I’ve seen what I think must be the most offensive advertisement ever.

So congratulations to ECC for their new campaign. I’ll try to snap some pictures later, or swipe one of the posters out of the train carriage and scan it, but for now, here’s a description.

ECC is one of the English conversation factories that abound here in Japan, which are alleged by some people to rip off their students and abuse their employees. The title of the advert is, approximately, “How close to a native speaker [of English] can I get in three months?”

The advert has three profile views of a cartoon student at one, two and three months respectively. With each month, the hair gets blonder, and the nose more and more Pinocchio-like. The three-month picture is so absurdly proportioned as to be grotesque. All foreigners are big-nosed and blonde-haired, apparently.

Can you imagine advertising Japanese classes in Britain in the same way? “Look how slanty your eyes can get in just three months of tuition! After just one month, friends will already be commenting on your yellowing skin!”

I don’t think so. That would be considered offensive, and rightly so. So how can a company can use such a stereotype (that of the beak-nosed blond foreigner) in their marketing with apparent impunity?

Because this is Japan, that’s why.