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"Cool Japan" Initiative Gets Government Investment Fund

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Investment fund would add over US$500k to government project

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' "Cool Japan" initiative will get its own investment fund this month. "Cool Japan" is a program supported by the Japanese government and various companies that promotes modern Japanese culture such as anime and manga abroad. The program revolves around the premise that Japan's strength in business and international affairs lies in anime, manga, films, fashion, and other fields of Japanese arts and entertainment content. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans for the fund in June.

Hideaki Ibuki, director of the creative industries division at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, reported that he has received 90 proposals from companies hoping to expand their influence abroad. These businesses will be promoted using 10 billion yen (about US$100,000) in private investments including those from Mizuho Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, and 50 billion yen (US$500,000) in government funds. Ibuki noted that the majority of businesses looking for funding are in the Japanese food industry, ranging from gourmet fare to fast foods.

Ibuki also noted that the global market of the entertainment industry, from music to animation and video games, pulls in roughly 460 trillion yen (US$462 million). Japan's share accounts for 0.5% of that value. The Cool Japan council is currently led by AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto, Kadokawa Group Holdings Chairperson Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, critic Kin Bi-Leng, designer Junko Koshino, Minokichi Foods President Rikifusa Satake, Sōshitsu Sen (the 16th and current head tea master of the Uransenke School of Tea Ceremony), and GAGA President and CEO Tatsumi Yoda.

The Cool Japan initiative has gotten mixed reviews since its implementation. Contemporary artist Takashi Murakami (Superflat Monogram, Kaikai & Kiki) criticized the campaign's use of advertising agencies, saying that they exploit the work of Japanese artists to earn a profit. The government held a Cool Japan promotion meeting on April 3 where officials proposed creators work on the campaign's posters and slogans for free.

Campaigns inspired or otherwise funded by Cool Japan include Toei is launching a 24-hour pay-to-view streaming "Toei Japan Channel" in the United States, All Nippon Airways used related marketing to entice more international tourists, Meiji University launched an anime and manga course, Tezuka Pro were approached to create a new Astro Boy, and the first Cool Japan Awards took place this year in Osaka.

Researchers at Tokyo Polytechnic University conducted a survey of Japan's public opinion on "Cool Japan" in 2010. Only 29.0% of the respondents had heard of the term, and only 4.6% said that they were familiar with what the term means. When asked about which fields they want to introduce to the world as "Cool Japan," "animation" and "manga" were the top choices.

Source: The New York Times' Japan Real Time blog

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