Japan has taken inspiration from a rather unlikely British former politician, Tony Blair, in its latest attempt to promote Japanese pop culture around the world. The Cool Japan Fund has been founded to provide interest-free loans to subsidise the overseas expansion of Japan’s creative industries. 83 per cent of its capital will come from the government, with the rest coming from investors like All-Nippon Airways and advertising giant Dentsu, and its current budget is 60 billion yen (£360m).
So, where does our former Prime Minister have to do with any of this? Japan’s current campaign has taken its inspiration from his 1997 ‘Cool Britannia’ one, which used the likes of Noel Gallagher and Oasis, and marks a trend in countries attempting to combat a dwindling domestic market by looking overseas; in other words, exporting its cool stuff. I don’t need to tell you that Japan has plenty of that!
The Cool Japan Fund is essentially a national re-branding exercise and, like any national project, it’s met with criticism; it’s doing nothing to support emerging artists and is just pumping money into big multi-billion yen corporations. Others are concerned how the rest of the world will react to some of the country’s less conventional sub-cultures, such as the maid cafes, dating sims and, of course, the porn. Honestly, I’m not sure whether Japan even needs a Cool Japan Fund when there are plenty of people in the west who consider themselves ‘Japan fans’ and are borderline obsessed with its pop culture. Some of them even blog about it! *cough cough*
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the Cool Japan campaign evolves. In celebration of what we already know is a cool country, here are some of my favourite Japanese exports! Add yours in the comments below!
2) Video games: Sony, Nintendo, Capcom are household console names over here, and series like ‘Pokemon’, ‘Mario’ and ‘Street Fighter’ are names that even your mum will recognise these days.
3) Cars: Toyota, Nissan, Honda
4) High speed passenger trains: The Shinkansen is Japan’s famously fast (and reliable) and its design has influenced engineers overseas
5) CDs: The ever-reliable and trusty Compact Disc was invented by Sony and Philips in the 1970s. Where would we be without them?
6) Pocket calculator: The first portable calculator from Sanyo appeared in Japan in the 1970s and was soon marketed worldwide. Again, where would we be without them?
7) Karaoke: Who hasn’t heard of, and made a fool of themselves singing on, karaoke?
8) Anime and manga: Yes, I’m putting this in here. Allegedly, Ghibli was inspired by Disney’s Bambi’s big eyes, and anime was born! Sort of.
Next week, it’s Christmas in Japan!
Image credits: vcpost