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The Great Tohoku Earworm of 2011
March 11, 2012 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Following the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, commercials largely disappeared from television. To fill space between the news reports and lists of missing people, the Ad Council of Japan put together a number of PSAs. Since there were only five or ten of them, the PSAs played thousands of times over the course of a few months, searing themselves into the memory of the Japanese public. Most were typical messages about common courtesy, perseverance, listening to your kids, conservation, and international support. But one PSA in particular quickly took on a life of its own, instantly being mashed up with a classic Japanese TV trope: Robot Transformation Sequences!

The PSA in question is titled "Aisatsu no Mahou", or The Magic of Greetings, a catchy 60-second spot promoting proper use of "hello," "thank you," "good morning," and so on. Illustrated by a parade of pun-laden cartoon animals, it spawned a wealth of mashups, parodies and soundboards, remaining stuck in Japan's collective head as long as the earthquake itself.
posted by azuresunday (37 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Apologies if this has been posted already. Also, I'm sorry to our Japan-based users if you get this stuck in your head all over again.
posted by azuresunday at 12:13 PM on March 11, 2012


Did I just see an eel in blackface?

(I'm not daring to listen to the audio. Not after the Ponponpon Incident of 2010.)
posted by neckro23 at 12:18 PM on March 11, 2012


The common courtesy PSA would be lambasted in America as promoting sexism and ageism. Not in Japan. Which is one of the many reasons Japan rocks.

Even it is entirely superficiall - which I do not believe it is - the daily, common courtesy people extend to each other in Japan me feel more like a human being in Tokyo than anywhere else I've traveled.

10 years of recession and then this. How do they manage?

But the mashups, while being funny, seem to lack humor. Am I missing something?
posted by three blind mice at 12:26 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome. But why was the instant reaction to do the giant robot parody? I mean, why that in particular? Is it just random?
posted by cmoj at 12:35 PM on March 11, 2012


dear cmoj,

because japan

sincerely,

fuka

or in haiku format

they love giant robots
to fight or as props nearby
while they get it on
posted by Fuka at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The common courtesy PSA would be lambasted in America as promoting sexism and ageism.

Would it? In Montreal we have pre-literacy grade info-graphics reminding metro riders certain seats are offered in priority to people in infirm conditions: pregnant woman, somebody with a cane or someone in a cast, and outside of the lunatic fringe (the same people who freak about handicapped parking spots being a violation of their right to be spared long walks in parking lots) nobody bats an eye. And I'm quite sure we take sexism very seriously- this is the same municipality that did not tolerate a fairly recent spate of hyper sexist PETA ads.
posted by Phalene at 1:47 PM on March 11, 2012


What is "AC"? Is that a company in Japan? And if so, what business are they in?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:58 PM on March 11, 2012


AC = Ad Council. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Council_Japan
posted by plep at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aww, that first one about the courtesy was endearing but I can well imagine if a cutsie poo announcement were played thousands of times just after an insanely terrifying 9. earthquake and a monster tsunami destroyed a sizable chunk of the nation, that parodies expressing even a little of ptsd would be likely. My fave take is the hyper parody one.

Wonder if the calmingly silly commercials of Tommy Lee Jones drinking Boss coffee in a can were therapeutic post 3/11 Tohoku trauma?
posted by nickyskye at 2:05 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god, the cross-language puns! "Itadakimasu," bon appetit, turns into "itadakimouse," "itte kimasu," see you later, turns into "itte kimaskunk," etc.
posted by Nomyte at 2:13 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh man. The AC ads. I'm in Tokyo and was here last year for the quake. Those ads drove everyone crazy. No commercials except, like the OP said, about five to ten AC ads. More like five, IIRC.

The thing is I don't usually watch much TV, but we wanted to see news about what was happening as well as keep the TV on for quake warnings. And last spring and summer there was a metric shitload of quakes. (There's an automatic quake alert system that supersedes any TV or radio show, blaring out a harp-like chime telling of a quake that just happened nearby. It gives you 5 or 10 seconds warning, depending on how close the epicenter is.) So TV stays on, and those ads..."sear in memory" is a good verb.

I remember such relief and happiness when regular commercials gradually started playing again. Which is an odd thing to be happy about.
posted by zardoz at 2:35 PM on March 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


What a fantastic thing to post about. I've actually used "name five of those characters" as a quiz game trivia question here in Japan recently and it worked real well.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2012


The Good Morning Eel is my favorite.

AY SHEEE!
posted by gc at 2:56 PM on March 11, 2012


Why did commercials largely disappear from television? I don't understand. Where commercials considered gauche in the wake of the earthquake?
posted by m0nm0n at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2012


(I'm not daring to listen to the audio. Not after the Ponponpon Incident of 2010.)

I LOVE PONPONPON.
posted by Pendragon at 3:28 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


(but it was 2011).
posted by Pendragon at 3:36 PM on March 11, 2012


A skunk with a pink mowhawk farting?
posted by longsleeves at 3:48 PM on March 11, 2012


Oops, missed the explanatory link...carry on.
posted by m0nm0n at 4:09 PM on March 11, 2012


I'm curious why all ads were taken off of television. How long were they gone, and what was the reasoning?
posted by crunchland at 4:34 PM on March 11, 2012


I'm guessing it would just be unseemly to advertise at that time. I mean, look at all of the. "IF YOU'RE NOT A TERRORIST YOU'LL BUY THIS BEER!" type stuff we had (and still have) following 9/11. I wish we'd done the same thing.
posted by cmoj at 4:55 PM on March 11, 2012


I feel like this is the only post we should have about The Anniversary Of The Big Thing That Happened A Year Ago here on MeFi, though it's obviously already too late for that.

As a bit of anecdata, you know what group, in my experience, generally did NOT post to Facebook about the anniversary of the tsunami? JAPANESE PEOPLE
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:01 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome. But why was the instant reaction to do the giant robot parody? I mean, why that in particular? Is it just random?

Duh, because everyone digs giant robots. (bonus full song which I didn't even know existed until a minute ago)
posted by curious nu at 5:13 PM on March 11, 2012


do japanese people even use facebook
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:26 PM on March 11, 2012


i thought the big thing there was different, like Orkut in Brazil
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:39 PM on March 11, 2012


I'm curious why all ads were taken off of television. How long were they gone, and what was the reasoning?

Because they drove everyone nuts. And it was a really, really stressful time for everyone in eastern Japan, because those aftershocks (which is a bit of a misleading thing to call them, since they were often big goddamn quakes in their own right) were so constant, no one could sleep all that well, and the Fukushima disaster was a big question mark, even for those of us in Tokyo. Personally, I think it's a mild PTSD thing; if I see those ads again it would, at least subconsciously, though probably consciously, trigger the stress from that time. All those ads end with singers chiming "AY-CEE!", but in AC ads since, they've muted that chime.

Aside from that, imagine see the same 15- and 30-second spots, oh, about 100 times apiece. Maybe more than that. It was absurd. I think I memorized every single frame on each of those ads. Remember in the 80s when "We Are the World" or "I Will Always Love You" played on the radio over and over and over and after a while you decided you never wanted to hear those songs ever again? It's like that.
posted by zardoz at 5:39 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Zardoz: I think m0nmon et al were asking why regular commercials were taken off air, rather than why the PSAs were. But thanks for your thoughtful response! I too am wondering why the regular ads stopped showing for a while.
posted by Philby at 7:02 PM on March 11, 2012


I too am wondering why the regular ads stopped showing for a while.
posted by Philby at 7:02 PM on March 11 [+] [!]

Because when you watch videos of whole towns being swept away while people look on, watching and screaming and crying, if you're going to run out of food and gas and heating oil, while you wonder if the wind is going to carry fallout your way and if your water is radioactive or not, there's really no place for this for a while.
posted by gc at 7:14 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, I see. Yeah, I think it was largely because no advertisers or companies wanted to have their ads shown and the perception of said company be viewed as callous or cold. gc is totally correct: especially the wacky ads would've been way out of place at that time.
posted by zardoz at 7:23 PM on March 11, 2012


Yes, Japanese people use Facebook (as well as domestic site called Mixi), and many of my friends and former students posted about the anniversary.

As for the ads, god, the repitition, combined with the saccharine laden "AAAii-sheeeei" at the end were awful. They were pulled within a couple days, if I remember, no more than a week. They were replaced with ads with celebrities and similar messages, but no "AC" at the end. It was a relief. A minor relief, but every little bit helped.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:06 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh, okay. i thought it was pretty much only Mixi and Yahoo.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:22 PM on March 11, 2012


One of the main reasons they pulled commercials from TV after the earthquake, aside from questions of appropriateness, was simply that people had more important things to worry about. Most of the companies who would regularly air ads were severely affected by the disaster and were focusing on finding all their employees, damage control, repair of facilities, and so on. Queuing up new ads just wasn't a priority.
posted by azuresunday at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2012


Are commercials with people shooting bananas out of their noses common in Japan when there isn't a terrible calamity afoot?
posted by double block and bleed at 8:10 AM on March 12, 2012


And are they usually just 15 seconds long?
posted by crunchland at 8:13 AM on March 12, 2012


Somehow I'm guessing that just after the Big One hits California, we will not get this moratorium on advertising. Instead, since nobody will be able to get into the studio, we'll see wall-to-wall infomercials instead, programmed automagically when nobody's there, in the studio.
posted by Rash at 8:16 AM on March 12, 2012


As a bit of anecdata, you know what group, in my experience, generally did NOT post to Facebook about the anniversary of the tsunami? JAPANESE PEOPLE

None of my Japanese friends on Facebook did, although it might have something to do with the fact that most of them live in Kansai (although I do have a network in Tokyo, too).

We've had a lot of discussions on Facebook over the past year about radiation contamination and that sort of thing, so it's not as though the Triple Disaster is not on their minds. Perhaps it's because the whole experience, even for people in western Japan, was so horrible and terrifying and ongoing that an anniversary is really not enough time to process what happened and commemorate the events.

On the other hand, one of the attractions of Mixi and 2chan are that both allow and even encourage anonymous posting, while Facebook does not.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:14 PM on March 12, 2012


Are commercials with people shooting bananas out of their noses common in Japan when there isn't a terrible calamity afoot?

There is quite a niche in Japan for whimsy (that borders on WTF), but at the same time there's plenty of boring commercials out there trying to sell luxury sedans and securities to Baby Boomers. The Japanese sense of whimsy, and appreciation for the surreal is one of those things I like about the country. It's always a drag to board an Air Canada flight back to Vancouver, and be surrounded by the dull, packaged, glossy, hyper-corporate uncultured Tim Hortons/hockey-loving media of my home country.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:18 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, out here in Fukui they were showing those AC Konnichiwan etc. commercials for upwards of a month. It really did become something of a gallows humor thing at some point, because everyone here seems to recall those commercials with a sense of combined "wtf" and "yeah, those came after Something Bad" and so it seems that all that remained a viable option, in Japan, was to just be silly with this thing that suddenly the 99% of the population that had exposure to any TV, at any time of day, was intimately familiar with.

I loved the giant robot ones, though. The first time I saw one of those, I thought, "Everything is gonna be all right in the end."
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:02 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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