By Sabrina Gledhill
Argentines call Brazil the "monkey country" ("país de los monos") because large numbers of its people are of African descent. Men in gorilla suits have long served as metaphors for blacks in Brazil. In other words, the pejorative association of blacks, Africans and simians is known and recognised in South America, as well as in other Western regions and countries - including, of course, the United States. So when a Japanese company put a monkey in a podium, apparently imitating Barack Obama in a TV advert, many Westerners were shocked. But here's the thing - monkeys have an entirely different meaning in Japan - a very positive image, in fact - and the macaque is the company's mascot! However, as the Guardian points out, this isn't the first time a simian simile has been used in regard to blacks in Japan.
At any rate, the advert has been pulled, and now Japan can go back to its previous warm and fuzzy image of rooting for Barack in the town of Obama.
Read more about it here and here