Do As You Are Told

The other day we went to the new Uniqlo store that recently opened in Ginza. I know what you are thinking – ‘Yeah and I went to Primark the other day to buy a few pairs of socks, but I’m not blogging about it’. That’s true, pickings are pretty slim at the moment, but the store in question is the flagship store and has 12 floors. Yes that’s right, 12 floors of clothes!

I had to find these pictures from other sources, as I’m not even sure if photographs are permitted in the store. You may think that is strange, but I actually saw a ‘No photography’ sign in our local supermarket the other day, which is a shame as I really wanted to do a shoot with that sexy little tin of mandarin segments I saw strutting its stuff.

I’ve been noticing recently that Japanese advertising is a little immature. I don’t mean that there are a lot of fart jokes or old people falling over, but the techniques used seem a little dated. I used to think that the Japanese companies were geniuses of advertising, mainly due to the public’s love of the established brand and the new product. Now, I just think that the population is much more eager to listen to the manufactured messages being put across – they haven’t adopted any of the Western cynicism towards advertising.

Adverts usually follow two patterns, these being either: (i) A celebrity is sitting with his/her family and they all sigh with delight after trying a new product (ii) A celebrity saunters around looking cool in the general vicinity of the product. You can probably tell from these two examples that celebrity endorsement is a huge deal in Japan. The strange thing is that they only seem to select five or six celebrities for the entirety of all Japanese products. Representing the men we have: Ichiro (this suave git is everywhere), that famous golf guy, Ken Watanabe, some drama actor (try watching K/J-drama, the dramatic expressions are priceless) dude whose smile gives me nightmares and recently Beat Takeshi (although his comments comparing homosexual coupling to bestiality may have damaged his public image somewhat). Representing the girls we have AKB48.
No really, that’s it.

The general message is this: If you don’t buy this product no one will like you. You will be a social outcast and your boyfriend/girlfriend (should you be fortunate enough to have one, you human filth) will leave you. Your dog will die and you will have to eat him. Twisted with self loathing, you will perish on the street on a cold, lonely winter’s night. And all you had to do was buy the new model of your mobile phone!

This experience is my own, and probably different for each instructor.

I wanted to say a few more things about Gaba, and why the method of organisation makes it tough for the instructors. Gaba, like many Japanese companies, is 100% behind the customers. The staff are there for this purpose and, if they know what is good from them, will quietly get on with it. This is even more the case at Gaba, where a traditional contract is replaced with an ‘Itaku’ one. In essence – We have total flexibility over our schedules but have no guarantee of hours, benefits, holiday leave or sick pay. we are contractors, pure and simple. At the end of the month we submit our invoices and are paid for anything we have worked. I am totally fine with this, it’s what I signed up for after all.

The problems arise later. As the clients book the instructors at their whim, it’s extremely important to make a good impression in order to get re-bookings. Just a seedy side note here – I have talked to a few middle-aged men who attend Gaba, who seemed unusually pre-occupied with the beauty of their female instructor. So attractive women can rely on those types of booking at least (if they want them). Those of us with the other type of genitals have to focus on the rest (it’s my experience that many of the female students prefer to be taught by women also). With so many people fighting over the scraps, the outcome is inevitable. Firstly, instructors starting at smaller centres are not made to feel particularly welcome by the existing instructors and, secondly, some of the instructors are unbearably sycophantic to their clients in order to try and get them to return. I’ve heard: “The pleasure was all mine”, “I really hope to see you again soon”, “I’d really like to hear what you have to say about X the next time we meet” and “Has anyone ever told you how beautiful your eyes are?”
Ok the last one was made up.

Given my personality, I sometimes step back from what I am doing and think ‘how the hell did I end up here?’ I struggle to feign enthusiasm, hate being disingenuous for little gain, and my tongue curls when I say anything even remotely sentimental or sycophantic. My younger self would be in hysterics.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I feel better now.




8 thoughts on “Do As You Are Told

  1. Wow, you make it sound like you’re a kind of English language-whore, trying to snare punters with a dirty reputation as oposed to the good looks of your colleagues! Don’t worry about your younger self sneering at you; if he was like my younger self he’s probably a bit of a dick, and he doesn’t get to live in Tokyo 🙂

    • Good call on the younger self – he was a complete tool. Hey, don’t get me wrong – I’ve got the good looks too 🙂

      Either way, it’s certainly an interesting system. I’m not going to say how accurate your analogy is (for fear of being beaten up by one of the pimps).

  2. I suppose I could understand the Japanese acceptance of advertising as being cultural given their focus on social harmony. Speaking as an American, I know we’re more individualistic, so we can afford to be more cynical and thus harder to grab with the right ads.

    • Yeah I see your point. The group mentality is a little disturbing for someone like me who likes their own space and quirks.

  3. I also visited the Uniqlo in Ginza. It’s really impressive! And the T-shirts are nice. Regarding advertisement in Japan I completely agree. And what’s all that about cute animals and cartoon figures on all the printed ads?

    • You have pointed out a glaring omission there actually. The cute animals are everywhere, even on warning signs. I’ve lost count of how many adverts I have seen with the Softbank dog now. Although, he is pretty cute.

  4. Have you also noticed that when they are advertising a brand that is non-Japanese, they usually don’t even mention the brand name. (Especially for Samsung cell phone XDD)

    Hey, if looks sell for more bookings, I think its time to dress up, put on hair gel, and use your western charm =DDD jk jk ~ My guy friend came to Japan 5 months ago. Since he had “good looks” he got on TV, and also a part time job as an English teacher while still in student status.

    • If you got ’em, may as well use ’em. I’m not really bitter about that sort of thing, I just observed that that was the pattern for women. I actually met a guy who used to be a model on my training. His picture on the system is worthy of Vogue magazine (Lips pursed, eyes slightly squinted). I struggle to keep a straight face whenever I see it.

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