Cubs Asian Faux Pas?

24 01 2008

Cubs & Fukudome

Ignoring the incredibly stupid catch-phrase, this is offensive.  Maybe not so much to you… and honestly, not hugely so to me.
However, I recognise that this is something that’s going to offend one helluva lot of people in Asia.

Pretty much every culture has images that invoke shame, just ask Dave Seanor, the Rising Sun flag is one.  Chris Sprow over at Chicago Sports Weekly raises concerns, and at one blog reporting this – On 205th – a commenter questioned,

“how would you feel if the dallas mavericks advertised dirk with a nazi flag?”

Some of the responses declared it ridiculous to equate the Rising Sun to the Swastika.  It’s amazing that people with absolutely no idea as to how this would be received in Japan/Asia feel qualified to issue judgment as to how offensive it is.

“…to equate anything with the nazi flag is just an emotional appeal.”


“I would be shocked if anyone besides bloggers are “offended” by this image…”

Well, prepare to be shocked.
The ‘nazi flag’?  Actually, that’s a pretty accurate comparison.  Most people in Japan hold this particular symbol in the same regard as Germans hold the symbols of nazism.

Just recently, there was somewhat of a furor in the US over the use of a noose on the cover of Golfweek, covering the story over comments made by the incredibly insensitive Kelly Tilghman.  Whilst the intentions may not have been to cause anyone to be upset, the reality was that it did indeed offend a great deal of people.  The end result is that the editor in charge – Dave Seanor –  lost his job, and Golfweek received a lot of damaging press.  The similarities between these two promotions are there.  Within US culture, that’s a symbol that invokes very, very negative emotions.  The Rising Sun flag raises a lot of the same emotions within Asia.

Kousuke Fukudome…Obviously, the Cubs didn’t do their homework into how this would be received in Asia.  China and South Korea will find this very offensive, and in Japan it’s already being received with anger and disgust.  Fukudome’s an immensely popular player in Japan, and in particular in Nagoya, a large city that as yet has no particular ties to any baseball team in the Majors.  
Tokyo has Matsui, and it’s Tokyo Giants have strong ties to the Yankees. 
Hideki Okajima was born near Osaka. 
One of Nagoya’s favourite sons is Kousuke Fukudome… and they have… well, they had the Chicago Cubs.  At least for a little while.

It’s amazing that Chicago could make a faux pas of this magnitude.  Risking alienating a fanbase that you’ve only just attracted… it beggars belief.

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15 responses

24 01 2008
Frater Plotter

Dude, you’re wrong. That flag design is currently used by the Japanese Navy (JMSDF)! It is not considered offensive.

Keep in mind that Japan’s perception of its WWII history is VERY different from Germany’s. While there were shameful events in China (which are not very widely discussed) the Navy is regarded much more positively. Consider that one of the most famous Japanese anime in Japan is “Space Battleship Yamato” which is based on the idea of raising the WWII battleship, the Yamato, and turning it into a spaceship.

24 01 2008

Indeed, used by the Maritime SDF (they have no ‘navy’ per se).

But… Wiki? You’re using Wiki as a reference? Oh well… allow me to retort – utilising the same ‘source’ (using the term loosely):

“This flag is often considered offensive in countries which were victims of Japanese hostility, particularly China, Australia, United States and the Koreas, where it is seen as alarming, nationalistic and hostile.” (Wikipedia)

Fact is Frater, I live in Japan. My sources are discussions I’ve had with not only Japanese people here in Japan, but a few South Korean & Chinese friends too.
Simple truth: Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese people find it offensive.

24 01 2008

In the long list of Linguistic and cultural faux pas committed by American Business and our government (who can forget former President Carter’s translator telling a Polish audience how he “lusted” the people in Poland, instead of “Loved”), this episode by the Cubs is not suprising to me. Part of the problem, I think, is that rising sun graphic is very popular on a lot shirts for teenagers and such. It’s too bad the cubbies really stepped on it.

26 01 2008

Giving images and words this kind of power is absurd. If people can’t get over these things eventually everything will be offensive to someone and therefore off limits.

26 01 2008
Aaron Becker

Malice, do you remember or know about some vodka based mixed/bottled drinks down here? It actually has the Soviet hammer an sickle on the bottles! LOL I told my wife when I first saw them….”Yeah, that would go over real well back in the States” ;~)

>>Simple truth: Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese people find it offensive.<<

I bet they all find it offensive for very different reasons ;(

26 01 2008

Kind of all related to the same reason tho’ Aaron – the Japanese recognise that it’s offensive to other Asian nations…

26 01 2008

David – how did you relate to the noose put on the cover of Golfweek? Or the comments made by Kelly Tilghman?

27 01 2008

On the one hand, there is such a thing as political correctness run amok. It prevents any kind of intelligent conversation. Kelly Tilgman, at least apologized to Tiger, and Tiger was a big enough guy to know that it was a slip and accepted the apology(Black activists like Jim Brown have said Tiger was too easy on her and he should not have accepted the apology). Now what the editors at Golfweek did was take advantage of a volatile situation and put up a very inflammatory image. (The editor who allowed that cover shot got canned) Even for me, I have to admit that image on Golfweek was way, way over the edge.

Don, in Japan, have they sold Charles Barkley’s book “Who’s afraid of a Large Black Man?” My wife gave it to me as a gift for Christmas and I have to say, it is an excellent read. If you, or any other of your blog visitors want to read it, I would highly recommend it.

28 01 2008
Aaron Becker
28 01 2008

I don’t think the Cubs intentionally tried to offend anybody. They probably saw the Imperial flag somewhere and thought, “wow, that looks awesome,” and thought it’d go great with their new Japanese player. Doesn’t excuse anyone on the design team, though, and it’s terribly inappropriate. Just another case of

In Korea we have Nazi bars . . . bar/restaurants done up completely in a Nazi theme. Koreans have been heavily influenced by German ideas on race, and aren’t as repulsed by the symbols of National Socialism that most westerners are. When presented with complaints, you’ll find the owners reply with “I didn’t know” and “they dressed well.” Like using the Rising Sun flag for a baseball player, using the Blood Flag for a bar is a case of people just not getting it. Sad that few don’t study history anymore, and I was pretty surprised to see a few sports blogs pick up the story.

About the Nazi bars:

28 01 2008

“Just another case of ignorance regarding Asia and Asian history.” is how that should have read.

28 01 2008

@Steve – will check that book out (currently reading the Michael Palin Diaries)…

Aaron, yes, the Navy does use the flag – but even that’s a cause for consternation for most Japanese (add to that, most don’t even realise it’s still in use!)…
I agree Brian, I don’t think it was intentional, but it was a pretty big slip up on their part.

The picture of a ‘noose’ in golfweek was inflammatory, in the US. I can guarantee you that in most parts of the world it’s not viewed any where near as badly (tho’ most would recognise and understand why it’s viewed so in the US). But if you’re going to use an image, you’d better be aware of the ramifications.
The Cubs weren’t, and will probably pay the price in lack-of-support, should the use of this image become widely known in Japan.

1 02 2008


You don’t speak for the nation of Japan or for regular Japanese, so stop using the word “most” in your posts just because you’ve talked to a few of your friends. I was there last year visiting family, and I actually bought two of the naval flags–you can buy them everywhere. My extended family sure didn’t have a problem with it, and many of them lived through WWII. My mother, a native Japanese, sure didn’t have a problem with it, either. We’re talking four generations of Japanese. If I lived on a Native American reservation, would it be cool for me to state “Most Americans are ashamed of and offended by the American flag because it’s a symbol of tyranny and oppression”? That’s what my reference group might say, right? Find me a poll conducted in Japan about this flag or that Cubs ad, then post that instead.

The Nazi comparison, **flag-wise**, is silly. The swastika was adopted by the Nazis–it wasn’t an official German flag prior to or since that time. Of course it’s a symbol of all that they did during their time in power! The rising sun was the symbol of Japan well before the atrocities of WWII. The Italian flag example used elsewhere is right on; you don’t see people getting cranked up when they see that tricolor now, do you? Do you see their flag and think of Mussolini?

And anyone who invokes the “wikipedia?!” bit when someone quotes from it is just lame. Believe it or not, it *is* a legitimate source of information. Bad info sometimes? Sure. But you’ll find plenty of errors and misinformation in your high school history book, too.

It kills me how, in our blog-saturated world, the tiniest details become issues because we have time to pick those details to death. It’s a product of too much space on a webpage or too much time on a tv broadcast with not enough meaningful material. What was once a trivial detail or a minor story is now hyped, blown up, and dissected to the point of ridiculousness.

Of course, I have to admit that I like reading your blog, so keep it up!


1 02 2008

Sorry Dan, but it is ‘most’.
You wouldn’t need to interview every American to know that the noose on the cover of Golfweek was offensive to ‘most’. Have lived here for 10 years now, and I didn’t just ask a few friends (tho’ admittedly, a rather sampling of society if you compared it to an ‘official’ study).
The large part of the angst comes from perceived anger from the Koreas, and China…

And Wiki? Yes, it is relatively accurate, but given that over 75% of the input comes from North America it does have a certain bias.

6 05 2008

[rant] Its a dam flag, and its a dam ad :D, only thing is that the person(s) who came up with the add did not do enough research or they would find that some folks might find it offensive.
if “most” Japanese find the flag offensive then i don’t think the self-defense forces(ground, naval, air?) would use it.

I can understand if folks that lived true the wars and other travesties that the Japanese have committed might find the flag offensive, since a flag is the symbol that the troops carry into battle etc, and hence the Japanese people might empathies with the people they have oppressed and killed, or feel a shame because the rising sun flag represents the Japanese empire, after WWII japan was taken over by the US and even tho they are now independent they still bound to the Constitution that the US set up before leaving, the Japanese empire was crushed and is now sort of a lap dog for the us(not really but you get my point i hope)
so many Japanese people might have some negative feelings to the flag, and so forth using the flag in a ad might not be the smartest move in the world,

But comparing the flag to the swastika is way over kill.
to compare it with the swastika might seem good, since both where used during the same time, tragic things where done under both flags shadow, but the swastika was taken up as a symbol for Nazism and had never been used before in Germany, the rising sun flag had for a long time been a symbol in japan before and after WWII, both good and bad things have been done under its shadow but people mainly remember the bad.

a flag is still only a symbol, a symbol for a country, for a state, for a branch of the military etc, its never a flag that kills or tortures people, but because people do bad things wile “holding” the flag people project bad emotions to the memory of the flag. For example in my home country(Sweden) the Nazis use the Swedish flag as a symbol, and hence to have a Swedish flag or use a t-shirt with the flag on it is often socially not accepted, because the Swedish nazis use it as a symbol. its happened a few times that school kids have been sent home because they had a t-shirt with the Swedish flag on them, and the reason most often stated is that it might be offensive to other kids. in some parts of the country its more then others of course.

Dam this became a rant, and it probably do not make much sense, if anyone read it all 😀 GJ, what i basically wanted to say is, a ad is a ad and a flag is a flag, if you find it offensive don’t look at it.
and if the Cubs want to use it, its there problems. its there right
if you have a reason for using a symbol or flag use it, don’t let other peoples ideas about what the symbol stands for be in your way, for example is not the swastika very much like the Sun cross or what is called in japan that is a symbol for luck(x-files is the source of this so im not 100% sure 😀 ) just that its mirrored. [/rant]

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