In the West, you know them as movie stars. They're larger than life. Even appearing on television often seems beneath them. But in Japan, they're more than happy to sell you crap.
For years, Hollywood movie stars have made no bones about appearing in Japanese commercials. Back home, they'd never dream of compromising their images to hawk products—unless it was a huge Super Bowl ad.
In the U.S., perceptions about commercials are changing. Major stars like Beyonce appear in commercials for Nintendo. Many celebrities, however, would still never appear in American TV commercials, fearing that they'd go from a serious performer to a shill.
The notion was that Westerners would never see these ads—at least in the pre-internet era—and appearing in them was an easy way to pick up a big paycheck. The money's still big, but the cat is out of the bag. Everybody knows.
Today, it was revealed that Hollywood superstar Harrison Ford is appearing in the Japanese commercials for Uncharted. The ads, posted on Sony's Japanese site, cannot be viewed outside the country.
In Japan, however, celebrities appear in commercials all the time. While American commercials are largely populated with unknown actors, Japanese commercials are wall-to-wall superstars.
The more famous you are in Japan, the more ads you are likely to appear in. Commercials and corporate sponsorship are badge of honor, much the same way they are for professional athletes the world over.
Japanese commercials make celebrities more famous. They cement fame.
Some Hollywood celebrities became even more famous because Japanese folks seem them everyday on TV, selling things like noodles, canned coffee, mini-vans, or shampoo. Catch phrases are born, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger saying "daijou-v", a wordplay on "daijoubu" (OK) and the "V" in energy drink Alinamin V.
Other times, Western imports become heavily identified with the commercials themselves. For years, Homer Simpson was known to many Japanese as "the guy from the C.C. Lemon commercials".
Quentin Tarantino was known to many as a guy who appeared in a phone commercial that made a funny pun on his name, that means "still want to talk".
In the gallery, there's a collection of Japanese commercials over the years. Some of them you might have seen. Others you might not have seen. Have a look at some of Hollywood biggest stars selling things to Japan.