Sayonara, Yokoso Japan

The Japanese government has announced a new international tourism slogan:

Japan. Endless Discovery.

Great, at least this time it’s in English! It’s similar to many other simple catch phrases used by other countries: “Malaysia, truly Asia,” “Seoul’s got Soul,” and so on. The Japanese-language slogan is more of more of a mouthful and literally translates as “Japan, a country where you will encounter endless discovery.” There’s also a new logo with a stylish but classy combo of cherry blossoms and the Japanese Rising Sun.

I like “Endless Discovery” because it has a message that happens to be true. As a foreigner living in Japan most days there’s something new to discover. This message could help put new visitors in the right frame of mind to enjoy themselves. Japan’s not a country like Thailand where you can head straight to the resort and not worry about foreign customs. It’s an adventure in many respects – new food, few English speakers, complicated train system, etc. (and the area outside of Tokyo is even harder to navigate), so why not put a positive face on what Japan’s got to offer?

I’d like to give Maehara and his people some credit for picking a slogan that actually makes sense. It’s comforting to think the people in power might actually understand the outside world a little bit. It’s one big, noticeable difference between the parties.

This will replace the old slogan Yokoso! Japan, announced in 2003 to much confusion by most people who had no idea yokoso means “welcome” in Japanese. Well-known Japan commentator Alex Kerr was especially critical, saying it might as well be “blah blah blah Japan.” It’s been a favorite target of mockery among many in the gaijin community and can currently be seen on taxis, buses, posters, and even transport minister Maehara’s lapel pin. You’ll be missed! The “Visit Japan Campaign 2010” site is still up, so you can soak up some of the goodness before it closes. There’s other questionable language on the site, like “Yokoso Bazar” and “Revalue Nippon.”

Perhaps the best promotion in the campaign was this ad by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi:

“We will welcome you with a hearty Yokoso and smiiiile.”

I’ll never understand why that didn’t work.

So farewell, Yokoso Japan! You will soon be yet another relic of the past, just like those Tokyo Olympic 2016 ads and the wanted posters for Lindsey Ann Hawker’s killer.


Just as a bit of speculation, some of you might remember that the DPJ has relied on  American firms for PR (Fleishman-Hillard in 2005 and possibly today), while the LDP and bureaucracy often relied on domestic firms (Prap Japan in 2005, ad giant Dentsu in 2009). Could that have had made a difference?

BREAKING NEWS: Debito to quit activism

The Japan Times, April 1, 2010

(Sapporo) April 1: Activist Debito Arudou announced in a press conference today that he will be hanging up his gloves and quitting activism.

“It sucks to support the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Debito was quoted as saying. “I’m tired of being a poor, huddling mass breathing for free.”

Debito claimed dire poverty. “Money (that’s what I want),” he said, citing the Beatles.

“From now on, I’m going to be a Japanese government shill, representing our incorruptible, self-sacrificing, and endearing bureaucrats as a bridge to explain our country’s noble and altruistic motives to the rest of the world. We are unique, after all. That line pays better.”

Clutching two burlap bags with dollar signs on them, he said, “Pay me in yen next time.”

When asked if this was not a departure from the standard Debito Doctrine, Debito said, “I’m a Japanese citizen now, so call me by my last name with a -san attached! Or I’ll sue you.”

Debito refrained from further comment, except to say, “Kora! I thought I just told you to call me ‘Arudou-san’!”