To many Americans, Japanese television has a reputation for being free of the ludicrous broadcast restrictions of American television, thanks in part to violent/sexually explicit anime and shows like “Banzai!” and “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge” (and not to mention the infamous “Chris Farley on a Japanese game show” sketch from Saturday Night Live).
However, one should not be misled. While Japanese and American mores differ (e.g.: talking about/depicting excrement is not nearly as taboo as it is in America), Japanese television, just like its counterparts in the United States and elsewhere, has a myriad of groups influencing programming choices, including pressure groups, politicians, and (most importantly) sponsors. The various pressures exerting on television in Japan have produced a regime of voluntary censorship. A list of “forbidden words” can be found here.
It is with that in mind that I present to you a report on the puzzling remarks of famous Japanese TV host Minomonta (host of the Japanese version of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” among many other things):
Minomonta’s painful misstatement—Sponsors furious, drop their support
“If you want a good digestive medicine I suggest you drink beer instead.”
Beer-loving Mino-san, who has appeared in beer commercials, lets his true thoughts slip out
It was found on June 23 that sponsors of TBS’ “Minomonta’s Morning Thwack!” (tr: My creative translation) pulled out of the show after host Minomonta (60), one of Japan’s most famous, made a grievously bad statement during the June 3 live broadcast.
The slip of the tongue occurred while discussing the article “A Doctor-Invented ‘Healthy’ Beer Garden” during a segment reviewing the day’s newspapers.
In a back-and-forth with a female announcer, Mino-san made one of his usual health-related comments, “The yeast in beer improves your immune system.” He then admitted to viewers that every morning he drinks a 50-50 mixture of beer and tomato juice every morning to stay healthy.
That by itself would have been fine, but Mino-san went on: “Everyone, you’re drinking that digestive drink, Biofermine, aren’t you? If so you should really just drink beer!”
Unfortunately, he was too late in realizing that, in fact, Biofermine (Headquartered in Kobe) is a sponsor of the show!
A frantic TBS apologized on the air 3 days later and even put apologies and corrections on its homepage: “Comparing beer, a luxury product, and drugs or quasi-drugs is a ridiculous proposition,” “(the concept of a beer health drink is) a mistake not based on the facts,” and “We are truly sorry.”
But eventually, they said, the company saw the statement as a problem and pulled their support on June 8.
On weekdays, Minomonta currently serves as host of both “Morning Thwack!” from 5am, and Nippon TV’s “Omoikkiri TV” from noon.
Since health-related comments on TV can have a profound effect on the sales of fruits, vegetables, and supplements, the sponsor simply could not let the comment slide.
Comment: Likely due to aggressive marketing, consumers in Japan are obsessed with healthy eating and the homeopathic effects of foods they eat. So in that context it is somewhat easier to understand Mino-san’s unpalatable choice of health drink and also the sponsor’s stern reaction to the misstatement. Thanks for letting me share!