Take our user survey and make your voice heard.

Train company under fire for ad saying defenselessness is a form of femininity

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Since 1908, rail operator Nishi-Nippon Railroad (not to be confused with West Japan Railway/JR West) has been proudly serving Fukuoka Prefecture. A recent promotion by the company, however, has been criticized as sending a shamefully reprehensible message.

To celebrate the 110th anniversary of the company’s founding, Nishi-Nippon Railroad has been putting up commemorative posters inside some of its trains, one of which looked like this.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 8.16.00.png
Image: Livedoor News

The prominent American flag on the girl’s T-shirt is a bit of a head-scratcher, since Nishi-Nippon Railroad is a regional Japanese company, but that’s more of an unusual element than an offensive one. What’s got critics upset, though, is the poster’s text, which reads: “We think defenselessness is also a form of femininity.”

With femininity widely seen as an aspirational quality both for and by Japanese women, detractors argue that the poster is promoting defenselessness, and thus vulnerability, as a desirable, attractive quality in a woman. The associated image of a child, who would indeed be defenseless against adult antagonists, and the alluded connection to her femininity/attractiveness, was seen as over the line by many, who contacted Nishi-Nippon Railroad’s customer service line to voice their complaints.

Among those who takes issue with the poster is Momoe Waguri, an associate professor at Fukuoka Women’s University. “I take the poster’s message as being that being defenseless gives a woman worth,” she said. “In this era where there are crimes in which young girls are the victims, and woman are coming forward to speak about being sexually assaulted, I can’t believe the posters’ creators would choose such words.”

Nishi-Nippon Railroad has since issued an apology, while also trying to clarify its original intent. “We wanted to convey the idea that the natural innocence of children is a kind of femininity,” the company said in a statement. The Japanese term used in the poster, muboubi, does translate literally as “defenseless,” but it can also be used by doting parents affectionately talking about their children’s unguarded, childlike characteristics (such as a rambunctious kid finally settling down for an afternoon nap and dozing like a baby).

“However,” Nishi-Nippon Railroad’s statement continues, “the resulting message was inappropriate,” and as of June 14, the controversial posters, which had been on display since May 25, have been removed.

Source: Nishi Nippon Shimbun via Jin, Livedoor News/Asashi Shimbun Digital

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japan’s latest luxury train is a stylish cafe on rails with hundred-year-old craftsmanship

-- “I’m glad I’m Japanese” posters in Kyoto spark outrage among Japanese Twitter users

-- Japanese politician apologizes for saying serial killer was “heavily influenced by anime”

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Sadly, the ad's approach to femininity is no surprise to me. But what I can't get is why NNR thought the ad needed to be published in the first place. Ads on trains are used to promote products and services to a captive and likely bored audience, not to spread the train company's reductionist social philosophies. Nobody cares that your train hit a round-number birthday, we just want to get to work and get home smoothly.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

But in Japan , sadly, it is.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What Katsu said. Whether their intended meaning was defenselessness or innocence, what on earth does a train company's commemorative anniversary have to do with femininity.

For McDonald's 70th anniversary, let us share an ad about sociopathy. About as relevant.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I have to say, I don't find it surprising that the guy who said this:

Lighten up folks, it's just an ad.

If women truly were strong, they wouldn't get offended by this.

Also said this:

Male-female relationships are becoming toxic and dysfunctional. The only people in the game are the players, the honest down-to-earth guys are calling it quits with real women and turning to porn.

Gee, I wonder why you would think that relationships are toxic and dysfunctional.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Momoe Waguri, an associate professor, has way too much time on her hands. Maybe she should conduct more research and make fewer comments which don't serve any useful purpose.

-11 ( +3 / -14 )

I'd say it was very effective. It got people thinking about the situation, didn't it?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"Women! Be defenseless!" signed your local train company, reliably and dependably serving you for 110 years.

If they have enough money to celebrate meaningless anniversaries like 110 years, perhaps they should lower their fares. Or pay their female staff more.

Why anyone would add ryoku to muboubi and then limit it to girls beats me. Defenseless babies may have some charm, but why would you say that about women?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

There are no words. Attitudes towards women here are unhinged.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

American flag? So if somethings goes south, they can blame the foreigners?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Silly train company.

Don't they know that women only play the "defenseless, fragile, victim" once they get caught doing something wrong and try to elicit sympathy so that they get let off with a slap on the wrist instead of jail time?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Gee, people never seem to get this upset over the misandrist, anti-male and male-bashing adverts over in the West, esp in FEMerica.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

There are no words. Attitudes towards women here are unhinged.

Indeed but judging by some of the subsequent comments, it must be catching.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Admittedly the ad is a bit perplexing, but to get one's knickers in a knot about it.... But I guess there's a certain brand of human, all too frequently of an academic bent it seems, looking for something to get offended about.

Anyone willing to wager a friendly JT bet that Ms Waguri isn't an associate professor in a STEM field?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Gee, people never seem to get this upset over the misandrist, anti-male and male-bashing adverts over in the West, esp in FEMerica.

Are you kidding? What do you think the Trump movement is about? Straight white males are upset and offended about about the imagined and inflated "misandrist, anti-male and male-bashing adverts" in their over-sensitive heads (you forgot man-hating btw). Just the idea that the unfair privilege they've always held might be distributed more equally among other groups has got them up in arms.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

If women truly were strong, they wouldn't get offended by this.

So you are saying women are weak?

Gee, I wonder why they get mad about this stuff.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

but, what does that and the worlds most aggressor country flag has to do with trains..?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What are you implying, BB?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Burning BushToday  11:39 am JST

The irony is, whoever gets "offended" by this ad are actually weak.

LOL, why don't you test this theory in a biker bar by mouthing off to the biggest, most violent-looking person you can find there? We'd love to know how it went. Post pictures too plz.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Gee, I wonder why they get mad about this stuff.

Because they are weak.

"Obviously you missed the whole point of that story, Brian."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

That is not an American Flag. The American Flag has 50 stars. So, let's rewrite this article. ne.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Maybe it’s a subtle political statement and that’s why the stylized US flag is there. The political statement being either 1) Japan should embrace the US presence in Asia because Japan is delicate and feminine and defenseless or 2) Japan is not those things and should prove it by shrugging off the US defense cloak. Although I suspect neither and it’s just saying defenseless women are oh so cute and we don’t understand why anyone would take offense to that.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The irony being, one of the biggest stereotypes about Asian/Japanese women that appeals to many foreigners, is the perception that they are vulnerable, 'weak.' and submissive, as compared to headstrong and feminist women.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I don't like self-congratulatory ads by companies to mark anniversaries no-one but them cares about. Spend the money on improving the service!

Having said that, I don't see anything wrong with the message. A woman who is vulnerable makes you want to put a protective arm around her. Of course it more feminine and appealing than some loud, aggressive, pain-in-the-ar$e woman. Remember that in Christian wedding vows men pledge to "protect" their wife, while she pledges to "obey" him - at least, traditional couples do - so this is a universal perception of the different roles of the different sexes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


Protect? Surely it’s love and cherish. Traditionally, at least.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

While the message may be strange, I'm not sure "femininity" is the correct translation. Isn't "female strength" more accurate? Or am I just out of date with my understanding of the word "femininity"?

That is not an American Flag.

I think it was a version used in 1777. Any symbolic meaning?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Because they are weak.

If they called me weak, I'd laugh it off, because I'm strong.

The fact that they take offence, proves that they are weak.

"...I'm strong" says the incel hiding behind an anonymous profile on the Internet but OK.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Take it like a man, stand tall and ignore it.

Umm..you do get it that women are not men? Why would they "take it like a man"?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I wouldn,'t mouth off to any human in a bar, as that would make them indignant, and rightfully so.

Why not? You're tough. According to you, if they were tough, they wouldn't care. If they got indignant, that would make them weak, right?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites