Since 2006, Tommy Lee Jones has appeared in a series of Boss coffee ads. Boss is a Suntory brand of hot coffee that is sold canned (hot or cold). In the commercials, Jones is an alien visiting Japan. He always has a different job — such as train station employee, taxi driver, or a tanned host — as he lives in his new surroundings. Some of the commercials are even kind of touching!
A foreigner starring in Japanese commercials is nothing new. And, perhaps, many of the foreigners who come to Japan to do commercials like the country just fine. But, Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t just star in Japanese ads for the paycheck: After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Jones sang in a commercial with a whole host of Japanese celebrities. All of them — Jones, included — appeared in the commercial for free to raise the country’s spirits. Jones, however, was the only foreigner.
A thread on website Naver features a collection of quotes Jones has given the Japanese press over the years. Sure, some of what he says might be flattering, but do you think Jones is the kind of guy who goes around kissing ass? I don’t!
According to Jones, Japan is the only country he still visits while promoting his films. It’s not just for work — Jones is even quoted as saying he visits Japan in his private time (he especially likes Kyoto). A few years back, website Kirai spotted Jones in Nara feeding the deer.
When Hollywood celebrities visit Japan, they talk about Japanese food — so does Jones, who especially digs the Japanese fish ayu. In interviews, however, he also talks about his appreciation of Japanese art (such as Hokusai and Yoshitoshi) and kabuki. You get the feeling that the guy knows more about Japan than simply how to order good sushi.
The long-running coffee ads have made Jones a part of Japanese pop culture. He’s no longer simply some Hollywood star to put up on a pedestal. Rather, he’s a familiar face. No wonder yesterday Japanese phone carrier SoftBank announced that Jones’ Suntory character will be appearing in a new ad in SoftBank’s long-running series of White Family commercials.
What makes the coffee ads work so well is that Jones, deadpan as ever, genuinely seems to enjoy doing them — he enjoys dressing up in the various uniforms, visiting the different parts of Japanese society, and experiencing the varied slices of life in Japan. He’s willing to make goofy faces and do stuff that some might find as just “too silly” or embarrassing, even. He’s joining in. And because of these commercials, Jones’ face is plastered all over the entire country — a country he enjoys so much, and a country that enjoys him, too.
In the above gallery, you can see the first 23 coffee commercials Jones starred in as well as some more recent ones.