Toshiba Commercial Called 'Racist'

Toshiba is not just a Japanese corporation. It's an international one, with offices all over the world. But one of its commercials for the Japanese market is being dubbed "racist".

Below, you can watch the ad. It's for rice maker called "SuiPanDa" that doubles as a bread maker. The ad was spotted by Debito.org.

In the commercial, the Japanese actress dons a blonde wig, wears a big nose and speaks in heavily accented Japanese. In Japan, these are stereotypes of what foreigners (here, Westerners) look like. To drive home the point that she's playing a foreigner, the woman's dialogue is subtitled in katakana, a writing system for foreign words.

This is just one ad in a series of spots that feature the same two businesswomen. The other commercials (here and here) are over-the-top too. So, for some reason, Toshiba thought it would be good to mock foreigners in this one. Because mocking potential customers is good for business? Because bread equals foreigner? White bread equals a white person? Or a Japanese person dressing up like a foreigner is like a rice cooker than can bake bread? I dunno!

Everything this is exacerbated because out of a nation of 120 million people, only 2.5 million (or so) are foreigners (more here). Perhaps, Toshiba thought this commercial would be fine because it was for Japan only? But Toshiba is an international company. It should know better. Just imagine if Toshiba's North American branch created a commercial that exaggerated a group's physical features in ridiculous make-up and exaggerated accents.

Racist accusations aside, this is not a very good commercial! The YouTube link says "TVCM" or "television commercial", but I have yet to see it on air.

There's a history of this kind of stuff in Japan — heck, there's a history of this kind of stuff everywhere. And because of that, it's easy to shrug this off and say, well, all people are a little racist. And thus, the cycle perpetuates itself. And here we are.

It's not OK — and worse, it's not funny or interesting! The get-up and the accent are so tired and so base. It's simply taking innate physical features and turning that into the gag. That's it. Look, she has a big nose — just like a white person. Ha. Ha.

I don't mind comedy that centres on racial or cultural differences. However, I'd argue that the bar for this type of humour is high — very high. You must be clever. You must be insightful. If you can't do that, please, don't bother.

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


Comments

    It's ridiculous but not really offensive. I can see why people are calling it racist, but I think people need to take this sort of thing as a joke. The way it is intended.

      The problem being is that just because they intended it, doesn't mean it was.

      The stolen Generation, for (extreme) example. They intended it as a really good thing. Should we treat it as so just because it as intended?

      Now, that was a pretty extreme example, but there's no reason to let racism go because 'they didn't intend' to be racist. If they were wearing blackface and eating KFC, we'd acknowledge it was racist and wouldn't really let it go. Just for a change it's Caucasians that are the target of racism.

        There is nothing wrong with KFC and blackface. You people seriously need to grow up and stop being so terrified of the innocuous.

          There's nothing wrong with making jews wear yellow stars, either. Assuming you're willing to entirely ignore the historical context of something inextricably linked with brutal oppression, anything can be innocuous.

    I haven't been to japan, but i studied japanese at uni. I was told in no uncertain terms, that japanese people are really, really racist. Kinda makes sense. I also learnt that they're the most homogenous society on earth.

      Homogenous in what sense? Culturally, or genetically?

      I thought the most genetically homogenous society was Icelandic, because they're all part of one gigantic extended family.

        I thought genetically, but you're right, Iceland would have to be up there too.

        I should really google it. But I prefer to operate on hazily remembered truisms from over 10 years ago to real facts.

      My experience is that they aren't willfully racist- not like, say, bogans who tell Asians to get back on their boats and go home- but they certainly aren't aware that they can be offensive with this sort of stuff. I remember discussing the word "Jap" with some Japanese girls and they didn't find it offensive because WW2 was so long ago so why should it matter. Much like the (probably white) people in these comments who say this isn't racist, Japanese people have usually been the aggressors when it comes to racial issues, so they don't know what it's like to be victimised, hence don't understand why it's offensive.

      Australian living in Japan here:

      The "style" of racism employed by the Japanese is known as "Microagressions," in that they don't outright hate you or tell you to fuck off or say slurs or whatever, but use thousands of little aggressions in daily life that constantly remind you "of your place."

      For example, Japanese people will constantly tell me:

      "Oh WOW! You can use chopsticks REALLY WELL" (I've been living here for two years mate)

      "Wow! You can speak JAPANESE! Amazing!"

      "Here you go. You like coffee and not Japanese Tea right?"

      "When are you going to go home to Australia?" (Implying that there is no conceivable way I could be considering living in Japan my whole life)

        Sounds similar to talking to bogans in Oz. You couldn't even call it aggression, it's just ignorance.

        My wife is constantly asked "so where're ya from?". She was born here dickhead. She speaks english better than you. Just because she's not white, doesn't mean she's not an Australian.

    Is this meant to be the Japanese equivalent of blackface? I'm not sure why, but I'm only mildly annoyed. Mostly because it isn't funny. And I'm a blond Hungarian-Australian. We have big noses.

    Make it funny, then we'll talk.

    Thank god nothing else worse than this occurs in real life that is worth mentioning.

    To people claiming that it isn't racist:

    Imagine if a white guy wore big fake buck teeth and a wide brimmed rice farmers hat and talked like the "City Wok" guy in South Park."

    This is essentially the same thing

    I guess it is kinda racist. I don't know if that really matters. While I have no idea what's going on, I still find it kind of funny - it reminds me of my trip over there with some friends earlier in the year, and struggling to speak from a Japanese phrasebook from time to time/parrot phrases fed to us by the better-educated of our group. Pretty sure that's exactly what we were like, if not worse :P

    Meh. Plenty of racist things aimed at Asians on our TV over the years.

    Anyone remember the Stratco (I think) ad with the Asian guy saying "ahhhh, so glossy!" in a dreadful stereotypical accent back in the 90s?

      Lol! I still say it like that!

      But to be fair, they weren't making fun of the guy. That was just his accent.

      Soooo glossy-uuuu.

    I have to say I don't see anything wrong with any of those commercials. Explain to me how the last two in the links are "over the top"?

    I am white and I found the main commercial hilarious. I thought the actress did a great impersonation of a white woman, deepening her usually higher voice, yet still sounding feminine. I'm so tired of all this PC (politically correct) crap and every tiny little thing is now racist. Pointing out truths or facts about a particular group of people is NOT being racist. Hating them for it is. People need to relax and be able to laugh at themselves.

      She wasn't impersonating a white woman, she was impersonating a foreigner, as if we could never speak Japanese correctly. This is the equivalent of impersonating an Asian by going ME RUVU LICE RONG TIME CHING CHONG NIP NONG.

      It's a stereotype, not a 'truth or fact'. And it's laughing at, not pointing out. It's racist.

      I'm so tired of everyone falling back of complaints about political correctness anytime something they personally have no problem with is challenged, because if it's just POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD then they don't have to examine their own potentially troubling beliefs and opinions.

    The concept of racism is racist in itself. End of story.

    Last edited 30/06/13 11:55 am

    Japan has an extreme version of racism that only outsiders who live and work there will ever understand. But it has little to do with the often hilarious examples of cultural differences we encounter in their media. This ad, comedy duos doing blackface skits, the way westerners are depicted in anime etc... Its not meant to harm.

      I agree that it's not meant to harm, but they don't ever stop and think that it might. I struggle to get better at Japanese every day so someone taking the piss out of me by impersonating me like that would piss me off.

        I've got a white Aussie mate who lives in Osaka who speaks fluent Japanese. When I was visiting him a few years ago he had a Chinese Aussie flatmate who spoke next to no Japanese at all. Every time they would go out together and interact with people I found it quite amusing that even though it was my white mate speaking most Japanese people only spoke to the Chinese guy.
        It wasn't racism exactly but most people couldn't grasp the fact that a blond Aussie could speak better than an Japanese-looking dude.

      Blackface's cultural heritage is one of a characterisationg designed specifically to denigrate and mock black people. People who do blackface now might not be intending harm, but that's kind of like saying "Well, I didn't mean to offend that nigger by calling him a nigger."

        Americas cultural norms, and the history which produced them, have little to do with myself, or 2 Japanese comedians performing a skit about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. If it makes you uncomfortable then thats fine, but i dont recall American sensitivities becoming the law of the world and i dont remember anyone holding a gun to head making you watch.

          Not fetishising a culture in order to get some yuks is generally considered to be a cool thing to do.

          Continuing to do it when the people of that culture have specifically asked not to be denigrated and reduced to objects of ridicule based on their heritage is generally considered to be a not-cool thing to do.

          It's really that simple.

      I'm curious about this. What makes you think Japan has "an extreme version of racism that only outsiders who live and work there will ever understand"?

    If it's a Japanese commercial that'll only be aired in Japan, why would it concern me? I won't be offended if it's never aired in Australian(or any western) TV.

    You can't be racist towards white people, it's a thing called "white privilege".

    Yes, it is racist. It doesn't bother me any more than anything else that's racist, but just because it singles out my heritage instead of another, doesn't mean it should offend me more.

    Talking about Japan being homogeneous: they are incredibly monocultured, to the point where they debase major parts of their own culture if it isn't considered to be the modern ideal of being Japanese.

    They aren't necessarily genetically homogeneous, as what we think of now as Japanese people are a mixture of mostly early Chinese immigrants, and the now almost extinct Ainu; Japan's native people. There's also definite genetic difference that came from the people from some of the southern islands.

    I don't really think Japan is racist. Some of the laws are and the people kind of have this weird cultural blind spot (much like a lot of Caucasian people do, only bigger). I feel like the government is xenophobic and the culture is ignorant. Those aren't good traits, but I don't think they have any sort of ill intent and I don't believe that (very many) Japanese people have actively bad feelings toward people of other nationalities. Though there does seem to be a sort of casually racist attitude toward the 'wrong kind' of Asian people; the Chinese, Korean, and Filipino population get a pretty raw deal at times.

    Not exactly shocking. Japan has issues with Race - not so much the younger people, but the older folks still have some, uh, "issues" with non-Japanese folks. Just as Nigerians how they are treated in Japan.

    My mother is ethnically chinese. She went to Japan last year. Initially all the people were friendly to her - until they found out she was Chinese. The younger folks didn't have a problem, but the older folks DEFINITELY had a problem - they tried to ignore her, refused to talk to her, told her to leave restaurants. Not nice. My sister, who is only half-chinese but who looked more english than asian, had a better time.

    I don't know why the Japanese dislike the Chinese so much. It's crazy.

    i see a lot of people defending this and rightfully so butlets not forget that f it was a white actress doing yellow or black face there would be a shit storm or political correctness douches out for blood.

    in short hypocritical double standards make me sick.

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