January 10, 2014

"After years of talk, 2013 marked a watershed moment in the government’s Cool Japan campaign."

"Which begs the question: Is Japan cool?"
“Cool Japan” means different things to different people. If you’re a fan of manga or anime or “Godzilla” flicks, you might reasonably assume that the moniker covers your interests, which it does. But the Japanese government is using Cool Japan as a catch-all to fund all sorts of cultural endeavors — not just the “usual suspects” of anime and manga, but also fashion, music, food and even traditional arts and crafts. With such a broad focus, it’s all too easy to imagine Cool Japan policies being spread too thin to effect real change in the anime industry, which arguably jump-started the entire Cool Japan phenomenon in the first place.
Isn't government the antithesis of coolness? Getting government on anything makes in uncool. And that's the way it ought to be.

I had never heard the term "Cool Japan," but I see there's a Wikipedia article on the topic. 
The concept of Cool Japan (クールジャパン Kūru Japan?), along with that of "Gross National Cool," was coined in 2002 as an expression of Japan's emergent status as a cultural superpower. Gaining broad exposure in the media and academia, the brand of "Cool Japan" has been adopted by the Japanese government as well as trade bodies seeking to exploit the commercial capital of the country's culture industry. It has been described as a form of soft power, "the ability to indirectly influence behaviour or interests through cultural or ideological means."

19 comments:

mccullough said...

Perfumed blokes on the Ginza line

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Someone else who doesn't know what "beg the question" means. At this rate, we should just kiss that puppy goodbye. It's as dead as the original meaning of "enormity" and the original meaning of "meld" and the original meaning of "parameter."

Hey, words: Try not to sound too much like other words. You'll be eaten alive.

[Deleted and reposted because of stupid typo that ruined the whole point.]

rehajm said...

Walking to my office a few weeks ago I ran into this guy, apparently once the most popular mascot in Japan- a country that LOVES mascots.

The experience did not make me feel cool, or that Japan was cool. But it's only one data point.

Julius Reincarnate said...

I don't know, Professor... something seems lost in translation...

Still, Anthony Bourdain thinks Japan is cool, and his trip there was a jay to watch on CNN...

So perhaps I just cannot hear what is being said.... about Japan... and Life... and the Universe... and Everything...

brian said...

Nothing says uncool so much as a PR campaign declaring yourself cool

Cedarford said...

It's sort of a knockoff of how the UK marketed all things British in the "Cool Brittania" campaign of the 1990s.

There is a lot to be proud to boost if you are Japanese. A pursuit of excellence has yielded much in culture as well as technology that has spread globally, or to more local Asian nations. Hard to think of a field that the Japanese have not added to - right down to agricultural products where many fruits and vegetables we eat have direct or ancestral Japanese cultivars.

Japan is also a test bed for wierd stuff that may or may not spread to other countries - most doesn't take off and spread. It is sort of like mutation - 99% are bad and do not propagate in genes, but the 1% that does is Evolution. So Japan's test bed for all sorts of odd culture fads and new technology does have survivors that propagate..

The problem for "Cool Japan" is marketing the good stuff and knowing somehow the world is not ready for inflatable sex robots or automatic rice-ball making machines for the average kitchen.

mccullough said...

The fertility rate of Japan is way too low for the place to be cool.

Craig Howard said...

When a city -- or a country -- must proclaim its coolness, then it's obviously over. I live near Buffalo which periodically puts out beautifully done videos illustrating its coolness. Videos which surprise many people, but which do nothing to convince anyone to invest there.

Now, back in the seventies, Japan was cool. Cool in the sense that the world feared its economic power and envied it at the same time.

I'm so disappointed in them now. I'd attributed so much inscrutability to the Japanese. And then they turn out to be perfectly, well, you know, scrutable.

Michael said...

Japan is cool. Personally love to go there. Lot to be said for homogeneity: handful of gun murders each year, kids going to school unaccompanied on the subways, people waiting for the signal to cross the street on a carless road at two in the morning. Law and order. Monks begging in the park with baseball in the background. Cool place. Nice people. Polite. Great literature.

Cool Japan is a great slogan. Requires a sense of Japanese English to appreciate.

Michael said...

Japan is cool. Personally love to go there. Lot to be said for homogeneity: handful of gun murders each year, kids going to school unaccompanied on the subways, people waiting for the signal to cross the street on a carless road at two in the morning. Law and order. Monks begging in the park with baseball in the background. Cool place. Nice people. Polite. Great literature.

Cool Japan is a great slogan. Requires a sense of Japanese English to appreciate.

khesanh0802 said...

I just finished Laura Hillenbrand's new book "Unbroken". It serves as a reminder of just how uncool the Japanese were during WWII. They still haven't faced up to the horrendous acts perpetrated by many of their people. Until they do, cool is a long way off.

The Godfather said...

I second khesanh0802's praise of Unbroken -- but there is some redemption in the end.

On the same theme, Fly Boys by James Bradley, and in fiction the now-almost-forgotten King Rat by James Clavell.

ALL ARE AVAILABLE AT AMAZON THROUGH THE ALTHOUSE LINK, I BELIEVE.

William said...

That recent sex scandal at the Tokyo Aquarium did much to harm the image of Japan. To breed and train giant squid for such purposes is simply not cool.

Darrell said...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2537100/Through-swear-window-Japanese-childrens-TV-presenter-wears-costume-telling-kids-I-love-c-I-love-p-love-f-yeah.html

MarkD said...

Japan is different. From the outside, it's like watching a winning football team. Everything works, and it looks effortless. From the inside, it's still like the same team. Now you see the players who didn't make it, the ones who get cut, the injured, the painful practices, the endless repetition, the strange language, the customs known only to insiders, the tough coaches...

I like Japan, a lot. I've lived there, and I'm married to a Japanese lady. You can hang around, you're welcome to watch, you will be treated politely but in the end, you'll never be on the team.

Steve said...

My rule is never use the phrase "begs the question" outside of a formal debate. No one knows what it means anymore.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Japan is cool. I like it there; have visited several times and have a handful of Japanese friends. I may have the opportunity to live there someday which I will eagerly embrace. But Japanese culture seems like a death cult to me, maybe a little like the Shakers. Plastic and sexless, unless it's weird plastic sex. Yes I realize this is a stereotype but hey we have stereotypes for a reason.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

The way that Japanese women titter behind their hands is annoying as all get out to me. My friend from Japan is Americanized and will throw her head back and laugh happily with her mouth wide open, as we do, but she unlearns that in a hurry when she goes home to visit her mother.

Mitch H. said...

There was an anime airing last fall called Outbreak Company which operated on the premise that they'd found a gate into Fantasyland from Japan and the government hired an otaku to do Cool Japan cultural exports in hopes of conquering the new lands for commerce. I lasted about five minutes into the second episode before I'd had enough, pissed me off. The "Cool Japan" conceit requires that you regard the output as a cultural benefit - if you suspect that modern Japanese pop culture is killing the country through enabling demographically catastrophic social trends, then trying to export that poison to other countries could be considered an act of cultural warfare. :/

(I found the first episode of Space Dandy to be tedious and stupid-sexist, but I seem to be alone in that opinion. It does seem engineered to be foreign-friendly, though.)