It's not weird to see your favorite Hollywood actors pushing products on Japanese television (Lost in Translation (2003) had a whole plot point revolving around the idea). If you want to see any, do a search on YouTube and you can find several featuring actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicholas Cage, John Travolta, Audrey Hepburn and even the great Orson Welles. As an example, here's a favorite of mine in a series of commercials for Suntory Whiskey where Peter Falk (A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Wings of Desire (1987)) plays a bartender:
(Uploaded onto YouTube by user callfromthepast3)
But Japanese actors pull in their own work too. It might not offer the room to stretch their acting chops and show off their abilities, but if it means a paycheck, then why not have some fun and do a few commercials?
I've always had a soft spot for commercials, especially old fashioned ones where the vapid ideas of new age marketing sensibility are non-existent. Now, so many commercials seem like masturbatory exercises by bad directors who try use the commercial as an art form instead of convincing you to buy their goods. But even in modern days, the best ones are able to share so much information in their allotted thirty seconds while still having no illusions about what they are doing: selling you product.
While browsing YouTube for classic video game commercials from Japan, I accidentally stumbled upon commercials for the canned beverage, Pokka Coffe starring Kunie Tanaka (Dodes'ka-den (Dodesukaden) (1970), Battles Without Honor and Humanity (Jingi naki tatakai) (1973)) which started the idea for this whole post:
(Uploaded onto YouTube by user ksoik)
If you've read my earlier posts, you know what a fanatic I am of Joe Shishido. That's why when I found this mini-program/commercial featuring Joe Shishido eating delicious looking foods with Kikkoman soy sauce, I was over joyed. It's worth watching just for the ten second cartoon intro of Joe Shishido cooking, fishing and riding a deer:
(Uploaded onto YouTube by user soikll222)
Maybe in an attempt to evoke Akira Kobayashi's most famous film series, the Wataridori (or Wandering Guitarist) films, here Akira Kobayashi rides a tractor in dungarees and a cowboy hat after blowing his trumpet to summon a mighty stallion for diesel engine developers, Yanmar (after the fifteen second commercial for Avanti matches):
(Uploaded onto YouTube by user kodomoootokagekunn3)
But he still looks very good in his elder years in this ad for Softbank telecommunications (famous for using directors like Wes Anderson and David Fincher and featuring stars like Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino in their ads):
(Uploaded onto YouTube by user 02takechan)
Finally, here's the great Bunta Sugawara, also in his elder years (not wearing the flannel suits I'm so use to seeing him wear in every seventies yakuza film he made). Now in old age, he likes to enjoy his time with a cold Kirin Ichiban (featuring a song with a vocal delivery that might not be so out place in a Budweiser commercial):
(All three uploaded onto YouTube by user ikasama117CMvol1)