The Japanese Ministry Aims to Boost ‘Cool Japan’

According to The Yomiuri Shibun, the Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry recently revealed a plan to boost the “Cool Japan” culture internationally. What’s “Cool Japan”? Well, if you’re interested in this blog, you may already know and not realize it. “Cool Japan” is Japanese pop culture and other countries’ love for it, particularly Japanese food, fashion, anime/manga, and video games.

The Ministry’s strategy targets other parts of Asia, Europe, and North America. Currently, only 2% of these Japanese pop culture sales are actually made outside of the country. However, the “Cool Japan” industries employ over 2 million people in Japan and total about ¥45 trillion (about US$480 million) in sales annually, so adding to this total by focusing on foreign markets can boost employment and commerce in Japan considerably.

The proposal asks the Japan External Trade Organization and private Japanese consulting firms to provide assistance to companies that want to export their properties overseas, particularly small to midsize businesses that are struggling to get a foothold. Companies like Nintendo, for example, certainly won’t need the assistance, but they could still benefit from some of the proposed changes.

Japan’s largest book publisher, Kodansha, might have been ahead of the game. Long since one of the biggest manga publishers in Japan, multiple American manga publishers have licensed their work for North American publication over the past decade or so. Kodansha got a cut of the sales, but they largely left creative control over translation, presentation, and marketing to the American companies. This has led to a wide range of quality from title to title and publisher to publisher. Not so anymore, as Kodansha has stopped licensing its manga titles to American companies and let most of its licenses with American publishers expire in preparation for starting its own American division. This will employ more Japanese citizens, give Kodansha full profit over North American sales, and allow Kodansha better control over how their part of pop culture is presented outside of Japan. (However, they will still be distributed by an American company—Random House—and so are allowing some of their titles to continue publication with Del Rey, one of the top American publishers of manga.)

Another part of the Ministry’s strategy actually involves asking foreign creators to come to Japan to help create the “cool Japan” image that’s going to be exported. The Ministry hopes to accomplish this through a reform on the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law that will make issuing and keeping work visas easier for companies and immigrants.

Are you a fan of “Cool Japan”? What’s your favorite part of Japanese pop culture? Do you think it’s counterintuitive for the Ministry to want foreign creators to help them export the “Cool Japan” image? Why or why not?

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Tags: Animation, anime, cool japan, fashion, Food, japan, japan news, japanese business, manga, politics, video games