cool japan

But is the message too exclusive?

Much has been made of Japan’s recent turn away from pacifism and growing military muscle, but Tokyo is also extending its global reach in more subtle ways. Japan is especially serious about increasing its soft power, the ability to win over global partners with cultural and diplomatic affinity rather than coercion and sheer heft.

Tokyo stole the show at the Olympic closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro this week as the event's next host city prepares for a cultural charm offensive ahead of the 2020 Games. In a surprise move, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed up as Super Mario at the ceremony

Music and politics in Japan have rarely been closer. From the government’s use of AKB48 member Haruka Shimazaki in a military recruitment advertising campaign to its funding of pop culture as a form of “soft power” through initiatives like Cool Japan, music has been used by the establishment to advance various goals. 

Is Pokémon Go a game changer for the Japanese economy? Is it a sign that Silicon Valley-style innovation is reinvigorating corporate Japan’s notoriously insular management? Might this be the first big success story for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Cool Japan” initiative, a key element in the structural reforms promised but so far undelivered by Abenomics?

In the early 2000s, the Japanese government started to evaluate the value of the country’s popular culture industry following international successes in anime/manga [...] Realizing that its cultural influence expanded despite the economic setbacks of the Lost Decade (from 1991 to 2000), Japan sought to promote the idea of ‘Cool Japan’, an expression of its emergent status as a cultural superpower.

While Denison said that the Japanese government’s continued desire to clamp down on piracy demonstrated the soft power value of Japan’s anime industry, she also said that viewing methods had changed considerably over recent years.

As far as awards ceremonies go, the Sugoi Japan Awards were a fairly flashy affair. Held on March 22, the prizes recognized recent titles in anime, manga and fiction that an online poll of Japanese fans wanted to do well overseas. Winners included “One Punch Man” and “Your Lie in April,” and the guest list to the event included pop culture critics, studio executives and, of course, the artists themselves.