Short and long term residents quickly realise that Japan is a place of contradictions, but also forget that their own countries have contradictions as well. Here in Japan some of these contradictions made it to national and international headlines.
1. ANA “Racist” TV advertisement
The All Nippon Airways airline released a new TV advertisement on Saturday 18th January in Japan (ABC, Japan Today, see on YouTube). The actors in the ad speak English (though with a clear Japanese accent) and it is subtitled in Japanese. I’m not sure who the ad is aimed at, especially as it was released in Japan, though it’s in English, and most Japanese people haven’t the foggiest when things are said to them in English. The end of the ad shows an ANA pilot wearing a blond wig and a long strap-on nose. I think most non-Japanese people in the world are not actually blonde, and I’ve not met a single person in my life with such an exaggerated nose. Such stereotypical exaggerations may remind some of the World War Two era, American anti-Japanese posters. On Monday ANA has apologised, initially said they would not withdraw the ad, but then Tuesday said they would alter it.
For this photo, and others like it, see my Transport gallery in my PhotoShelter portfolio.
2. Prime Minister visits Yasakuni Shrine
Yasakuni Shrine is controversial. Not because it honours Japan’s soldier who have fought and died for Japan, but because some of the names enshrined includes convicted class A war criminals. So on Boxing Day (26th Dec, 2013), the increasingly right leaning Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Yasakuni Shrine to pay his respects (BBC, CNN, Huffington Post), a move that angers China and Korea and others, and should also anger some allied nations like Australia and the UK who have lost soldiers to Japanese war crimes.
3. The Prime Minister welcomes international visitors & workers
The number of workers available to work in factories is declining. However, since the crisis of 2008, many of Japan’s companies moved their manufacturing overseas to Thailand and China, and have no plans to return production here. Despite the extremely low participation of women in the workforce, especially with forced retirement after giving birth (The Asahi Shimbun), the government decided to bring in foreign workers (Japan Today). Also, Japan welcomed its 10 millionth visitor(s) 2013, a Thai couple (who do not have blonde hair or long noses), and expects this number to rise ahead of the 2020 games in Tokyo (Japan Times).
4. Japan refuses entry to Malaysian politician
Earlier this week, Anwar Ibrahim was refused entry into Japan. As I understand, he was an important figure in Malay politics and was a real rival to some other politicians. It also appears that in 1999 some charges were laid against him in an effort to character assassinate him and ruin his political career. Japanese customs just simply refused him entry, and without adequate explanation (ABC, Japan Today).
5. China honours assassin, and a dolphin hunt
China recently unveiled a portrait of a Korean who assassinated Japan’s first prime minister and the Japanese governor of the occupied Korean peninsula (Japan Times). I agree, it is distasteful for a government to sponsor such a thing, but still, the Japanese prime minister honouring war criminals is perhaps worse, and may lead to a further drop in Chinese and Korean tourists to Japan (China Daily Asia, The Asahi Shimbun). Further still is the recent Twitter outrage at Wakayama Prefecture’s dolphin hunt, where the current US ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Yoko Ono have condemed the hunt (Japan Times). Yoko Ono also cites international criticism as a valid reason to cease the hunt. Also, to lend their wait to the protest, Anonymous hacked Wakauama Peefectures website and shut it down.
For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter portfolio.
It does look like Japan wants to engage internationally, but it doesn’t do so sincerely or worse. I think it’s best to remind the reader that all countries have their contradictions, and it’s always easier to see these when you’re on the outside looking in.