TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) said on Monday it is apologising individually to customers who call to complain about racial stereotyping in a new TV commercial, but has not decided whether it should pull the ad.
ANA started airing the new 30-second television advertisement on Saturday, aimed at promoting its beefed up schedule of international flights from Tokyo's Haneda airport in March.
In the commercial, two Japanese men in ANA uniform discuss in English how they might boost the image of the airline as an international carrier.
One of them says: "Let's change the image of Japanese people."
"Sure," replies the other, who is now wearing a blonde wig and an improbably long rubber nose.
White westerners are often believed in Japan to have big noses, blue eyes and blonde hair, characteristics generally thought desirable among Japanese.
The ad caused a stir among English-language users of social media in Japan.
"I've just seen the new ANA advert...Really? ANA think this is OK?!" Angela Fukutome said in a message posted on ANA's Facebook page.
"If you are a foreigner and have planned to come to #Japan do not choose an openly racist airline like #ANA! Watch their Japanese commercial," tweeted #sibylleito on Twitter.
An ANA spokesman said the carrier "has received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad."
"We apologised to each of the customers for having caused uncomfortable feelings and also thanked them for bringing up the issue," she said.
"We have passed on the issue to the section in charge of the advertisement, but as of now we have yet to decide how to deal with the commercial," she said.
Japan is largely racially homogenous, with relatively small immigrant communities.