Coleman Japan Inc. has instructions “For Japanese Consumers Only”


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Hi Blog. As a lighter post for Sunday, Reader SW sends these words and a silly instruction booklet from Coleman Japan Inc., saying their instructions are “For Japanese Consumers Only”.

I think Coleman HQ (in the US) has let their oversight of their licensee go a bit, allowing the assumption that only Japanese can read Japanese. A bit of sense and sensitivity would have rendered it as “For Consumers in Japan Only” (which I’ve seen enclosed for some products in terms of warranties). Or else this needn’t be put on the form at all: I doubt anyone will panic if they see a page of gibberish as long as there is another page with something legible. But this carelessness has left a bit of a sour taste in one consumer’s mouth, quite unnecessarily. Read on. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


August 5, 2010
Dear Debito,

First of all, I would like to thank you for all your efforts. It is good to know that someone cares.

The other day I wanted to buy a cooler, after all it is a hot summer and nothing feels better than having a BBQ on the beach.

So, I went to a sports shop and found a good sized one from Coleman. When I opened it, I saw some instructions and the first thing that I saw was ‘For Japanese Consumers only’. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about it but it was enough for me to feel somewhat offended by it.

We have seen the hot springs, the hotels and clubs but if they start doing this now also with goods, I think it is going a bit too far.

Have a look at the enclosure and tell me what you think.

Enjoy the 35C tomorrow, hopefully you will go to the beach too with a nice cooler.  SW.


21 comments on “Coleman Japan Inc. has instructions “For Japanese Consumers Only”

  • yeah, but i would say it’s only a poor translation. if they had truly meant “japanese” as in a people, then it wouldn’t be necessary because if you could read japanese you wouldn’t need that translation. however, that said, if it were for consumers in japan only then they should include an english translation as an alternative language.
    as with so much in japan, i would say it comes mostly for short-sightedness and a general cluelessness, not racism or anything ugly.

    — So did we. Did anyone suggest any other cause?

  • David in Fukuoka says:

    It’s just a poor translation. I bet the original meaning was ”For users in Japan only” or something similar. In other words, territorial, not racial. You wouldn’t believe the amount of ridiculous warnings and specifications we put into manuals. Also, these one-off lines are usually translated by a Japanese with no native check. I seriously doubt this is a manifestation of intolerance or racism towards non-Japanese by Coleman (an American company, no?), just bad copy and lack of oversight.

  • David in Fukuoka says:

    Whoops, I saw the contributor’s but missed your explanation (was it edited in after the initial post?), and now I’m just parroting what you’ve already said! You can delete my comment or leave it up as a warning to those who post too fast without reading all the way from the top 😉

    — Likewise, I wonder how many people who accuse me of something untoward simply haven’t read what I wrote before commenting. 😉 Something close to this has thus happened no less than twice in this very blog entry.

  • @Redballoon:
    The cluelessness IS racism. Type II racism, but racism nonetheless. It is predicated upon the incorrect assumption that Japanese is a race rather than a nationality. As it reads, it implies that Ainu and Okinawans can’t use the cooler either.

  • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this at all. When the BBC weather forecaster says “And our Scottish viewers can expect rain this afternoon,” s/he doesn’t mean Sean Connery (who lives in the Bahamas), but people living in Scotland. The “consumers” part is what made me do a double-take. Surely it would be “customers” normally?

  • @Kimpatsu
    I wouldn’t put a clueless manual translator in the same boat as an exclusionary onsen owner, but I do see your point. Also, you are assuming that it refers to race rather than nationality.

  • I dunno, are there regulations in other places for coolers this one doesn’t comply with? Why, that might expose the company to some notoriously litigious group (oh no, who could that be?) of non Japanese folk, should they be allowed to use it!

    Best call the company, doesn’t look safe to me!

  • would coleman do the same thing in america and put for american consumers only? I think not case closed. japan needs to start being more sensitive to NJ peoples feelings.

  • Oh, I am so confused (and bored). Does this mean the cooler is “for Japanese consumers” or the warnings in Japanese are “for Japanese consumers only”.
    In the first case it is clearly racial or nationality based discrimination against non-Japanese.
    However, if the “for Japanese consumers only” relates to the warning page, then there might be two or even three ways this could be interpreted.
    1st: Coleman just assumes that non-Japanese consumers are smart enough to know how to handle a cooler save – nationality based discrimination against “Japanese consumers”.
    2nd: Coleman wants everyone who cannot read Japanese warnings killed with exploding coolers (I dismiss this theory as rather unlikely).
    3rd: “Japanese” referes to the “Japanese language”. So the warning page is just meant for people you would like to “consume” some “Japanese”, all the others should not bother with it. Well I think this is most likely the conclusion to this mystery.
    4th: It is a hint for US-citizens consumers, who only speak one language and should not bother with that strange patterns below because it is for consumers of Japanese nationality or Japanese language who know Japanese. However still, nationality based discrimination against US-citizens.
    5th: Oh, come on. Of cause it is (however a smal dose) of nationality based discrimination, because language capacity is linked with nationality, however intended or not: discriminatory.
    Sorry, I was really bored, good night.

  • According to Merriam-Webster, the word “Japanese” can mean “an inhabitant of Japan”. So, I wouldn’t call this a bad translation, because it’s technically correct.

    — Just like “gaijin” can mean foreigner, according to the dictionaries. But semantics and context matter, especially in translation. Best ones don’t have any possible gains in translation. This one is careless, therefore not a good translation.

  • @Amro:
    That’s because the clueless translator evidently DOES conflate the two. Like I said, Type II racism.

  • Mark in Kanto says:

    I don’t even like “for consumers (or customers) in Japan only”–who says that the only people who can read Japanese are in Japan? I certainly am not, at least part of the year. I agree that nothing at all is needed. Most multi-lingual instructions don’t waste their time with it this kind of pitiful exclusionism. I think such a caption betokens a translator who grew up in a culture splitting the world into “ware-ware” and “foreigners,” and where “we” want to keep the “ware-ware” pure and to ourselves. On all kinds of sub- and unconscious levels this comes out everywhere.

  • Jib Halyard says:

    Seems like an honest enough mistake. But it does highlight what I consider to be a big but underappreciated problem for foreign companies operating in Japan. A brand can be seriously tarnished or undermined if head office gives up too much control to the local branches or franchisees. Particularly so in Japan, where the cult of national uniqueness seems especially strong, and local staff often seem to think they are “exempt” from a corporation’s global standards.
    Just look at McDonalds Japan and the “Mr James” campaign.
    CEOs in the West seem sadly naive in this regard.

  • More importantly, Jib, how is Mr James expected to store his Mcburgers if the cooler instructions are for Japanese only!?

  • Goods are for japan ,no need to precise this in english
    No need the “only”,some NJ can read japanese.
    They have to make more effort for translate some few words in others languages ,everytime is same.
    Just maybe “advices or instructions IN japanese” it’s enough and don’T hurt nobody with their tatemae.

  • crustpunker says:

    Regardless of what opinions may be, the fact is that even if this is a poor translation it IS possible that this could offend. Therefore yes, it is slightly offensive. Not to the point where I would urge people to organize a demonstration or anything but still…. I think that the real issue here is that Japan, in general still continues to show a clear lack of sensitivity/(lack of professionalism?) and this kind of labeling throws into sharp relief just that. When you ask yourself if you would see this kind of thing in another country from a MAJOR company and the answer is a clear “NO” well, that’s because in other countries people are generally more culturally aware and careful about offending others. Japan doesn’t really seem to give a toss. my 2 cents..

    — Or, more to the point, considering how anally-retentive people can get here about rules, business practices, outside impressions, what have you, it’s a stark contrast to see this much carelessness and half-assedness in preparation and presentation. It should be out of character. The fact that it’s not, i.e. we see half-assed and careless translations like these all the time (and this time from an American-brand licensee, no less), gets to the point where it begs a lot of questions about sensitivity and cultural awareness, not to mention professionality. I think is pretty much your point, right?

  • Friend MS comments below. I don’t quite get the dynamic, so anyone who can explain, please do. Thanks.

    Actually what’s going on is that some manufacturers are struggling with “gray market” products due to the growing gap in yen-dollar exchange rates. For instance unauthorized dealers can take advantage of the exchange rate disparities to buy Coleman-brand goods destined for Japan and make money selling them to unlicensed distributors or retailers. So this message was added to warn that buyers it won’t honor the guarantee of gray market goods reexported to another country. Sloppy job, but nothing sinister.

    MS adds as explanation:

    Basicalliy it costs 70% less to buy a Coleman jug now (for the distributor) than it did, say, in 1990. But the retail price in Japan has remained roughly the same, and there are ways for shrewd operators to take advantage of this. Anyway the message was added as an ineffective way of dealing with this situation and has nothing to do with Japanese vs. non-Japanese (except to get them to pay more than they should, which I suppose is another form of discrimination).

  • Disagree with MS’s the parallel importing explanation. The paper shown above is instructions for use, not a guarantee.

    The dynamic is, as MS explained, re-selling goods destined for one country, in another country. Sometimes its legal, but its not something manufacturers like to have happen to their goods because then they can’t set prices properly in each country. For example, Bic pens sell cheaper in the Philippines than they do in Japan, so someone could buy up retail stock in the Philippines and then export them to Japan and make a killing offloading them for ten times as much.

    But I can’t see that as an excuse for what is happening above. The leaflet above is warning about how not to misuse the product. If it were a grey market issue, wouldn’t the “Japanese Only” sign be on the warranty, or on the top of the packaging?

  • This is innocuous.

    Coleman Inc is concerned about liability *(principally in the USA) with those instructions.

    Given (for instance) that the operating temperature’s are given in Celcius (rather than American) they are making a legal declaration in order to disclaim liability arising if a consumer (In the USA) was to come into possession of that item with only the Japanese instructions for whatever reason and injure themselves or their property as a result, later claiming in court that Coleman Inc was liable for damages as they failed to make it clear that the instructions supplied were not intended for use by said consumer…

  • This is only to tell the reader what language is written there. It’s a courtesy. The “only” is simply an error. A Japanese person probably added “only” for reasons based on how he or she thought it should be written so non-Japanese could understand.

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