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12 Hollywood Celebrities Who Have Made Ads in Japan

Celebrities like Madonna have endorsed different products in Japan.­
Celebrities like Madonna have endorsed different products in Japan.­
Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

 

Hollywood celebrities have been crossing the Pacific to make commercials in Japan for decades. It's a quick, easy way for celebs to make a buck without harming their reps back in the States, thanks to secrecy clauses that prevent Japanese companies from disclosing the endorsements.

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But with the success of YouTube and similar sites, many of these commercials are now available worldwide on the Web. The spots make for hilarious viewing, and you can be sure the stars are laughing all the way to the bank.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger is to be believed, inhaling a cup of Nissin instant noodles will provide you with enough strength to swing really heavy-looking bronze pots back and forth with ease. Or, you can melt away your stress with a can of Hop's Beer. Or tap into your superhero-worthy powers with a jolt of Vfuyy energy drink. The bodybuilder/actor/governor of California endorsed these Japanese products in commercial spots from the 1990s.

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Maybe it happened while filming Leaving Las Vegas . . . or maybe Honeymoon in Vegas. Either way, at some point, Nicolas Cage was bit by the gambling bug, so much so that he felt the need to shill for Sankyo, the manufacturer of pachinko machines. Similar to slot machines, the devices can be found in casinos across Japan. Ads from the late 1990s feature a wild-eyed Cage so obsessed by his pachinko fever that he's having trouble functioning day to day!

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There's something about Aeon English Schools that made Cameron Diaz want to sing their praises. Aeon, a private institute with more than 300 schools in Japan, has also received a boost from Celine Dion, Ewan McGregor, and Mariah Carey. In the Diaz spots (which aired in 2000 and 2001), the bubbly star of Charlie's Angels and There's Something About Mary looks fresh-faced and innocent as she repeats the word "believe" over and over in front of a series of different backgrounds. Aeon posters featuring Diaz's mug were also plastered around Japanese cities during the same time.

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What do hiking near a volcano, dining at a sushi restaurant, sitting in a steam room, and jetting around on an airliner have in common? They all go great with Kirin beer, according to Harrison Ford. The man who turned both Han Solo and Indiana Jones into household names lent his visage to this refreshing lager in at least five different TV commercials, plus a print ad, during the mid-1990s.

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The Princess Diaries, a tale of an ugly duckling turned royal beauty, made its way into Japanese movie theaters in 2002. Shortly afterward, the film's star, Anne Hathaway, made her way into Japanese living rooms via commercials for the Lux line of hair and beauty products. Hathaway joins a lofty list of Lux lovelies, which includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, Penelope Cruz, and Charlize Theron. Hathaway's spots trade on her princess rep, with the actress dressed in ethereal white and appearing to float through life as weightless as her styling mousse.

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Jodie Foster appears to choose her movie roles carefully, opting for edgy roles that prick audience sensibilities: The Silence of the Lambs, The Accused, and Panic Room, to name a few. Her commercial résumé is a little less selective. From the mid-1990s to 2000, Foster pitched Keri beauty products, Pasona temp agency, Mt. Rainier iced coffee, and Honda, all the while smiling like she hadn't a care in the world. Clarice Starling, we hardly recognize ye.

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After Moonlighting, but before the Demi Moore split, Bruce Willis spent a lot of time in the Far East. In the early 1990s, the man who gave us four Die Hard films and lots of movies with numbers in their titles (The Fifth Element, The Sixth Sense, The Whole Nine Yards) pitched Maki jewelry stores, Georgia coffee drinks, Eneos gas stations, Subaru, and Post drinking water in a can.

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Madonna is no stranger to endorsements, having appeared in Gap, H&M, and Versace ads in the United States. In Japan, the material girl could be seen plugging Shochu rice beverages in ads that ran in 1995 and 1996. The spots show Madge slaying both a giant dragon and an evil wizard before enjoying a glass of the drink and announcing, "I'm pure." Okay . . . if you say so!

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There are many sides to Britney Spears -- pop star, mom, Paris Hilton's BFF, and oddly enough, the face of Go-Go Tea. Brit appeared in ads for the iced tea beverage dressed as a 1960s go-go girl, complete with white patent leather boots and some killer dance moves. The ads ran until early 2003, when the singer was "not a girl, not yet a woman."

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Many Americans weren't introduced to Sharon Stone until 1992's Basic Instinct. But Japanese audiences got a glimpse of the soon-to-be A-list actor in the late 1980s when she appeared in ads for Vernal cosmetics. Dressed in a gray business suit, a brunette Stone looked sharp but offered not a hint of the upcoming sultry, villainous role that would forever seal her place in cinematic history.

Ashley Judd is thrilled to be driving a Honda Primo, and she can barely contain her enthusiasm in the 2000 commercial that has her coining the phrase "Hondaful life." The actor, famous for roles in De-Lovely and Kiss the Girls and infamous for her family squabbles with sister, Wynonna, and mom, Naomi, sports a bouncy, blonde 'do and catches the eye of everyone in these bubbly spots.

It's not cheap to be a Buddhist humanitarian, and Richard Gere is a famously generous one. Perhaps that's why he appears in ads for such entities as Mt. Rainier coffee drinks, Tokyo Towers real estate development, and Dandy House clothing. The actor has appeared in Dandy House commercials as recently as December 2006.

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:

Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen

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