist 2013 Toshiba commercial for product APB-R100X, SuiPanDa combination ricecooker/breadmaker

Comment navigation

  • You can just imagine it. General Electric or Philips starts advertizing the “Genuine Japan Rice Cooker” featuring a bucktoothed slitty eyed bottle-glasses salariman saying:

    “itto making nice verlly nice lice!”

    So the catch-copy, “Hey our rice cooker is great, even the Japs like it!”
    And then you’ll have the joky aside punchline, with a wink, “But, haha, watch out for the lice.”

    The uproar. Angry calls from the Japanese embassy about stereotypes…

  • Slight tanget, but make sure you use “correct Japanese” when writing a letter of complaint to Toshiba:

    “..A disgruntled viewer is suing Japan’s national broadcaster for “mental distress” caused by an excessive use of words borrowed from English..”

    — It’s a crank suit that will not gain much traction outside of gasping media. Back on topic.

  • sendaiben says:

    Sent a complaint asking for an explanation through the online form. I’ll post it here if I get a reply.

  • The crazy thing is that these sorts of commercials aren’t one-man shows either – Toshiba no doubt contracted a marketing firm to come up with the commercial, then a bunch of management guys had to inkan and OK the idea, then it no doubt took teams of multiple people to put it all together, and at no point did anyone say “wait a minute, guys…” and bring up the issue that maybe this sort of blatant racism is unacceptable.

    That’s what’s really scary about this sort of thing. The fact that they no doubt know it’s wrong – were the shoe on the other foot, as Bignose in comment #1 said, there would be absolute hell to pay – but they don’t seem to care because they’re not the victims here.

  • I am reading this article on the very day I plan to buy a new laptop–a Toshiba.
    If I can choose some other brand I will. Amazing that this kind of CM is still
    around. But then again, knowing how my colleagues at work think, this does not
    seem so amazing after all.

  • masada012 says:


    Well don’t buy it then! Don’t make excuses. Laptops nowadays are all the same whether it’s features, price point, or build quality.

  • @Welp #4

    I honestly think you pretty much have to experience racism like this at first hand in order to appreciate how it feels. Last time I was back in England I was amazed at the casual, light-hearted stereotyping on the BBC, of all places. A couple of references, complete with impersonations, of Mexicans and of Chinese were especially jaw-dropping. Yet nobody batted an eyelid.
    So unless these Toshiba folk have spent time abroad and found themselves on the other end of racism or stereotyping, I wouldn’t hold my breath hoping for any real change in attitude.

    — Unless we’re the ones batting some eyelids…

  • This is actually double discrimination, for it’s not only based on race but also on gender. Why are NJ women recurrently caricatured, in the J media, as silly blondes with, as you say, “overexuberant gestures and speech patterns”?

    Of late I’ve been bombarded with this other idiotic ad nearly everywhere on the net, featuring a similarly stereotypical dumb blonde standing for the gaijin. Just look at how the other two J women (subtly) patronise her and address her as though she were mentally retarded:


  • Addendum to my previous comment:

    Even though I’m neither blonde nor dumb “;o), I got tired of being patronised and talked down to as such in Japan – and this, no doubt, contributed to my decision to leave.

    As far as NJ women are concerned, I feel that this recurrent process of caricaturing, patronising and reducing them to the lowest common denominator – dumb, inarticulate and, thus, harmless creatures who shouldn’t been taken seriously – stems from anxiety and an inability, on the part of too many J (esp. men?), to deal with women who, besides being foreign, “fail” to conform to social expectations and male fantasies of “proper” feminine demure.

    That’s why this double predicament of NJ women tends to be far more serious and put them at a far greater disadvantage than NJ men in Japan, IMHO.

  • Bitter Valley says:

    Hi Debito,
    The acid test remains that if you mock and stereotype Japanese people they will get angry or feel victimized and complain, or go into victim mode; two wrongs don’t make a right and it’s just as racist to mock Japanese people by stereotyping them as it is to other nationalities (not races, as I don’t buy into the whole Japanese = race stuff).

    Saying that, racism is racism is racism. You don’t condone it. You don’t find exceptions or let outs. You don’t try to empathize or try to change things by gently reminding people. When the wa = racism it’s not wa, it’s racism.

    I am reminded when I lived in New York quite a while back how shocked we were by a very drunk black woman (40s, poor, obsese, had a very bad day) shouting vitriol and abuse at some “rich motherfuking chinkie-chans” on the train must have been between 103rd and the Lincoln Center where we were getting off.

    I thought at the time, it doesn’t matter how socioeconomically disadvantaged and distressed this person is, she should loose this racist abuse.

    The Tosh on the advert isn’t racist abuse, but it is stereotyping and racist and …in a word… it’s not PC to see that it’s wrong. As Tosh and Dentzu or Hakuhodo or whatever other conglomerate have done this, perhaps this advert should be reported internationally and the companies hung out to dry.

    I tried commenting on the Youtube channel, but my comments were rejected. So much for customer feedback.

    One solution is don’t buy Tosh, and spread the word.

  • We are in 2013 and somebody still goes on with these kind of boring stereotypes. I just sent a complaint with the online form to Toshiba.
    I feel that Japan thrives on stereotypes more than anywhere else but maybe that is just my impression.
    Everything has to be catalogued and put in its place to feel better, that is why sometimes it is difficult to escape from attached labels.
    I hate when my colleague tells me “I like this…….because I am Japanese”, “I like that………because I am Japanese”. “Since I do this…..or since I like this…..I am Japanese”. It is appalling.

  • As Debito mentioned a while back, this is yet another of the thousand mini-assaults that are proferred on a daily basis. ‘Can you use chopsticks? O my, what a long nose! Can you eat natto? etc. etc. etc.’ Toshiba’s is a tad egregious, though, by any stretch. Wasn’t it the Japanese embassy in Budapest that sought removal of a comedy show because it did an equally racist parody on Japanese? Pot, meet kettle!

  • they’ve pulled the ad from youtube and from their own website. damn. i didn’t have a chance to download a copy. please tell me someone downloaded a copy …

  • Toshiba should be both embarrassed and ashamed.

    This was seriously the best they could do?

    I’ve seen more convincing sales pitches from kids at a lemonade stand.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I felt my brain getting numb when I watched the ad on the YouTube. This is so dumb that I couldn’t hold my breath to watch it all. The girl with dark hair is right on. Stop this kind of crap! Toshiba execs seem ro have serious problem with cognitive dissonance.

  • Here are two other commercial spots for other products, featuring the same businesswomen actresses in the same vein, but without the racialization. As a friend pointed out elsewhere, “Toshiba could have communicated the same message more effectively by interviewing a master baker or some other expert.”

    Courtesy of Kotaku. Note that in these videos, these people are co-workers who know each other. Gaijinized in the breadmaker commercial, she’s an unknown stranger. Once again, Gaijin are the perpetual “Other” who don’t belong, even with all the NJ working for Japanese corporations.

  • This commercial relies on disgusting stereotypes and is in poor taste.

    With that said I’m going to open a big can of worms by saying “racist” might not be the right word to describe it. You can’t be racist against white people. Racism means oppression and racial prejudice, and white people as a whole don’t face oppression. I actually question if you lived back in the states you’d notice the ongoing rampant racism when it comes to Asian Americans and other races. You’d have no idea how many times Asian Americans are always portrayed as shy, awkward, academically smart, with an accent, etc. and how many times Asian women have been fetishized as exotic and submissive.

    — I think Readers of Debito.org have some idea. And the statement, “You can’t be racist against white people” is a matter of personal politics, not social science. I think we’ll just nip that debate in the bud right now.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    And so the cycle of “make offensive ad, get complaints, pull ad, no-one is actually punished” continues.

    Check out these ads which were pulled or stopped (mostly pulled), and more tellingly, look at the comments .
    Warning: you’ll have to sit through quite a lot before the ones pulled for being racially offensive appear, but it will give you a chance to see how petty some of the reasons for taking some adds off air were in comparison, or indeed racial slur against Koreans in any of the Softbank ads.


    (Problem Gatsby ad at 7:02, Choya “big nose” ad at 9:50)


    The cycle will continue until companies are actually punished, which probably won’t be something to hold your breath waiting for.

  • @13 Massimo:

    Stereotypes are not boring. They are critical. The default thinking patterns of people are the battleground.
    Lazy thinking is the pits, you gotta stay sharp.

    You seem to understand this point deeply in your post.

    I don’t disagree with you and are with you on a number of levels. Please take this as friendly feedback.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Well, good for Toshiba. It’s a big international corporation, so they might have received concerning mails within in-house communication. I think that will close off one tangent— or, maybe it’s not a tangent, for today.

    — Well, Toshiba’s just taking it off without any sort of verbal retraction or apology is just not sufficient. And if they thought they could put this online and not have people make copies, they were a lot less tech-savvy then previously thought (especially for an electronics company).

    Here’s the ad in mp4 format. Download it if you like for posterity.

  • I made a call to the number Debito provided last night and made a civil but clear complaint. She hadn’t seen the commercial, so I described it to her, and told her I thought it was unthinkable that a multinational corporation would think it acceptable to release such drivel. She replied with, “so basically this is something that Japanese people might have laughed at, but foreigners (外国人) would find unpleasant (不快).”
    To which I replied, “Really? I’m pretty sure that Japanese people wouldn’t have laughed at this either. And you’re forgetting that there are many Japanese people who are of mixed race or foreign ancestry that are watching your commercials as well. The fact that this was targeted at a domestic audience in no way means you are relieved of the responsibility of considering the feelings of others.”
    She responded with “apologies,” which I type in quotations because Japanese apologies are so common as to become meaningless in certain circumstances, and promised to relay my concern to her superior.
    At any rate, I think it was useful to make the complaint in Japanese from Japan to show that the domestic market is also alienated when you stoop to racism to sell products, even if you were counting on it being hidden from the eyes of those overseas.

    — Thank you for doing so. And to SB and JE (of the people who have contacted me) for writing in with complaints. We’re still waiting for replies.

  • Loverilakkuma says:


    Ho, ho, ho. You are indeed tech-savvy! Cats never fail to get mouse’s tail:D

    @Jyun, #29

    That’s probably how call center staff will respond to customer’s complaints. It’s like, “I didn’t see the ad personally, so I don’t know what the heck is going on. I don’t know why some people like you are making a fuss over such stuff,” kind of excuse. Based on your posting along with Debito’s feedback, I doubt Toshiba proactively pulled off their racially insulting ad by recognizing the problem well before they would receive a swamp of complaints with a follow-up apology for their mistake. So, the question on their cognitive dissonance still remains.

  • Behaviour is either racist or it’s not, and if it involves characterizing a specific ethnic group in a way that perpetuates negative stereotypes then I consider it to be racist.

    That this incident happens to target white people does not in any way diminish the claims of other ethnicities that behaviour towards them by white people has been racist. Similarly, that white people have perpetuated racism in the past doesn’t make this incident any less racist. It’s not a competition. One experience doesn’t invalidate the other. All racism is wrong; it’s one problem, and should be challenged everywhere.

    Telling victims of negative racial stereotypes who happen to be white that they should accept this behaviour is an uncomfortable, almost vengeful knee-jerk; a kind of “we had it bad so now you’re gonna get some” response. Again I don’t suggest people who’ve experienced racism aren’t entitled to whatever they feel about it, but this response actually alienates the few amongst the majority group you resent so much from appreciating the experience of minorities and doing something about it. It’s like a politician pounding the streets to gather support, but shooting everyone who says they will vote for him because they’re not campaigning with him so obviously don’t share his passion.

    I don’t really understand the point of the significant number of comments (here, and elsewhere) that say “but I’ve seen worse” or “but Asians have it bad elsewhere”. What point are you trying to make? I’m not saying that is right, I’m saying that this is wrong. When you saw it worse elsewhere, did you do something? When you saw that Asians were characterized negatively on American TV, did you call or write to the station? If you do, next time, should I get in touch with you and tell you you shouldn’t, because ethnic minorities in Japan sometimes experience racism? Would that ease your conscience? Is that what this is about, finding a reason to do nothing?

    I hope not. I hope instead that perhaps the next time people see any ethnic group stereotyped anywhere in the world, they will remember incidents like this (which, really, is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg) and know that it’s wrong, and do something – however small – to try and make the world better than it is today.

  • It’s hilarious, especially as their bilingual published “Toshiba Group Standards of Conduct” clearly states this about their advertising approach:

    14. Advertising
    2. SOC for Toshiba Group Directors and Employees
    Directors and Employees shall:
    3. not make reference to politics or religion in advertising, cause offense or show disrespect by implying discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, physical disability or age.

    14. 広告活動
    2. 東芝グループ役員・従業員の行動基準
    3. 政治、宗教等については広告表現の対象とせず、また、人種差別、心身障害者差別等を想起させ、人間の尊厳を傷つけるような表現を用いません。

    — Wow, well found.

  • @Tokyo Outsider

    Very worthy. But you know what? I watched the video and yawned. Racist? Yes. Worth getting bothered about? No. Water off a duck’s back.
    There are far more important things to get worked up about: police brutality, anti-Korean thugs, denial of war atrocities, Hashimoto and Ishihara etc.

    This is just rather sadly pathetic.

    — Nice to see that Joe never breaks character… (or bats an eyelid)…

  • Peter McArthur says:

    To me, the advert is more a symptom of insularity and insensitivity than of racism. I’m not sure whether that’s much reassurance.

    I don’t see the character as a caricature of a white person. Given the context of the other adverts and the extreme crudity of the gaijinization, I see the character as a caricature of an ignorant, pretentious, Japanese fan of Anglo culture. (Maybe I’m overinterpreting this, but could she represent the fashion for using English buzzwords in business?)

    Still, there were some who found the advert offensive and that, in itself, is telling. The first rule of advertising is not to offend your customers. For a firm the size of Toshiba, that means don’t offend ANYONE. The fact that they let such a howler slip through is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in corporate Japan … but we already know about that, don’t we.

    Curt mentioned buying a Toshiba laptop. Racial matters aside, I don’t recommend Toshiba’s laptops. The design, engineering and customer care are as mediocre as the advertising campaigns.

  • It is an interesting question whether the people who were involved in putting this together were aware of its inherent racism and pulled the ads with a feeling of “I think we really overdid it this time”, or if they were puzzled that such a “funny” ad could provoke any kind of negative reaction and pulled it against their beliefs just to “keep the harmony” intact.
    Some people of this thread suggested that they had to know, which I actually would prefer to be true, because it would mean that there at least is some sort of awareness and understanding of racism, and therefore a basis to work with towards change for the better.
    I fear though, that the reason these ads were not stopped is the childish ignorance of anything beyond the very narrow mindset of the anti-cosmopolitan modern Japanese adult, an immaturity of the Japanese society in general.

    — I seriously think that Toshiba thought that nobody would complain. After all, this sort of racialized advertising is quite normal in Japan, and the national narrative holds that Japan has insignificant numbers of Visible Minorities…

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Since most of these companies outsource their marketing to one of ‘the big two’, maybe it would be more interesting to see which ad agency is coming up with these ideas? Is it always the same agency? The same ad exec with a chip on their shoulder, or an agenda? After all, we are seeing the same idea again and again…

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Peter #35

    I see where you’re coming from with this;

    ‘I don’t see the character as a caricature of a white person. Given the context of the other adverts and the extreme crudity of the gaijinization, I see the character as a caricature of an ignorant, pretentious, Japanese fan of Anglo culture.’

    But I would say that if you were right in that assessment, wouldn’t the ‘blonde’ be speaking English with Japanese subtitles, to impress her ‘internationalism’ upon her colleague? In fact, in the ad, the opposite is true- she speaks poor Japanese; she is transformed into a ‘strange gaijin’, speaking katakana nihongo.

  • Peter McArthur says:

    @Jim Do Griz #41

    It’s interesting that you used that “if it really was x then why didn’t they y” argument, because our was a similar line of reasoning that led me to reach the opposite conclusion! If they’d really been playing on racial stereotypes, why didn’t they use a character more like the lovable, bumbling Mr. James from the McDonald’s campaign?

    (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, Debito added a link above. Click on the picture of a cardboard cutout guy carrying a serving tray.)

    So now I’m just left scratching my head. Am I missing something?

    Maybe they thought they could get away with using racial stereotypes if they just hammed it up to an absurd level? If that’s the case, it kinda worked. I fell for it!

  • It’s pretty much the equivalent of blackface. I find it hard to see how you could reason it out as anything else, honestly.

  • The only thing that companies like Toshiba (and other large companies in Japan that use Dentsu to create their ads) will respect is when their sales/market share take a hit.

    So while complaining is fine, I suggest people vote with their wallets. Buy products from other manufacturers. If all Japanese companies are behaving inappropriately, find a NJ company that makes the product. And reward them for not being insulting.

  • It’s pretty gross. T.P.O. I can see people doing this at home in jest as a party joke or whatever without any malevolence, but to put it on air for everyone to see? Not cool.
    Also the fact that it’s not some teenager on youtube pulling something out of the hat… it’s a professional advert, where a lot of planning and investment and repeated meetings are held. How after such rigorous planning the advert still managed to reach the general public is telling of the inner-workings of Toshiba Corp.
    I’m typing this up on a Toshiba. Time to change. Lost a customer.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Peter McArthur, #35

    “I see the character as a caricature of an ignorant, pretentious, Japanese fan of Anglo culture.’”

    Maybe. The person (on right) was impersonating as a stereotyped white, but it’s not the same as a Caucasian behaving like Japanese anime freak. In my experience, English speaking NJ don’t speak in exactly the same way she does. And that fake Gramatian nose is just so stupid. I’ve never seen anyone having such a big nose like that. This is not the same sort of stupidity like a tongue-in-cheek Japanese comedian Ken Shimura (志村けん) does in teaching ‘Japanese English’ to his students dressed up in Japanese school uniform.


  • The other thing that gets me, which may be at a specific tangent to this case of “Bignosing” is the whole othering of NJ in the media when doing voiceovers.

    I completely agree that the crude use of katakana along with the ludicrously accented and deliberately poor intonation used by the character reinforces not only the stereotype that foreigners are so completely different from Japanese. This is further mutually reinforced by the idea that NJ, especially hakujin CAN’T speak Japanese, because it’s so difficult and “unique” leading back to the old but still deeply routed prejudices and creepy eugenics-like concepts that, you know, Japanese brains and bodies are different and unique, and that foreigners cannot possibly get it right. This also leads to the exploitation of house gaijin like Patric Harlan who “prove the rule” by being exceptions. I believe earlier I read somewhere on Debito.org that “Pakkun” is surprised he can’t get more than one-year contracts for his work- he hasn’t realized that he’s seen as an entertaining but disposable extra.

    What gets me though the gross caricatures made out of foreigners in shows, especially variety shows, where a Japanese-gaijin “voice” is dubbed over by actors. The Japanese gets weird but also the characterization, girls squealing, old men talking like salty old sea dogs, etc. It’s all a process of the othering/entertainment gaijin syndrome so beloved by this country.

  • I totally agree with Jim Di Griz on post 37. Don’t think the problem is Toshiba or the J consumer, but somebody in the advertising industry had just figured out a little dirty trick-winner formula for selling goods in Japan, that appeal the consumer by impacting the intimate psycology of the individual in the japanese society, the group identity. That’s why they have to contrast the “us” against the rest, so the “us” is cool and patronize the rest on the advantages of the products they intend to sell, therefore the consumer feels the subtle pressure of belonging to the “us” and identifies automatically with the message. So, what about a decent market survey, consumer preferences or as already mentioned, relying upon the true advantages and conveniences of the product? Well, that will take some effort and creativity on their part, taking precious hours after office time that would take away the pleasure of hoping to night clubs and bars and chasing hookers through the night…
    conclusion? Tosh guys, you’d be better by hiring the services of an agency from abroad. Your business deserves it.

  • sendaiben says:

    I got an answer! Here it is, with my really rough translation below:





    Basically, thank you for your valuable feedback, we had no intention to offend anyone but several people including you were upset so we have removed the video in question. We apologise. We will take your valuable feedback into account when making commercials in the future. Thank you very much, Toshiba Appliances Company.

    I guess it’s better than nothing 😉

    — And it’s better than how McDonald’s Japan responded over “Mr. James”. There was no form of apology, and the ad campaign continued.


Comment navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>