AXA Direct insurance amends its advertising to sound less exclusive to NJ customers


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Hi Blog.  Good news. Chand B, who reported last October that AXA Direct insurance company had some pretty rough (and exclusionary-sounding) English wording in its CNN television advertising, updates his report.  

AXA Direct actually took his request for amendment seriously, and changed their text.  Well done.  Thanks for taking this up and getting things improved, Chand.  Here’s his report.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


March 3, 2009

Dear Debito, sorry for the delay in replying.

A while ago I reported that the insurance company Axa Direct was requiring Japanese Language Proficiency as a requirement for buying their services.

The ad they were running on CNN was subtitled:

‘Being resident in Japan and understanding spoken and written Japanese are the basic requirements for any transaction of this insurance service.’


Well after a few emails they replied that they would in fact accept people without Japanese language ability and I’m pleased to report that they’ve now changed the subtitling on their commercial to the more friendly:

‘Kindly note that all our insurance services in Japan are offered to residents in Japan in the Japanese language.’

It’s nice to see a company take note of criticism and action to correct it, or maybe in the current economic crisis they’re just looking to rake in some NJ cash.

Please find attached a photograph of the new subtitling their email reply, with my basic translation of it.  Chand B


Axa only prepares its product information in Japanese. If you can understand this you can sign.
If you can understand you can sign.
Also if you have an accident we can only deal with it in Japanese.
In that case you would always require a Japanese-speaking friend.
We only sell by phone so please prepare your information in Japanese.
Axa Direct.

[Chand B]様







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9 comments on “AXA Direct insurance amends its advertising to sound less exclusive to NJ customers

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Bravo for them! I can understand how a lot of Japanese people are worried that they might have to speak English, but as someone who’s lived here for a while and hails originally from Canada where we have two national languages, it makes sense that their services are only available in Japanese. I think what needs to be stopped is a lot of the blatent assumptions that non-Japanese people can’t speak or understand Japanese. In any other country that I know of, it is assumed that you speak the language of the land and that the dealings of that country are usually done in that language as well. I think the attitudes towards that here need to be updated to reflect what is that of the rest of the world (ie – in Japan you speak Japanese, in France you speak French, etc).

  • michael

    not `non-Japanese`. just `non-asians`…

    Although I agree fully with your comment. If anything the so-called japanese 気遣い is nothing but 邪魔…

  • Also if you have an accident we can only deal with it in Japanese. In that case you would always require a Japanese-speaking friend.

    Why would you need a Japanese-speaking friend if you can already speak Japanese? Can I bring my NJ, japanese-speaking friend? Shall I bring all my friends? We can have a party.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Alex – This is true, but then again, you have to *look* Japanese for them to assume that you can speak it. I know plenty of Koreans who are fluent in Japanese who have had the same problems that I do being a White Boy in this country.

    I think it’s just annoying that people assume I won’t understand anything. I speak and read the language. Over the phone, unless I tell people, they think I’m Japanese. But as soon as they see my face or find out that I’m not Japanese (eventhough they’ve been speaking to me for the last however minutes), they immediately have to ask if I a) understand Japanese or b) treat me like an idiot.

    I just hope that these sorts of things start to like, I dunno, disappear.

  • @Alex

    Please…could you stop already with throwing-in the odd kanji here and there. It’s great you can write kanji, but could you either write in English or Japanese – not a smattering of one or the other. It would make your comments so much more easier to understand


  • Stevie

    I am sorry my comments are hard to understand. My only opportunity to use english EVER is through this site and there are words that pop into my head that I don`t bother translating because 1) I like writing in the heat of the moment and 2) Saying the word in the original context in which I felt it gets my point across better (at least to those who can understand. My grammar and whatnot are not weird because I have a bad education (I am a graduate of University of Toronto) it`s because I simply don`t use english in my daily life at all.

    It`s not `great` that I can write Kanji its the bare minimum in order for foreigners to live in Japan. Every one of us should have nihongo nouryoku siken after a year here and kanken 2kyuu after 2 years here. Use your commute, study while you watch tv. Read the paper everyday. There is no excuse for us to not speak the language at least as well as those in the same age/educational bracket as ourselves.

    I know what you mean. There are some people who have never been outside kanto and assume that my kansai-accent is just `how foreigners talk`. yet when I go back to kansai people just assume I`m half-Japanese.

    I went all the way to friggin shizuoka the other day just to have one of the senpai`s flail his arms and ask me NI HO NN GO WA KA RI MA SU KA.

    wtf would I be doing at a setumeikai for shinsotu if I couldn`t speak Japanese at a university graduate level. granted he was an old geezer but jesus it was such a common sense situation.

    Also on the note of koreans having the same problems.
    I know they do too. I was just generalizing.

    One of my best female friends is a 3rd generation zainichi korean who went through the chousen gakkou system. when people hear her last name almost everytime she gets the 日本語めっちゃ上手やん.

    heck, even my girlfriend is guilty of this kind of thing. If you guys know angela aki you know she has a tokushima accent and speaks `awa-ben` (similar to kansai-ben) and my girlfriend who is also from tokushima says from time-to-time この人はめっちゃ阿波弁やで while im thinking to myself 阿波の人やから当たり前やんけ

    but of course angela aki has the gaijin look so it`s `suprising` i suppose? wentz is the same sort of thing i suppose.

    I don`t really see the big deal. I have met tons of people who are either half, born here, foreign born and speak perfect japanese and I am never surprised.

    people who say they are amazed when they see dave spector speaking would probably **** their pants if they saw what I assume he speaks like in private (There is no way he talks like how he does on TV in private it`s only project the amerikajin image)

    There is a reason you don`t see daniel kahl on tv in kanto…

    I am on a crazy tangent here so let me make another comment about this insurance company.

    in my opinion they are being too nice by even stating in english that they only deal in Japanese.

    Wheres the captions in hangul? chinese? spanish?

    until last week I worked in China town selling shuumai and even though I am white the ONLY foreigners who spoke english to me (other than kikokushijo who want to show off) were Americans. Every other foreigner that came spoke to me in at least katakoto japanese.

    Most of the times I replied only in Japanese.

    good god another tangent!

    sorry debito!

    — Yes, quite. Anyway, the ad’s subtitles are in English because the CM is on CNN (English).

    And I of course commiserate with you about the katakoto speak reflex. I do speak with an accent (quite a strong one; people know I’m not a native speaker pretty quickly on the phone), but that should not be a problem; people have got to get used to accents. As they have to get used to people with NJ-looking faces and names speaking native or near-native Japanese. We know from experience in our societies of origin that accents are an inevitability, even an enricher of the culture; even in Japan. In my case, what’s probably the most unnatural is the vocab; when the vocab level I can’t help but use in my daily speech is so preternaturally high at times, I probably come off as Vulcan-like (or given the emotion involved probably more Cardassian). But that’s IMHO no excuse for speaking to me in katakoto (or heaven forbid English) when I’m speaking in Japanese; and I politely ask people to comply with my wishes to do things in Japanese for the most part. I’ve done more than two decades of living here, I’ve learned the language, I’ve even taken citizenship, so I demand the respect and cooperation that should be due. That’s just my way. Anyway, answering a tangent with a tangent of my own... 🙂

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Debito and Alex:

    You two couldn’t have hit the nail more squarely on the head on how I feel about living here. I think it’s honestly time for Japan to wake up to the 21st century and realize that there are more people in this world than Japanese.

    I often talk to my 英会話 students about this issue; about all of the types of discrimination that I face. The common thing I get is 「日本は島国だから、まだ外国人となれていないんだ。」or something of the like. I always laugh because 1) England is also an island country and has been around for just as long if not longer than Japan, and b) it’s 2009; the time where that excuse is still valid is…well…it ended years ago.

    I do understand that a lot of it is protectionist bull****, but I think they need to realize here that we aren’t going to be leaving and that in order to work better in an international community, they have to start treating other people like humans instead of flogging the old “us vs. them” horse.

    If you’d like to hear funny discrimination stories, I have a tonne of them that I experienced when I worked at the Gap(clothing store) in Stellar Place (Sapporo Station). Seriously…even when Japanese people hear about it they are airly appalled. But I’ll save that for another tangent ^_~

    — Rules of thumb: If a customer-business relationship where you’re the client, demand service on your terms. It’s your money, be satisfied with the service you get. The more people do this, the more likely we’re going to see a tipping point in J-NJ customer relations.

    If it’s something more interpersonal, be polite but firm and time things well. Same with supervisor-subordinate relationships. Inject preferences and advice at proper junctures, but be consistent in your requests.

    If you’re the one working at the Gap dealing with customers in a place like Sapporo, there’s not a lot you can do… That’s why I try to avoid those situations.

  • yes, this foreigners can’t possibly speak japanese thing rears its ugly head again. But why? Why do the japanese think their language is oh so difficult? It isn’t particularly difficult when compared to say Russian with its dificult grammar or Mandarin with its tricky tonal system and pronunciation. It’s a mystery to me.

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