Culture

Japanese Commercials Are Weird, But Man Are They Good!

| Image credit: Georges Seguin (Okki) |

How many of you like to watch commercials? None of you? Me neither, unless it happens to be for a video game I’m currently interested in. Those commercials are rare to say the least. But the other day I was on YouTube and found a channel of just Japanese Commercials!

I was like, what the heck? Let’s check them out and see if the are any good.

Needless to say that I was pretty blown away at just how ridiculous and amazing they are!

Here are the biggest things I noticed when watching Japanese commercials and why you might want to start doing so as well:

What Are The Things That Stand Out The Most in Japanese Commercials?

The obvious answer is just how crazy and imaginative the Japanese people can be!

In America, the commercials are usually pretty boring and, in my opinion, really dumb. Of course the purpose of advertising is to make people excited to buy the product, but most of the time I’m just like, “I’m not going to buy it since this commercial was so annoying!”

But with Japanese commercials, it’s almost like the exact opposite! I found myself laughing constantly at the scenes and situations that the actors regularly found themselves in.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch this?

The channel I follow on YouTube likes to have short videos under ten minutes of just Japanese commercials. Since each ad is only about 30 seconds long, you get to see quite a few of them.

After about twenty minutes of watching, I started noticing some common themes among them.

There’s Lots of English!

The primary language in the commercials is Japanese, of course. But I was surprised at just how often you see English words on the screen, and how frequently you hear English dialog.

It kind of gives the impression that Japan is a bi-lingual nation where everyone speaks both Japanese and English with regularity.

But the fact is that, even though English is studied a lot in Japanese schools, most Japanese people aren’t really at a proficient level with the language.

It’s kind of like how most people in America know “a little Spanish” but can’t really have a conversation in it.

I know that English has a “cool” factor within the Japanese culture, so perhaps that’s why you see it so much in the ads.

A Lot of Celebrities Play Surprizing Roles!

I saw Jean Reno dressed up as Doraemon for a car commercial.

I saw Bruce Willis chillin’ out with a normal Japanese family, eating dinner with them and speaking Japanese.

And yes, I’ve even seen Justin Bieber crusin’ down the halls of a Japanese high school, and getting everyone excited.

Who knows? Perhaps you haven’t “made it” as an actor until you get a Japanese commercial deal!

I think my favorite part is when they speak Japanese and you get to hear how well (or terrible) they pronounce it.

And it’s always pretty interesting to see someone who is normally pretty serious in American commercials, appear as a wacky character in Japanese ones.

There’s Lots of Video Game & Anime Commercials!

Maybe this is one of the reasons I now prefer Japanese commercials over American ones.

When I’m watching TV in America, I see an advertisement for a car or a truck every few minutes. Then I see people talking about all their health problems. Then it’s lots of lame pitchs for cleaning supplies.

Talk about boring.

But the Japanese commercials I watched were for lots of PlayStation games, mobile games, anime movies and shows, and then of course more regular type commercials like phone providers and popular music artists.

But overall, the things that are shown in Japanese commercials are things I am way more likely to buy anyway, so I had fun while watching them.

Plus I get the feeling that the actors who do these Japanese commercials have a lot more fun making them, as compared to the ones I see in America.

They Love the Akita Breed of Dogs!

Image credit: 掬茶

There were a ton, and I mean A TON, of commercials with a dog of the Akita persuasion.

Perhaps this has to do with ハチ公物語 or “The Tale of Hachiko” who was an Akita-breed dog who returned to the station in Shibuya every day for 10 years to wait for his master, even after the owner had actually passed away.

There’s a lot of loyalty associated with 秋田犬 (akita ken) dogs due to this well known, and beloved story.

But you’d think that they were the only dogs that exist in Japan from these commercials!
Get ready to see this guy’s face a lot and listen to him speaking in Japanese.

Yes, Japanese dogs can speak human language. Duh.

It is Incredibly Entertaining, Even When You’re Not Sure What the Heck is Going On!

These commercials come at you fast. There are many times when the Japanese dialog is spoken at a rate that would make newbie students run away in fear.

If you’re not super fast at Japanese yet, then it can be hard to keep up sometimes.

Thankfully, you don’t really have to be able to comprehend the dialog in order to still really enjoy the commercials.

I wouldn’t necessarily use Japanese commercials as a core method for learning the language, but it is certainly a fun way to play with the language, learn a little more about the culture of Japan, and get some nihongo in your ears in a more immersive manner.

Where Can You Watch Great Japanese Commercials?

The obvious answer is YouTube.

There are lots of different channels you can subscribe to in order to get a constant supply of funny commercials, but I only really watch the stuff from JPCMHD ツ since it’s consistently high quality video and audio, and new stuff comes out on a regular basis.

I probably watch a couple videos per week whenever I’m looking for a laugh, or I’m board but still want to do something in Japanese.

Check it out for yourself sometime!

Are there any Japanese commercials that you think are super funny? Were you ever surprised to see a certain celebrity in a Japanese commercial?

Let me know with a comment below!

4 Comments

  • Genna

    I had a really good laugh with myself after reading this page and it really opened my eyes to our boring mediocre american ways…Japanese commercials are so much more interesting to watch because you are trying to figure out what they are saying and what it is they are promoting all while having a laugh at the comedy attached to it. I might have found some late night Youtube videos to watch , THANKS 😀

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, perhaps they just seem extra awesome since it’s not something that we’re exposed to all that often. I imagine that the Japanese people who grew up on them don’t fund them quite as hilarious as we do.

      But even after watching quite a few of them myself, I still crack up at the vast majority of them!

  • Dr. Doug

    Such an interesting topic, not one I would ever think of but its so interesting to learn about. With the commercial you included I really had no idea what the deal was between the boy and the dog. At first I didnt even know it was a dog cuz there was another dog that didnt walk upright. So as you mention, hard to tell what is even going on, but they are more interesting than our ads even if you are clued out. I guess that’s saying a lot!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I died laughing on that one when the two dogs started fighting one another, but you could totally tell that one was a guy in a giant dog suit, and the other was literally a dog doll on a stick!

      For whatever reason, the fact that they didn’t even try to hide the fake fight as such, just made it ten times better!

      Watching Japanese commercials is probably a weird hobby, but it’s whatever lol!

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