Alien Agent Jones

By: Rora

Jan 23 2011

Tags: , , ,

Category: Japan

1 Comment

Aperture:f/2.8
Focal Length:3.85mm
ISO:100
Shutter:1/120 sec
Camera:iPhone 4

Tommy Lee Jones watches me every morning as I walk to the train station.

I’ve been seeing his face on the vending machines for months and it has become such a regular sight that I usually forget to giggle to myself when I pass him. I actually forgot to look it up on youtube for months. Usually, when you see a familiar face hawking a Japanese product, a hilarious commercial isn’t very far away.

It was well worth the wait. Tommy Lee Jones did not disappoint me (does he ever?)

I finally caught it on TV the other day. Picture it: Tommy Lee Jones drives a cab, dramatic music plays in the background, the narrator speaks and the music crescendos and there’s a close-up on Tommy Lee Jones’s eye and he is crying, feeling nostalgic. Then- ba dum- BOSS COFFEE flashes on the screen and the 30 seconds is over. It’s kind of like a bigfoot sighting when I see a celebrity endorsement these days- rare and fast- except bigfoot has become a kin rather than a monster. He represents me in ways that the popular culture here does not.

I also just love celebrity endorsements here for the sheer ridiculousness of them. Even the most serious, stone faced ad is hilarious because it’s Japan and someone like Tommy Lee Jones is not Japanese. That is a basic layer of humor, right there. Add a dash of “he’s trying to fit in” and the humor doubles, although as I laugh it dawns on me- isn’t that how I feel every single day? Tommy Lee Jones, driving that cab, is just like me when I am riding in the subway or trying to say thank you to the grocery store clerk. Completely out of place. It’s not funny when I do it (for me, at least) but it’s cathartic to watch it on TV (isn’t that how most things work?) and the more over the top, the better.

This cheezy metaphor became extra appropriate, and extra extended, when I youtubed the commercials and discovered that there are NINETEEN OTHERS where Tommy Lee Jones plays a DIFFERENT TYPE OF EMPLOYEE in each one. The overarching storyline, according to the first video, is that one day, an alien came down to earth, went to a TLJ movie and decided to morph into TLJ himself, move to Japan, and try out different jobs.

Western foreigners are rare in Japan. Foreigners (“gaijin”) in Japan make up a mere 2% of the population, but most of those are from other Asian countries. Westerners who live and work here are less than 1% and most don’t settle in Japan permanently. Of all of those westerners, the vast majority are teachers (ALTs). I know one person who isn’t. He works at an udon shop, making the noodles, which is so rare and mind boggling that he’s been featured on several TV shows (even heralding a TV crew to visit all the way from Tokyo). So, Tommy Lee Jones playing a hard working Japanese everyman, an alien both literally and figuratively, is a completely wacky concept. And not just because he is a famous face.

Here he is, as the number one host (male escort) a a host club.

Here TLJ runes for governor and (spoiler alert) must resign. Such is the life of a politician in Japan.

He runs a Yatai (ramen cart) and meets a nice lady along the way.

He builds a tunnel (perhaps for a bullet train) and is a hero.

If you wanna watch all available 19 episodes, CLICK HERE, for the love of god. Each one is fantastic. The cab driver one is nowhere to be found, maybe because it is the newest. I hope I see more new ones in the future. Tommy Lee Jones as an ALT, perhaps?

A note on Japandering

Celebrities come here all the time to do advertisements a la “Lost in Translation,” they are every bit as ridiculous and awkward in reality as Bill Murray trying to sell whisky in the film. It’s a widespread trend, and someone has cleverly dubbed it “Japandering”. You can click here to see an impressive list of many A-listers in commercials that you were probably never aware of (and they are probably thankful for that). Thank goodness for the internet.

Since coming here, I’ve seen Quinten Tarantino selling cellphones and George Clooney selling expensive watches. Japan has a flair for quirk and drama. I’ve noticed that the ads usually fall into two categories: fish out water, or western elegance. The TLJ ads hit on both themes. He stands out as “other” but he handles his missions respectfully like a true gentleman. He begins to fall in love with his host nation as the ad campaign unfolds.

A note on Boss Coffee

You might be thinking “WHAT? COFFEE IN A CAN?!” Well, yes. It comes in a can, it is plentiful. Vending machines glow on many corners, even in the most rural of neighborhoods. I hardly ever see snack vending machines. They are full of beverages. The beverages can be served hot or cold. Soda is present, but does not monopolize the space; choices also include water, coffee, barley tea, milk tea gatorade-style drinks and juice. Coffee comes in all styles- Rainbow Boss, I believe, has cream and sugar in it, but you can find canned coffee any style you like it. Such is the case with Black Boss, a name that sounds ridiculous to a westerner until you realize that it’s perfectly logical- the brand is Boss, the coffee is black, after all.

Is the coffee delicious? Er, it depends. I am not a huge fan. I have heard that the stuff is actually made out of coffee bean oil, or something to that extent, and after learning that I pretty much gave it up. It’s not awful but it’s not exactly refreshing and it doesn’t wake me up like a properly brewed cup will.

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One comment on “Alien Agent Jones”

  1. […] as an alien who takes the shape of Tommy Lee Jones and tries to live in Japan. (Ichigone has everything you want to know about Tommy Lee Jones ads in Japan, with […]


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