A Japanese airline has apologised after it received complaints for a “racist and offensive” advert which appears to suggest it is changing its image through racial stereotyping.
The 30-second commercial for All Nippon Airways (ANA) was designed to promote its expanded offering of international flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, and first aired on Saturday.
It shows two men in ANA uniforms discussing how “exciting” it is that the airline now offers services to Vancouver and Hanoi.
When one of the men refuses a hug to celebrate, the other describes it as “such a Japanese reaction” and says: “Let’s change the image of Japanese people.”
The other man says “sure” while putting on an accent – and is suddenly seen wearing a blonde wig and exaggerated fake nose.
The advert has been met with anger on the airline’s English-language social media pages. Facebook user Dave Jenkins wrote: “Your latest commercial is racist and offensive. I'd like to cancel my mileage club membership.”
Vicky Kirk Kobayashi asked when the “horrible, horrible advert” would be cancelled and criticised ANA for deciding to “go for the old tired big nose blonde gaijin gag”.
Laura Macfarlane said: “Why would one of Japan's premier airlines be willing to run an advertisement considered by many to be racist and offensive to westerners, and risk alienating a large percentage of its customers?”
An ANA spokesperson said the airline had “received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad”.
“We apologised to each of the customers for having caused uncomfortable feelings and also thanked them for bringing up the issue,” she told the AFP news agency.
“We have passed on the issue to the section in charge of the advertisement, but as of now we have yet to decide how to deal with the commercial,” she said.
The ANA spokesperson added “The commercial was intended to be a humorous way of highlighting the increased number of international services ANA is operating from Haneda Airport. It was not our intention to cause offence and we apologize to anyone who was upset by the advertisement.”
Blogger and writer Arudou Debito criticised the advert as being the latest example of Japan’s “nasty habit of racialising commodities”.
“They once again just thought they were being cute by sticking a wig and a big nose on somebody and making them look ‘foreign’,” Mr Debito said.