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News Your Japan, not Cool Japan

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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"Cool Japan" (クールジャパン) is a government initiative to promote the country's culture abroad, "aiming to disseminate Japan's attractiveness and allure to the world and encompasses everything from games, manga, anime, and other forms of content, fashion, commercial products, Japanese cuisine, and traditional culture to robots, eco-friendly technologies, and other high-tech industrial products". Tied to the initiative is the Cool Japan Fund, a public fund to commercialize the "Cool Japan" and increase overseas demand by providing risk capital for businesses. Both the initiative and the fund have recently come under public scrutiny: the initiative for not being so cool and the fund for allegedly having lost 30 billion JPY (USD 218 million) in bad investments.


Benjamin Boas, an American resident of Japan, was recruited as a Cool Japan ambassador in 2016 and said the officials in charge of bolstering Japanese soft power are largely missing the point. Instead of telling existing fans of Japan what's cool, they should be going out to talk to those fans and then help get them to what they already like. Boas, a prolific lecturer, author and cultural consultant, published a new book in which he examines the history of the world's infatuation with Japan and offers a critique of recent soft power promotions and reimagines how to further capitalize on the nation's brand:

日本はクール!?間違いだらけの日本の文化発信 From Cool Japan to Your Japan


"Many of the (Cool Japan Fund) investments have been lacking in due diligence," Boas says. Benjamin Boas was offered the position of 'Cool Japan' ambassador after he wrote an article that pointed out the shortcomings of the government initiative to promote Japan's culture abroad. Boas notes that not all the investments have been bad, though. The decision to back food-centric video service Tastemade was wise, for example, as was supporting translation and localization efforts for existing popular exports. He says that it's when government officials force things that problems occur. An effort to bring Japanese restaurant brands into Dubai, for example, never materialized. "If the government is simply in a position to say, 'Yeah, that sounds like a good idea' so they can write an internal report (but not follow through with the plan), embarrassing failures are bound to come," Boas says.


People already see Japan as cool. The way Boas sees it, now is the time to let them experience that cool in their own way.

More on Benjamin Boas in the JT article and his portfolio site:

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