Japan Is Awesome – Usually

Japan is awesome. I’ve written a couple of posts about my adopted home. While there are more than a few examples of great innovations, I’ve also written about how Japan has mangled the English language. Maybe I shouldn’t say “mangle.” In the end, words are imported. And when they are imported, they transform and take on new meaning.

Sometimes, however, Japanese companies just pick the wrong English
word for a product. Back in the late 90’s, I was living in Tokyo and I attended a talk given by a marketing manager sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce. The woman who gave the talk told us about a Japanese electronics manufacturer that wanted to market an Internet-enabled TV. They’d spent a ton of cash to use Woody the Woodpecker as a mascot. The tag-line they wanted to use was-I kid you not-

“Touch your woody, the internet pecker.”

This was over twenty five years ago. I can’t tell you the name of the speaker, or the company involved, but I swear to you, the story is true.

As further proof that Japanese companies make mistakes in product naming, here is a photo of a urinal. Not the most interesting thing to be seeing, I know, but look at the name of it, “Delicia.” Who on this good earth thought it would be good to name a urinal “Delicia?” Especially since “delicious” is an English word that every Japanese person who has graduated middle school knows.

Japan is truly awesome, but someone in marketing at Toto should have spotted this.


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