Restaurant Row Over Racist Sign About “Chinese Lady’s Daughter”

A branch of Mos Burger

A branch of Mos Burger

Popular Japanese burger chain Mos Burger is in hot water this week after a blackboard was displayed outside one of their Tokyo branches.

The blackboard contained a story about “the daughter of a Chinese woman” [Chinese girl] who was always late, and who was told that if she was late again her “back fat” would be used to “make ramen”.

Although netizens speculated that this could be a true story about someone who worked at the store, most agreed that they didn’t really understand what the sign was about at all. The burger chain’s parent company Mos Food Services, have apologized profusely at the appearance of the blackboard, which some have slated as being “hate speech”.

From Yahoo! Japan:

Mos Burger Apology Over Inappropriate Storefront Sign, Online Row As Store Is Criticized On Twitter

The offending sign.

The offending sign.

There has been a row over content written on a blackboard displayed outside a branch of hamburger chain “Mos Burger”, with floods of criticism appearing on Twitter. Parent company Mos Food Services apologized for the incident on November 12, saying “We deeply regret the fact that the sign contained expressions that were slanderous to persons or nations”.

The store branch that caused the problem was the Mos Burger Iidabashi Higashi branch (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo). On a blackboard placed at the storefront, dated November 11, the following was written: “A Chinese girl who was always late was told:’If you’re late this time, we’ll make ramen from the fat on your back’. The girl was never late again”.

A picture showing the blackboard was uploaded to Twitter, and there were a series of critical comments such as “This is offensive”, and “Isn’t this hate speech?”.

Mos Food Services uploaded a statement to their website, apologizing: “It has been confirmed that a blackboard with extremely inappropriate content written on it. We deeply regret the fact that the sign contained expressions that were slanderous to persons or nations, and we take this very seriously as the responsibility of the management of our company, which is the headquarters of the entire Mos Burger chain”. They further stated that the branch in question had been sternly reprimanded, and that “We will check the store daily to ensure that this incident is not repeated”.

Comments from 2ch.net:

ジャンピングDDT(群馬県)@\(^o^)/:

What does that sign even mean?

ダイビングヘッドバット(禿)@\(^o^)/:

What are they trying to do by showing this to their customers?

キングコングニードロップ(大阪府)@\(^o^)/:

What’s the point of it?

ときめきメモリアル(禿)@\(^o^)/:

Doesn’t it sound strange in Japanese to say “the daughter of a Chinese woman”?

ミラノ作 どどんスズスロウン(庭)@\(^o^)/:

I just don’t get what’s funny about this.
I don’t know what they’re trying to convey.

逆落とし(福島県)@\(^o^)/:

This is just too mental.

キン肉バスター(庭)@\(^o^)/:

Mos Burger have really done it now.

ブラディサンデー(dion軍)@\(^o^)/:

Do Mos Burger sell ramen then?

サッカーボールキック(dion軍)@\(^o^)/:

Even though right now the girl isn’t late, she’s going to be pretty pissed that they wrote about it outside.

マシンガンチョップ(中部地方)@\(^o^)/:

I wonder if the person who wrote this was also Chinese? Seems to know a lot about that stuff.

河津掛け(新疆ウイグル自治区)@\(^o^)/:

I bet that between themselves the staff thought this was hilarious.
Twitter is the same as terrorism.

フェイスロック(宮崎県)@\(^o^)/:

It’s worse to have employed a Chinese person in the first place.

逆落とし(大阪府)@\(^o^)/:

I bet the girl was a fatty.

目潰し(愛知県)@\(^o^)/:

Nah, come on, the real problem is that she was late all the time w
Put your ass into it, Chinese girl w

ラダームーンサルト(青森県)@\(^o^)/:

Isn’t it one of those Chinese joke things?

張り手(WiMAX)@\(^o^)/:

Ah, this makes me feel sick.
Seems like they’re really looking down on others too.
If you’re a really strong person then you don’t pick holes and look down on others.

フェイスクラッシャー(鳥取県)@\(^o^)/:

I just don’t get why they would write this on a blackboard outside the store.

アキレス腱固め(西日本)@\(^o^)/:

Is “back fat ramen” a hate speech thing now? [“back fat” can also refer to pork fat, which is regularly used in ramen dishes].
So ramen shops can’t sell it?

アルゼンチンバックブリーカー(愛知県)@\(^o^)/:

You must be pretty stupid to write a joke that is just not funny on a blackboard.

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  • Anonymous

    This is frankly more confusing than offensive.

  • firebert5

    “What does that sign even mean?”

    Thank goodness. I thought it was just me!

  • Raymond

    If she had that much back-fat to make ramen with, wouldn’t she want to get rid of it? People pay thousands to get lipo-suction, and she’d be getting it for free!

  • Cysorzowa

    Apparently someone didn’t sober up before going to work.

    • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

      No, that handwriting is too legible for drunk. My guess is someone pulled an all-nighter and wasn’t totally on Earth while writing the special.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    I’m Chinese, and I feel like I’m more confused than offended…. It’s quite random.

  • Balkan

    “Isn’t it one of those Chinese joke things?” Is it common to have racist and hateful jokes in Japan?

    • Zappa Frank

      racists jokes are common everywhere.

      • David

        racist jokes are everywhere but they are not COMMON everywhere. In Japan they are.

    • David

      Yes.

  • fffffffffff

    Translation is wrong, it should just be “Chinese girl” not “Chinese lady’s daughter”…. In colloquial speech 娘 or 嬢 are often written for 子 when referring to a young girl e.g. “あの娘(こ)はね…”. Guess Google Translate didn’t pick up that distinction huh?

    • besudesu

      First off, you try putting any of these comments in Google Translate. Don’t be so rude.

      Secondly, netizens commented on how strange it sounded in Japanese and we just tried to reflect that.

      Finally, yes, ”娘” can mean either “girl” or “daughter”. If you go back and read all the 2ch comments, you will see that some of the netizens are also pretty confused about the wording. And actually, it doesn’t say “中国人の娘”. It says “中国人の女の娘”. So how’d you translate that one as “Chinese girl”?

      • KenjiAd

        I agree with you. This is one of those badly written Japanese sentences that give J->E translators a serious headache.

        中国人の女の娘 could mean either

        1) a daughter (娘) of a Chinese woman (中国人の女), or
        2) a Chinese (中国人の) girl (if 女の娘 = 女の子).

        If I have to guess, I think the writer probably meant 2) and misused the Kanji 娘, but I’m not absolutely sure.

        J->E is very hard, because many Japanese sentences are cryptic.

        • besudesu

          Yes I think you’re right — they probably did mean 2), but why go through all the trouble of writing 娘 with chalk when you could write 子…crazy. And I couldn’t think of any clever way of showing the ambiguity of the original Japanese in English translation. Maybe I’m missing a trick.

          • KenjiAd

            I’m a native speaker of Japanese, but the last time I was in Japan was 1986. Anyway at that time, I don’t recall anyone using ‘女の娘’ to mean ‘女の子.’

            In ordinary usage, the Kanji ‘娘’ can’t be pronounced ‘こ.’ But sometimes Japanese writers have used a Kanji with atypical pronunciation, to make it look&sound poetic.

            For example, take a look at this poem.
            http://byron.seesaa.net/article/60287065.html

            川と大洋《うみ》が迎へ合ふやうに

            Here, the kanji ‘大洋’ (Ocean) was called ‘うみ’ (海).

            A related example is what is called ‘万葉仮名’ in which the classic Japanese poems were written in Kanji’s. Their use Kanjis to write Japanese sentences is interesting.

            For example, ‘love’ (こひ; こい) was written as ‘孤'(こ)+’悲'(ひ), the first character meaning ‘lonely’ and the second, ‘sad.’

          • besudesu

            Yeah in literary Japanese you see that kind of thing quite frequently. Particularly in classical Japanese where kanji readings were not as fixed as they are today — 万葉仮名 is a great example of that. And I guess young people still do that kind of thing — particularly online. I haven’t come across “女の娘” very much…

            Still when I translated the article I translated “女の娘” as “girl” — it was only in the introduction I translated it as “Chinese woman’s daughter” in inverted commas to show that it could be either. I guess I should have explained myself better.

  • wnsk

    i don’t get why this is racist. the fact that the girl was Chinese could just be incidental. i think the people who straightaway assumed this was racist are latent racists themselves.

    • David

      In a multi cultural country like the U.S. possibly(but still doubtful), but in Japan? Where there are so FEW Chinese? Come on.

      • wnsk

        But what’s so racist about it? What is the negative stereotype being perpetuated here? Chinese girls are always late? Chinese girls are fat? What?

        • JJ

          But what’s so racist about it? Because they are.

        • David

          I think the fact that you have to ask that means you REALLY don’t understand. There was no valid reason to include her nationality at all, even of for some reason you thought the story was worth putting on your chalk board. It did not add anything to the story and (as is obvious from the results) and actually became a distraction from whatever weird point they were trying to make.

          • wnsk

            Mere mention of one’s nationality–regardless of context; in fact, the absence of ANY context–is racist? Really?

            Have you considered the possibility that this wasn’t a real anecdote but actually one of those cautionary folk tales or proverbial stories told to children, and one that might actually be Chinese in origin? In other words, it could be just another way of saying, “Once upon a time in China, a girl…”

        • KenjiAd

          It’s not the text per se that was racist.

          It was the attitude implied by the text. You can see a person, almost certainly a Japanese person, who thought it was funny to write that “joke” to a Chinese female.

          It’s possible that this might be the person who says those things to anyone irrespective of the nationality. But if that’s the case, why the mention of her nationality?

          So the mention of her nationality tends to suggest (but of course does not prove) that the writer probably has a fairly low opinion on Chinese people or Chinese girls in general.

          • wnsk

            That makes sense, and is possible. But see my hypothesis below about this being a cautionary tale of Chinese origin, hence describing the girl as “Chinese” would be a matter of course– would that not be equally possible?

            After all, why would Mosburger intentionally post a racist message on its chalkboard?

    • John Doberman

      well the fact that the ethnicity was specifically mentioned wasn’t incidental, was it?

    • 42

      It is racist because it is very obvious written to offend chinese. Probably some prank of a frustrated fast food joint worker or manager….

  • David

    I think we can all agree that the ignorant comments by the Japanese citizens were much more offensive than the original sign. No surprise there.

  • Bread Maker

    Shouldn’t it be “Iidabashi” (飯田橋) instead of “Itabashi” (板橋)?

    • besudesu

      Yes you’re right….bit of a brain freeze there I’m afraid.

      That was particularly stupid of me given that Itabashi ward cannot possibly be in Chiyoda ward…

  • Comebackkid13

    Yawn…next!

  • KoreaJapan02b

    Chinese daughter is working at that place??

  • KoreanPeninsulaDisqus

    China girl being fired??

  • guest

    Don’t know why some of you guys are confused. The blackboard is obviously just giving people a lesson. Never be late or the fat on your back will be sliced off to be one of the ingredients for ramen. The Chinese girl in question was scared of the threat so she learned her lesson: NEVER BE LATE. See, how simple is that?

  • elizabeth

    It could be a marketing effort gone wrong. Maybe they were trying to attract Chinese tourists by using a Chinese story as an illustration – that if they were late, there would be no more food left for them because it is so delicious and popular that it runs out fast. That lost opportunity is likened to the pain of losing some part of the body.

    That sort of literary creativity might have gotten lost on those who do not appreciate figurative language and therefore taken as an insult. The Japanese do come across as pretty abstract communicators sometimes.

    I don’t think any sane business would deliberately insult a sizeable chunk of their customers with something nationalistic or racist out of the blue. It’s commercial suicide.

    • wnsk

      Trying to attract Chinese tourists…by writing in Japanese? Doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      Agree with your last paragraph though.

      • elizabeth

        You have a point but allow me to explain:

        There are Chinese who understand Japanese.

        I don’t know Japanese but can read Chinese. And those Chinese characters are compelling enough to pique my curiosity, especially if I am from Zhongguo. I would venture to find out what exotic maiden’s flesh they are actually selling. And late…what ‘late’?

        Finally, if I am the owner, I wouldn’t go all out blatantly touting for Chinese customers in Chinese and alienate the rest, especially the Japanese.

    • EX

      “I don’t think any sane business would deliberately insult a sizeable chunk of their customers with something nationalistic or racist out of the blue.”

      You obviously never lived in Japan and don’t know what you’re talking about. This type of ethnocentricism and racism happens all the time in Japanese businesses.

      • elizabeth

        It’s a pity you feel that way all the time. The Japanese I know aren’t like that. There is a chance that people could be too sensitive, taking offense at the slightest hint of ‘racism’, thanks to overly zealous rights/racial activism and the obsession of being politically correct. This is by no means limited to the Japanese context.

  • jonny

    if you did that in the US you’d be fired

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