Although you may not have any Japanese language learning experience, try to understand what is happening in the following three TV commercials and their intended audience. Before you start viewing Japanese TV commercial, make sure that you read the following: Akiyama, Koji (2006). A Survey of Japanese TV Commercials in the Past Ten Years. Intercultural Communication Studies, XV-3. Retrieved from http://www.uri.edu/iaics/content/2006v15n3/06%20Koji%20Akiyama.pdf

Akiyama (2006) talks about 20 major features on of Japanese TV commercials. I only listed the top 5 here. Please read his article for the complete list.

  1. Smiling to express happiness and satisfaction by using the product or service (including Japanese smiling).
  2. Close-ups of women, especially those of actresses, singing idols, movie stars, TV talents frequently appear instead of informing about the content or effectiveness of the product.
  3. Gestures (emblems), which are originally Japanese or American, or both, often appear as effective means of communication. Proximity is also used for expressing emotional closeness.
  4. "Soft sell" approaches as opposed to "hard sell" commonly appear.
  5. Inconsistency between the visual image and the product or service.

Comparing these features of Japanese TV commercials with American equivalents, Akiyama (2006) summarized the following particular characteristics of Japanese advertising.

  • (I) Language only plays subsidiary role in communication. In other worlds, language is only a strand in the communication network.
  • (II) Commercial producers, sponsors, and the audience prefer the soft sell approach* (see the definition below). Nonverbal communication is frequently used and displayed on TV.
  • (Ill) The Japanese ethical system which values "harmony" and "modesty," frowns upon comparative or challenge advertising, though recently the circumstance has somewhat changed.
  • (IV) The commercials frequently employ foreigners as well as foreign languages, including nonsensical English and ungrammatical English for the purpose of creating an exotic mood or improving the image.

*According to Akiyama (2006), the "soft sell" approach is more common in Japanese commercials than the U.S. For Japanese people "tacit knowledge" and "high context dependence" are considered valued means of communication. Therefore, the names of products and services are often not repeated in Japanese advertisements. Instead, beautiful scenery and music, etc. are inserted in TV advertisements...

Akiyama (2006) states 20 recent features of Japanese TV commercial in his article. I selected relevant numbers to your online activities.

  • 1. Abundant broadcast of commercials related to consumer credit agencies, health insurance companies, and banking services. They explicitly inform people about the convenience and readiness of their services.
  • 5. Constant use of BGM (background music) in commercials. Popular songs and music are used for improving product image and familiarity.
  • 6. Advertising of alcoholic beverages like beer, sake, "shochu”, wine and whisky, etc. is abundantly broadcast and this trend has been increasing.
  • 20. The concept of "family" is often at the center of advertising; in summer they are enjoying a barbecue or beer party, and in winter they are eating pot-cooked dishes round the "kotatsu" (a Japanese electric foot warmer) or table.

Time to watch Japanese TV commercials! I chose three commercial that focus on family stories. You may not understand an entire story, but you can understand some elements by paying attention to the hints that I provided you. Wish you a success in understanding and predicting these three TV commercials!


Japanese Commercial 1

This TV commercial starts with the phrase "I want to eat your fried rice (with eggs, etc.)."
The additional vocabulary list: kekkonshiki (wedding); mikka mae (three days before)

Q 1. Watch the first Japanese Commercial. Match each of Japanese word with an English equivalent.

otoo-san: a. father b. mother c. son d. daughter
umai: a. happy b. unhappy c. tasty b. not tasty.
arigatoo: a. good-by b. hello c. thank you d. I love you


Japanese Commercial 2

This commercial has been particulary popular among men in their 40s and 50s in Japan.

Q 2. Watch the second Japanese Commercial. At the kitchen, her father said "Iyana yatsu nara nagutte yaruno ni na" means "I wish he were an unpleasant fellow. So I will give him a good thrashing." Can you interpret why he said that?

  • a. Her father is happy with her choice of her partner.
  • b. Her father is cynical about her choice of her partner.
  • c. Her father does not like the man, but because of his daughter, he approves of her choice.
  • d. Her father does not want his daughter to get married with the young man.


Japanese Commercial 3

Toki o koete kimi o aiseru ka hontou ni kimi o mamoreru ka
As time goes by, can I love you? Can I really protect you?

Sora o mite kangaeteta kimi no tame ni ima nani ga dekiru ka
As I looked up at the sky I thought, what can I do for you now?

Wasurenaide donna toki mo ( kitto soba ni iru kara )
Never forget, because no matter when, (I'll surely be beside you)

Q 3. Watch the third Japanese Commercial. Which one of the following companies made this commercial?

  • a. a public agency to promote a family tie.
  • b. a film company
  • c. a travel company
  • d. an insurance


Take foreign language classes if you want to understand a profound understanding of the intension of these commercials!


Why Learning a Foreign Language?

Watch the following videos made for high school students why foreign language learning is meaningful to them. The last one is a brief answer for why FL by the President of Thunderbird School of Global Management.


Why learning a foreign language Part 1


Why learning a foreign language Part 2


Why learning a foreign language Part 3


Why learning a foreign language Part 4


Why Study Languages? By Thunderbird


Q 1. Read the following statements and mark True or false.

(1) English is spoken appropriately 6 % or less as a primary language, and it is believe that 4/5 of population do not speak English. [True / False ]

(2) Many American high school students graduate from high school without learning a foreign language. [True / False ]

(3) Foreign language learning does not help increase academic achievement; however, it helps increase flexibility, creativity, and higher order thinking skills such as problem solving. [True / False ]

(4) Foreign Language learning is not wasting time because language learning allows people to create a global mind-set [True / False ]

Q 2. These are 10 reasons why you need to learn foreign languages by two characters in the video #1 - #5. Your task is to put the following 10 reasons in the order in which they appeared in the videos.

To communicate with people in their languages
To increase native language ability
To participate in a study abroad program
To appreciate art, literature, music, and film of the world
To improve a chance to getting into college and graduate school
To increase global understanding
To enhance one’s career perspective
To enhance cognitive and academic skills
To make travel more feasible and enjoyable
To understand oneself and one’s own culture


OPTIONAL: Career and foreign language learning

Let's search the most fascinating career using foreign language skills. One say that we do not have to learn the foreign language. Your task is to argue necessity of learning of foreign language from career perspectives. This is an optional activity, but you may find this helpful.