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Bullet-Train TV Commercial Lifts Spirits in Japan

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When Japan Rail filmed a commercial for their new Kyushu Skinkansen—a bullet train linking the southernmost island of Japan for the first time—all the marketing savvy in the world could not have predicted that it would first air the very day after the greatest earthquake and tsunami in Japanese history.

With the entire nation reeling in disbelief, and out of sympathy for the victims, the bubbly, rainbow-filled 180-seconds-of-celebration was immediately pulled from the air. There can be nobody in the world who by now does not know why.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami left an unimaginably devastating toll: 15,057 people dead, 5,282 injured, 9,121 missing, with enough force to move not only the island of Honshu 2.4 metres, but the axis of the entire planet. With the eventual cost estimated to exceed $300 billion, it will be the most expensive natural disaster on record.

But what price to put on happiness?

After a month of nearly endless, unbearable news, not the least of which was the full-blown nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan Rail chose to quietly return its Southern Line commercial to air. Beyond all expectation, it became an immediate, nationwide phenomenon. Viewers all across Japan literally shed tears of joy at the sight of an island-long, 15,000-person human-wave, and the advertisement quickly achieved something priceless—it made a grieving nation happy.

To possibly the catchiest, most Björk-esque J-Pop soundtrack ever by Japanese-Swedish artist Maia Hirasawa, a rainbow-clothed cast of thousands is shown staging spontaneous, unscripted acts of joy as the rainbow-painted train passes with film crew on board. Far from being inappropriate, the unabashedly happy commercial proved to be unerringly appropriate, uplifting and warming hearts the length of Japan.

Wrote one grateful viewer from Fukushima itself, “I heard this commercial has been pulled off air after the earthquake. They shouldn’t have! It’s good to see so many smiling people, and the united power of a great country like Japan working together for a common purpose. This is a huge encouragement to people working for the reconstruction. Thank you!”

That day,

Thank you for your waving,
Thank you for your smiles,
Thank you for your cooperation.
Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now.
In Kyushu, we are full of new power.
From Kyushu, we should deliver happiness to all over Japan.
With you all, Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now.
- Narrator, Japan Rail Kyushu Skinkansen Commercial

The above is spoken at the end of the commercial by a narrator, and seldom have truer words been uttered in an advertisement, for with its island-crossing human-wave of rainbow-coloured joy, Japan Rail indeed did deliver happiness all over Japan.

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  • nami

    i was just overwhelmed.
    such simple message and what a power it has…made me cry.
    thnx for the post.