Japan’s Public Diplomacy

The physically small nation of Japan represents a cultural giant throughout the world. Indeed, modern Japan is a powerhouse of technological achievement, spreading new innovations across the globe, constantly influencing the country’s image abroad. With historical art traditions fusing with contemporary forms such as Manga and Anime, such nations as the US and much of Europe are continuously assimilating Japanese cultural exports in to their own societies. For Japan, the challenge lies in maintaining this prominent position while facing the reemergence of Asia’s other historical power.

The Soft Power of Anime

In 2006, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed setting up a "Nobel Prize" for foreign "manga" cartoon artists and awarding talented Japanese the title of "Anime Ambassador".

Aso, said Japan’s anime and manga could be the way to China’s heart. "What you have been doing ... has grabbed the hearts of young people in many countries, including China," he told an audience of some 100 students at the University of Digital Content in Tokyo’s Akihabara district.

"It’s something we, the Foreign Ministry, can never do," he added, noting the popularity of Japanese anime cartoons in China...Pop culture has the power to influence the public, so we want to and need to have it on our side,"

Source: "Japan Pitches Pop Culture for Diplomacy," by George Nishiyama - Reuters (Tokyo), 28 April 2006

Diplomacy Efforts

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has recently made an extensive push to preserve and promote Japanese culture abroad. In a recent speech delivered by Taro Aso, the Minister of Foreign Affairs discusses the overwhelming power of prominent cultural images in promoting a country’s values and history. Taro Aso notes that the old image of diplomats as sitting in closed rooms having dry, rarefied discussions must be thrown out. Rather, present-day diplomats are the practitioners of culture, those who market Japanese products to the world, thus effectively marketing the country itself:

"What we have now is an era in which diplomacy at the national level is affected dramatically by the climate of opinion arising from the average person. And that is exactly why we want pop culture, which is so effective in penetrating throughout the general public, to be our ally in diplomacy."

"To put this another way, one part of diplomacy lies in having a competitive brand image, so to speak. Now more than ever, it is impossible for this to stay entirely within the realm of the work of diplomats. It is necessary for us to draw on assistance from a broad spectrum of people who are involved in Japanese culture."

"And so, I am speaking to you here today to urge you to join with us in polishing the Japan "brand."�?

Private Organizations

Private organizations are also playing an important role in furthering Japan’s image abroad. First established in 1972 by legislation in the Japanese Diet, the Japan Foundation is now an independent institution, focused on promoting international cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries. The primary mission of the organization rests on various forms of cultural exchange, including Japanese language education and Asia regional studies.

Established within the Japan Foundation, the Center for Global Partnership operates grant programs in three areas – intellectual exchange, grassroots exchange, and education – as well as self-initiated projects and fellowships. Supporting an array of institutions and individuals, including nonprofit organizations, universities, policymakers, scholars and educators, the organization seeks to promote a more formal collaboration between the US and Japan.

Vital Information

  • Population - 127,463,611 (July 2006 est.)
  • Capital – Tokyo
  • Government - Constitutional Monarchy with a Parliamentary Government
  • Chief of State Emperor AKIHITO
  • Head of Government Junichiro KOIZUMI

Government Agencies

Private Organizations

Important Legislation

International Broadcasting & News Agencies

Public Opinion Polls & News


Other Resources

PbWinter 11:48, 7 Jun 2006 (PDT)

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