Are You Kidding Me? Toshiba’s New Stereotype Maker

by Robert Moorehead

UPDATE: Toshiba has removed the video from both YouTube and from its own website. The video is still available at Kotaku.com, and has been uploaded to YouTube by user “xbatusai”: We’ll see if Toshiba releases a public statement in response to this issue.

Toshiba promotes its SuiPanDa bread maker by dressing up a Japanese woman in a blond wig and fake nose … because eating bread changes your appearance and makes you speak Japanese with a fake foreign accent. Rice is Japanese, she says, but bread is Western. You can add rice when making your bread … to make hafu bread?

Maybe they should have Becky or Shelly advertising the bread maker … use rice to make hafu bread—hafu Japanese, hafu Western. As much as that would essentialize and reify racial categories, it would still be better than having a Japanese person dress up in gaijin-face and speak accented Japanese.

Just to make sure that viewers know that this woman is gaijin, they also use katakana for her subtitles. (Katakana is used in writing foreign words in Japanese.) Oddly enough, despite the racialization of bread as non-Japanese, Japan is filled with specialty bread shops. It seems half the shops in Japan are either boulangeries or hair salons. So maybe bread isn’t all that foreign after all …

An equivalent commercial in the US would have a sad white woman eating a sandwich, but who longs for some rice for lunch. A white woman in yellowface (who speaks English with a fake Asian accent) would then tell her that making rice is too hard for Westerners. Think of Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s selling a rice cooker.

Heaven help us if Toshiba expands its devices to include other types of food, like fried chicken, tortillas, or anything else “foreign.”

Here’s the now-dead link to Toshiba’s original video:

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8 thoughts on “Are You Kidding Me? Toshiba’s New Stereotype Maker

  1. Pingback: Toshiba’s latest marketing strategy: Quaintly racist TV ads | Trends in Japan - Tokyo's latest Lifestyle, Culture and Innovation

  2. I laugh at the lack of social grace when it comes to race in East Asia (namely China, Japan, & Korea) but when that sentiment carries over to immigration and other forms of legal discrimination the laughter stops.

  3. For those who haven’t seen it, the racist commercial has been archived as a video with lively debate at Kotaku.com:

    http://kotaku.com/toshiba-commercial-called-racist-606881529

    Thanks for Tokyo Outsider’s link to the Toshiba website with the CM removed. Duly noted back at Debito.org.

    Two new points that are worthy of mention:

    1) Kotaku has noted that there are two other commercial spots for other Toshiba products, featuring the same businesswomen actresses in the same vein, but without the racialization. As a friend pointed out elsewhere, “Toshiba could have communicated the same message more effectively by interviewing a master baker or some other expert.”

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11590#comment-420127

    2) Here’s some good sociology for you, Robert: Note that in these alternate videos, these people are co-workers who know each other. However, once Gaijinized in the breadmaker commercial, she becomes an unknown stranger. Once again, Gaijin are the perpetual “Other” who don’t belong, even with all the NJ working for Japanese corporations.

    Thanks for contributing to the debate. Debito

    • Thanks for the comments, and for the link to the video on Kotaku. I think it makes sense for the ‘gaijin’ in the commercial to be an unknown person, since (according to the story, if we can call it a story) it’s not the same person as in the other commercials. Is Toshiba so cheap that they wouldn’t just hire a non-Japanese to play the part? In any case, all the money they spent on the commercial is now wasted, since they pulled the commercial off YouTube and their own website.

      • It doesn’t have to do with Toshiba being cheap, no doubt a non-celebrity Japanese actress is more expensive than a non-celebrity non-Japanese. The commercial might not have a web presence but that doesn’t mean they will stop showing it on Japanese TV, where far few less people will complain, and their voices will not be heard.

  4. Pingback: Reblog: All Nippon Airways uses crude racial humor in TV commercial | The Lobster Dance

  5. Pingback: Reblog: All Nippon Airways uses crude racial humor in TV commercial | JAPANsociology

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