Turns out the controversial posters aren’t quite as nationalistic as their creators likely intended them to be.
Recently, a bit of controversy erupted on Twitter in Japan over a mysterious poster that witnesses reported seeing at various spots in the city of Kyoto. On the poster, large text announces “I’m glad I’m Japanese,” next to a partial recreation of the Japanese flag and a mostly black-and-white image of a smiling woman whose girlishly blushing cheek provides another visual metaphor for the flag,
“Let’s raise the Hinomaru [Japanese flag] with pride in our hearts,” the poster implores. Many Japanese online commenters, however, instead felt a mixture of embarrassment and exasperation. To them, the poster, which makes no mention of who created it and is apropos of no international event or competition, is needlessly nationalistic/ethnocentric posturing, and a poor message to broadcast in a city that’s often one of the very first places the people from the rest of the world visit when travelling in Japan.
CYPHER (@hanenohaetashra) April 27, 2017
Yet it turns out that for all of its native pride, the poster actually a fine example of internationalism, though likely not on purpose. As mentioned, the poster contains the image of a smiling young women. With her lustrous jet-black hair, perfect teeth, and unblemished skin, the poster’s creators no doubt felt that her aura of humble vitality and healthy purity were the perfect visual metaphor for admirable traits of the Japanese people.
Except…that woman isn’t Japanese.
The woman’s photograph has been traced to Getty Images, where it’s credited to photographer Lane Oatey and listed as being “Produced in Beijng, China.” Of course, photography is a very globalized business, as evidenced by the non-Chinese-named Oatey working in Beijing. So is it possible that while the photo was taken in China, the model herself is Japanese?
Nope, because in looking through the image’s keywords, you’ll find “Chinese Ethnicity.” Even on the Japanese-language version of Getty Images, the keyword list includes 中国人, or “Chinese person.”
Given the poster’s use of the word “I” in declaring “I’m glad I’m Japanese,” it’s clearly presenting it as being the woman’s sentiment, so the poster’s makers either didn’t bother to read through the keywords or lifted the image from somewhere other than Getty. Either way, in their rush to trumpet their pride in being Japanese, they’ve ended up showing their admiration for the beauty of a Chinese woman at the same time.