A Japanese airline will pull an advertisement featuring an actor wearing a large false nose and a blonde wig, after it was criticised for having racist overtones.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) made the announcement on Tuesday, four days after the advert launched on 18 January.
The advert was intended to promote ANA’s expanded international flight schedule from Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
It depicts two men in ANA pilot uniforms speaking, in English with Japanese subtitles, about how they will be taking the new flights to destinations such as Hanoi and Vancouver.
“Let's change the image of Japanese!” one says, and turns to his colleague, who now wears a large fake nose and a blonde wig, in line with Japanese stereotypes about Europeans.
“Of course,” he replies.
In another version of the ad, one man surprises his companion by offering to hug him. Public displays of affection, especially between men, are uncommon in Japan.
Some customers used ANA’s Facebook page to show their disapproval.
Facebook user Dave Jenkins wrote: “Your latest commercial is racist and offensive. I'd like to cancel my mileage club membership.”
Other users said they said they liked the commercial, while some said it was simply strange rather than racist.
ANA issued an apology for the commercial on its Facebook page, and Japanese media outlets have said the company had also apologised to customers who called in to complain.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman said the advert would no longer be shown on TV in Japan, the only country where it has aired. The airline had yet to decide what it would do with versions on other media, she added.
“We heard a lot of opinions from customers about points in our ad that didn't match with our intention,” the spokeswoman said.
“Our intention was to show Japanese becoming more active and essential to the world.”
She said the wig and the fake nose were intended to show Japanese becoming more accepted overseas, adding the airline did not intend to discriminate against anybody.
“There were people who took it that way, so we are paying attention to this and cancelling the ad,” she said.
The complaints come as Japan prepares to host the 2020 Olympics Games, and is trying to attract more tourists amid a sharp rise in visitors over the last year.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content