Photo: Twitter/@urushi_jpn

Death-preparedness awareness poster featuring comedian draws complaints

By SoraNews24

Poster design in Japan is a difficult art. With all the visual noise of billboards, vending machines, and guys dressed as bubble tea, it’s especially hard to make a sheet of paper stand out and get noticed. Some have succeeded, such as ones made by the Osaka police, but many have failed.

And occasionally, in an effort to get attention, these posters can go too far. Whether this latest public service announcement by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare did is currently a matter of debate.

The poster was created to raise awareness of Advanced Care Planning (ACP) which is essentially discussing and making preparations with loved ones in the event of your impending death. Everyone can agree that it is a crucially important thing to do, but people often ignore it until it is too late.

To help make the planning more palatable, the ministry has euphemistically nicknamed these discussions as “Life Meetings.” The name was chosen by a committee consisting of members such as comedian Kazutoyo Koyabu, who also lent his likeness to the promotional poster.

In the poster Koyabu plays a man about to die in a hospital and lamenting that it was not going the way he would have wanted. His thoughts are printed across the top in his characteristic Osaka dialect, which can often come across as blunt and overly casual compared to other forms of Japanese.

“Wait, wait wait, is this the end of my life? Ah, there’s some important things I didn’t say! That and my pops over there, doesn’t think I’m even conscious. I can hear him joking around with the person in the next bed, but he ain’t funny at all, man.

Ugh, this is embarrassing!

Rather than listen to dad blab on in the hospital, I’d reeeaaally rather have gone peacefully at home with my wife and kids. Awwww, I should have said so sooner.”

Afterward, the tagline reminds us all that “Before it comes to this, let’s have a Life Meeting,” and “When crisis comes, we can’t communicate our thoughts.”

It’s clear that this is an attempt to breach a very delicate topic with some light familial humor. But this combined with Koyabu’s goofy expression and mop-top hair might not hit the right notes with people who might be really involved in these kinds of situations.

There were certainly many people in Japan who felt that way and called for the poster’s removal. Twitter users, including many medical professionals, and others online came out against the ad.

“I always wonder why they don’t run these things by people who have actually dealt with this situation before making them public.”

“The government uses Yoshimoto [a comedy talent agency] way too much.”

“I wouldn’t even know if it was offensive because it’s too long to read.”

“That’s really inappropriate.”

“This poster seems like it was made by people who are not thinking about their own deaths.”

“It seems like its subtly threatening us to have ‘life meetings.'”

“It tried so hard to make an impact that it just ignored the feelings of people in this situation.”

On the other hand, some people online made the pragmatic counterargument that by being so controversial, it has excelled at its intended purpose of raising awareness for ACP. These supporters of the Koyabu poster argue that a tastefully made one would not have generated anywhere near the same buzz.

On Nov 26, the ministry suspended distribution of the 14,000 posters and other related campaigns until they consult terminal patients and health organizations. Ideally, they’ll be able to work up an ad that both respects those close to the issue and has a big enough emotional impact to reach far and wide those who have yet to face it.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Babymetal shows maturity as rude U.K. award presenter repeatedly interrupts speech 【Video】

-- “We’ve got nice breasts!” – Osaka’s eye-catching ads for chicken, pickles, and more

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

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

See absolutely nothing wrong with the ad, only those who nitpick everything Japanese do, will have an issue with this much needed awareness campaign.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

See absolutely nothing wrong with the ad, only those who nitpick everything Japanese do, will have an issue with this much needed awareness campaign.

I usually agree with your posts about anti-Japanese sentiment on this site, but I think you're missing the point here. Those negative comments quoted in the article are coming from Japanese people, not foreigners.

As far as the ad goes, though, I totally agree with it. My father died at the end of 2017, my mother-in-law at the end of 2018. My father absolutely refused to talk about the fact he was getting close to the end of his life, refused to do things that he should have done, and ended up dying in a hospital a long, long way from any of his children or grandchildren and with only the occasional visit from my mother (who was ill herself) when she was physically up to it. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, died at home with two of her children right there with her looking after her - still not an easy death, but absolutely the best that could have been managed. Unlike my father, she accepted the fact that she would die one day, and had taken the time to discuss with her family what she did and didn't want as she aged and became more ill.

I'm only a visitor to Japan, my knowledge of the Japanese language isn't sufficient to make any meaningful comment on the approach this ad takes or its effectiveness with the Japanese people. But I do know that 'discussing and making preparations with loved ones in the event of your impending death' is an extremely important thing to recognize the need for and to do, even if you might find it uncomfortable to start that discussion.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Denial of death is unhealthy. It's the last episode of life to be lived, which is an unsettling thought for many.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

my 87yo Japanese father in law becomes outraged when we ask to talk about things regarding his property etc after his death.

so we have absolutely no idea what he owns, what debts he may have, or what his wishes are post death - everything is a secret.

by him talking to us & explaining things would ease everyone’s anxiety & make things a lot easier when the time comes.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Japanese comedians are already used to sell everything under the sun- but this is a bit too far of a step from say, grape-flavored Fanta. Sometimes a little more discretion is needed.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

my 87yo Japanese father in law becomes outraged when we ask to talk about things regarding his property etc after his death.

so we have absolutely no idea what he owns, what debts he may have, or what his wishes are post death - everything is a secret.

We're in a similar position. I hear melodramatic words about my FiL's debts, seemingly being gamed as if banks are easily fooled, but he also has some valuable pieces of land. We have no idea how it balances out. Aside from my wife, the rest of them have dysfunctional relationships and barely talk to each other. I wouldn't be surprised if my father in law left everything to his son (who hates him) and left my mother in law destitute. We'd take her in, of course.

In many cases in Japan, the assets of an older person will have been originally inherited, so it is selfish of them to not pass them on properly.

I'm suspect there will be others in the same situation, but there is the risk that we are skimping on things while raising our kids, foregoing holidays etc. and will then get a chunk of money that dwarfs the savings we have made when they have already grown up. Our kids could have had more trips to see overseas family and more study and leisure opportunities, but we were too busy being (unnecessarily) careful with money. Financial planning with one eye closed.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

what are they complaining about? it wouldn't be necessary if they'd plan ahead

1 ( +1 / -0 )


I can agree that the ad doesn't really strike me as wrong. But when you're trying to get a serious point across, especially something personal, frightening, and heartbreaking to some as death, a comedian isn't someone I would choose to get the point across.

For America, it's like choosing Saturday Night Live (SNL) to bring awareness to serious matters.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The ideal way to "shuffle off this mortal coil" would be with a touch of humor "pour encourager les autres", but the reality is we can't always choose the circumstances prior to our departure. As some posters have indicated, though, earthly affairs ought to be settled in good time before the call, "it's a wrap".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Problems in a society where people don't communicate when they are alive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

oldman13: "See absolutely nothing wrong with the ad, only those who nitpick everything Japanese do, will have an issue with this much needed awareness campaign."

You're like Strangerland in yesterday's "miss period" badge article, saying that Japanese wouldn't or Don't usually have a problem with such things: the complaints in the article are from JAPANESE. I just find it hilarious that you guys literally JUMP on here as quick as you can to attack people in order to complain about... attacks (that have not yet happened, if they do at all), and Don't at all see the irony or hypocrisy.

But I will attack the designers of such posters, and similarly not well-thoughtout campaigns in general. THese guys honestly need to do some research and field testing before putting stuff out, be it a busty Young lady bending over with underwear showing to "Promote Shikoku" and pearl diving, a woman with wet lips erotically kissing a turtle's head, clearly meant to symbolize oral sex, doing black-face comedy routines, hiring smiling AKB members for posters on suicide prevention... you name it. It just beggars belief that they Don't think at all about the possible offense people will take (Japanese included, of course) or how inappropriate it is.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If the person has no Will, in Japan.... half of his assets will go to the spouse and the remainder would be evenly split between the children. That is the law in Japan. If spouse already passed.... all the assets would be evenly split. Again... this is in the case were there is no Will.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Personally I see the use of celebs in government campaigns as a waste of money, but I have to admit that I and the Japanese person complaining about the use of Yoshimoto are probably not the actual target of government campaigns.

It is perfectly possible that the target for the poster, i.e., someone who needs to be told to have a big conversation about last wishes with their family, is also someone more likely to take notice of a poster with a TV celeb. The same person might not pay a blind bit of notice if it were just a stock photo. Such is life in celeb-obsessed times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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