Can Anime and Manga make Japan a Global Superpower? – An Examination of the Use of Popular Culture in Japanese Public Diplomacy

Sailor Moon Cosplayers at an Anime Convention in Florida


At the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016, former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, sporting the bright red cap of the famous cartoon character Mario, emerged slowly from a giant green pipe to announce Tokyo as the host of the next Olympics. This moment demonstrates that the Japanese government had fully embraced its position as a cultural superpower. From Pokémon and Godzilla, to Super Mario and the Sony PlayStation, Japan’s 21st Century “Gross National Cool” has infiltrated the daily lives of global youth.[1] The popularity of these cultural icons certainly translated into economic benefits: in 2013, the global market size of Japanese content industries (manga/comics, anime/cartoons, video games, etc.) was ¥12 trillion, second only to the United States.[2] However, Tokyo’s attempts to further mobilize Japanese pop-culture as a soft power resource in the 2000s largely failed. As Japanese political ambitions shifted in the past 50 years from passive to more proactive, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) has centered its public diplomacy (PD) campaigns on Japanese content industries, including manga, anime, and video games, in the hopes of bolstering soft power; however, vague governmental policies have been unproductive at promoting diffusion, and the use of popular culture as a diplomatic device was ineffective and even damaging if not combined with other essential PD elements, such as accountability and bilateral exchange.

Soft Power, Public Diplomacy, and their Appeal to Japan

According to Joseph Nye Jr, who first coined the term in the late 1980s, soft power is the ability to “shape the preferences of other countries,” to gain political support based on admiration and agreement, not coercion and inducement.[3] Compared to hard/command power, which relies on military force and economic incentive, soft power rests on public diplomacy, credibility, effective foreign policies, and the attractiveness of one’s cultures and values in order to exert international influence. Mass cultural exports are thus a natural mechanism for increasing the appeal and ideological indoctrination of a nation, especially considering its accessibility. Of course, Nye concedes that “an element of triviality and fad” may always surround the discussion of popular culture, but the historical success of Hollywood as well as recent rise of Korean cultural diplomacy all served to highlight mass media’s potency as a potent political resource.[4] At the very least, “a country that stands astride popular channels of communication has more opportunities to get its messages across and to affect the preferences of others,” claims Nye.

The utilization of popular culture as a means to promote soft power is intertwined with the concepts of public and cultural diplomacy. Coined in the mid-1960s by former US diplomat Edmund A. Gullion, public diplomacy is usually defined as “the transparent means by which a sovereign country informs and influences the public in other countries for the purpose of promoting the national interest and advancing its foreign policy goals.”[5] Cultural diplomacy, which includes the promotion of popular culture, is a more specified subset of public diplomacy that entails “the exchange of ideas, values, traditions, and other aspects of culture or identity.”[6] As this paper dissects the strategic failures of Japanese foreign policies, the difficulty of managing public diplomacy should be acknowledged: rarely is public diplomacy a solely state-to-state affair, but usually involves non-governmental actors such as private companies and personnel that are more challenging to control. However, effective public/cultural diplomacy can contribute greatly to a nation’s soft power, or at least increase the favorability of a state.

Japan’s burgeoning interest in soft power and public diplomacy was propelled by its pacifist constitution, stagnating economy, and increasingly assertive political ambitions. Following Japan’s recovery from World War Two, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) desired to become a more pioneering force in international affairs. Proactive diplomatic goals became particularly prominent during the 2000s. As early as 2003, efforts to be admitted as a permanent member within the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) shifted to the center of MOFA’s foreign policies.[7] However, Article Nine of the post-war Japanese Constitution, designed to firmly and permanently renounce war, forbade the formation of a traditional military force.[8] Allowed only a meager Self Defense Force, Japan’s ability to exercise militaristic hard power to achieve its political objectives has been limited by law.[9] Due to its inability to exert foreign militaristic pressure, Tokyo largely relied on its economic prosperity as a diplomatic asset throughout the late 20th century. In the case of the UNSC, Japan had been the largest financial contributor towards UN organizations and initiatives for more than a decade.[10] However, after the burst of Japan’s bubble economy in 1992, MOFA gradually turned to soft power as a secondary source of political prestige.

In the context of Japan, popular culture became an immediate point of interest as the concept of soft power rose to political prominence in the 1990s and 2000s. American journalist Douglas McGray’s critically acclaimed article, “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” highlighted the soft power potential of Japanese popular culture and enjoyed wide circulation among the political elite in Tokyo.[11] Addressing the Japanese National Diet in 2007, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Aso Taro declared that “if the use of pop culture or various subcultures can be useful in [promoting proactive diplomacy,] we certainly should make the most of them.”[12] A similarly promising message was echoed by Kentaro Sonoura, Vice-President of MOFA, who commented that “manga and other forms of pop culture already have powerful appeal worldwide…so [they are] an important asset that provides robust support for Japanese diplomacy.”[13] For Japan, the promotion of anime, manga, video games, and other content industries was both economically and diplomatically strategic. Although other forms of popular culture, such as Japanese cuisine (sushi, ramen, etc.) and sports (karate, sumo, etc.) also occupied a significant niche in the global palate, their circulation was far less commodifiable and administrable for the Japanese government. Therefore, the diffusion of content industries became the target of MOFA’s 2000s soft power campaigns.

Programs and Policies of Japanese Cultural Diplomacy

Four government agencies are primarily involved in sponsoring Japanese content industries: MOFA, responsible for Japanese public diplomacy (PD); the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), which regulates and incentivizes content creation; the Cool Japan Fund, which invests in creative enterprises; and the Japan Foundation, the dominant MOFA program for cultural exchange.[14] No single governmental institution plans and implements a coherent cultural policy; rather, responsibilities are shared and overlapped.

In spite of more intentional campaigns in recent years, cultural diplomacy has always played a role in Japan’s diplomatic strategy. From 1950 to the 1970s, the primary objective of Japanese public diplomacy was to rebrand the image of Japan from a militaristic oppressor into a peace-loving, economically advanced nation. Thus, MOFA promoted tranquility through tea festivals and technological development through high-tech exhibitions, but generally did not emphasize its Japanese-ness in fear of resurrecting wartime grievances.[15] Yet as the memories of war seemingly faded, and as Japan prospered in its newfound economic and cultural confidence, MOFA’s nation branding strategy evolved. No longer was its goal to portray Japan as an exotic newcomer, but rather as a mature, pioneering force in a postmodern world.

Accordingly, public diplomacy efforts shifted from passive to the more proactive, though programs such as the Japan Foundation encountered immediate foundational issues. The Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (The Society for International Cultural Relations/KBS), which had been the primary institution for cultural diplomacy prior to 1945, was revived and renamed the Japan Foundation in 1972.[16] One of the first efforts of the Japan Foundation was the establishment of cultural centers in Southeast Asia. Armed with the goal of reducing anti-Japanese sentiment and promoting cultural exchange, cultural centers in ASEAN hosted arts exhibitions, research conferences, and student exchange programs.[17] However, structural problems and conflict immediately arose from within: since its very nascence, the Japan Foundation was reluctant to define what exactly constituted Japanese culture. Perhaps a result of the residual postwar discourse, both the normative value and the strategic utility of popular culture were heavily debated.[18] Without a clear goal or direction in mind, the efforts of cultural centers became more scattered and incidental in nature, which undermined their effectiveness at promoting recognition and respect for Japanese society.[19]

Although MOFA developed an extensive system of programs, policies, and agencies in the 2000s to support Japanese popular culture, these programs largely failed due to ambiguity and mismanagement. In 2003, MOFA kickstarted a period of targeted soft power promotion by establishing the International Manga Award and the World Cosplay Summit.[20] Efforts to systematically design cultural strategies intensified in 2004 when MOFA implemented structural reforms that created the Public Diplomacy Department, aiming to encourage “PD and cultural exchange in a more systematic way, and provide a structure that enables cooperation between the public and private sectors.”[21] That same year, annual funding for the Japan Foundation increased to ¥6.3 billion, expanding the success and reach of cultural centers.[22] Other than the Japan Foundation, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) serves as an instrumental branch of MOFA’s cultural diplomacy. By 2005, JET had invited more than 43,000 global participants to teach and learn in Japanese schools.[23] However, the uncertainties and ambiguities from the Japan Foundation’s earlier projects continued into these PD campaigns, and ultimately led the Diet’s Constitution Research Council to conclude in 2011 that Japan still lacked a detailed soft power policy.[24]

On the other hand, METI established the Media and Content Industry Division in 2001 with the goal of expanding content markets abroad; yet, a reluctance to issue government funding or encourage the departure from outdated marketing practices caused these government policies to yield limited results. [25] In the fiscal year of 2008, public spending on cultural activities amounted to ¥117 billion in South Korea, ¥477.5 billion in China, and ¥101.8 billion in Japan, forming 0.79%, 0.51%, and 0.12% of total government spending respectively.[26] Trailing far behind its East Asian neighbors, Japan’s conservative spending in comparison with its neighbors aligned closely with the rise of Korean and Chinese media, and the stagnation of the Japanese. METI’s restrictive private practices, especially outdated offline business models, also limited industry growth. In the backdrop of a global shift towards digital media, DVD and CD sales continued to dominate the Japanese domestic market until 2020 when it was finally toppled by digital sales.[27] The lack of government incentive for online business models certainly contributed to this delay in technological advancement.[28] Therefore, while American and Korean media have prevailed on sites such as Youtube for the past decade, it wasn’t until very recently that Japanese content industries were systemically propagated online.

In addition to inadequate funding and outdated business models, METI’s opportunistic approach to the regulation of mass media may be fundamentally flawed. There are, in general, two divergent paths of cultural policy: the profit-driven U.S. model, which grants content industries the independence to compete in a free market, and the more regulatory, public-minded European model (also adopted by South Korea), which regards culture as “a common good and aims to stimulate a particular national vision of culture.” [29] METI, however, attempted to integrate these two approaches without re-evaluating its viewpoint and modus operandi. During the postwar era, METI largely adhered to the market-oriented US model in that private creative industries developed organically without any substantial regulation. However, as Tokyo attempted to adopt the more regulatory elements of the European model, it did not revise the perspective from which it approached cultural policy — modern Japan still does not see popular culture as a common good beneficial to its domestic citizens, but rather as a highly commercialized tool for enhancing the branding of the Japanese nation.[30] As Koichi Iwabuchi, professor of Japanese media and cultural studies, critiques, “neither [was Japan] fully committed to developing content industries nor to fostering public goods; neither [was METI] paying attention to nurturing creators nor potentially democratizing society by using digital media.”[31] As a result, METI policies in 2000s were received with skepticism and resistance from businesses within content industries, which inevitably hindered efforts to promote the presence of Japanese content abroad.[32]

The most recent Cool Japan Fund, which sustained heavy investment losses due to mismanagement and corruption, is perhaps the most striking failure of Japan’s 21st century PD campaigns. With an initial government investment of almost one billion USD in 2013, the Cool Japan Fund is a public-private entity that aims to “support and promote the development of demand overseas for excellent Japanese products and services” by providing risk capital.[33] Unfortunately, yields from the Cool Japan Fund were disappointing. WakuWakuJapan, a cable channel which broadcasts Japanese program overseas, received a ¥4.4 billion investment from the Cool Japan Fund in 2015.[34] However, viewership has been severely lackluster, and the channel had reported a net loss totaling ¥4 billion from 2015 to 2017.[35]  In truth, Kazunobu Iijima, the Chairman of the Cool Japan Fund, was a director at WakuWaku’s parent company. Therefore, the selection of “pet projects” such as WakuWaku reflects the corruption of the Fund.[36] This pattern of internal mismanagement and speculated corruption could be sighted across the Fund’s board of projects. Bearing a cumulative loss of ¥9.8 billion and the failure of more than half of all projects to meet target earnings, the Cool Japan Fund illustrates the inherent risks of mismanagement that are associated with institutions designed to promote soft power through Japanese popular culture.[37]

Despite the inefficacy of government policies, foreign attraction to Japanese culture has soared within the past two decades. While 981,407 foreigners studied Japanese in 1990, the peak of Japan’s economic prosperity, that number more than doubled to over two million by 2008, in spite of almost two decades of economic stagnation in Japan.[38] The primary cause of this increased interest is undoubtedly the growing global appeal of Japanese content. A 2018 survey by the Japan Foundation, which polled at more than 22,000 Japanese-language educational institutions across the world, determined that the most common reason for enrolling in Japanese-language courses was an “interest in anime, manga, music, fashion, etc.,” representing responses from two thirds of the whole survey body.[39] The expansive influence of Japanese pop-culture should not be surprising considering that the global anime market, for example, was forecasted to have an 8.8% annual growth rate in 2018.[40]

However, the growing reach of Japanese pop-culture should be credited to the private sectors rather than government intervention. Case analyses conducted in the US manga market attributed its rapid growth to standardization, localization, marketing, and organic competition.[41] For example, particularly fierce competition in the early 2000s between the two largest Western publishers ¾ Tokyopop and Vizmedia ¾ resulted in several critical advancements in physical manga novels. When Tokyopop standardized the size (7.5 x 5 inches), price ($9.99), and cover design of their books, their share over the market skyrocketed to 70 percent in 2003.[42] To regain dominance, Vizmedia increased production quantity and reduced costs by as much as 50 percent in some areas. This restructuring of the production system yielded desirable reception, with Vizmedia bouncing back to a 70 percent share in less than a year.[43] Ultimately, standardization and cost reduction allowed Japanese manga content to become more approachable, accessible, and widespread for Western audiences. Accompanying developments in physical marketing was a wave of rising globalization, digital connectivity, and partnerships with video distribution platforms.[44] This newfound ease of media-sharing online also fostered the proliferation of Japanese content, particularly in countries such as China where governmental institutions restricted the broadcasting of anime on television.[45]

In short, foreign attraction to Japanese content industries developed through natural economic and technological advancement rather than the effective support of government agencies and programs. But can the increased attractiveness of a country’s culture alone even trigger a boost in soft power? The truth is, even as the appeal of Japanese pop-culture exploded overseas, Japan did not enjoy a significant increase in international influence or favorability, which reveals fundamental gaps within Japan’s soft power strategy.

Causes for the Failure of Japanese Public Diplomacy

The results of public diplomacy campaigns are, by nature, rather difficult to directly evaluate; however, indirect indicators, including changes in public perception and influence in supranational organizations, could be used to infer the general success (or in this case, failure) of outreach efforts. Perhaps predictably, Japan’s 2000s PD campaigns failed to acquire the nation a permanent seat within the UN Security Council when the UN considered expanding in 2005. Since the country was still in the throes of a recession, “Japan’s failure to enter the UNSC can largely be attributed to its insufficient soft power ¾ it was unable to exercise power through influencing the behavior of other states.”[46] Nor were the public diplomacy campaigns able to significantly improve Japan’s approval rating among the global public. Surveys conducted over the past decade revealed that there was a minimal shift in opinion towards Japan in both Asia and the USA. In fact, the percentage of Americans who perceived Japan as the most important partner of the U.S. in Asia actually declined by more than 50% since the year 2000, having been overtaken by China in recent years.[47] These disappointing results are most likely unsurprising in light of the structural inefficiency of PD policies described in the section above. However, other shortcomings ¾ some tractable and others uncontrollable ¾ also conduced to the overall failure of Japan’s public diplomacy campaigns.

A lack of bilateral communication, the mutual exchange of culture and values, may have contributed to the failure of Japan’s pop-culture diplomacy. Joseph Nye often emphasized that “effective public diplomacy involved listening as well as talking, because it rests on shared values.”[48] However, MOFA’s approach to expanding soft power generally prioritized the “talking” element, on increasing Japanese popular culture’s global reach. The Japan Foundation’s cultural centers in ASEAN acted as enthusiastic broadcasters of Japanese culture, but often did not make sufficient efforts to integrate and appreciate local customs and values.[49] While this one-way promotion had the potential to increase the popularity of Japanese content industries abroad, pop-culture influence alone could not make up an effective soft power strategy because it did not address other parts that were instrumental to a bilateral diplomatic relationship, such as “listening” and reciprocal understanding. As a result of these flaws, MOFA’s 2000s PD campaigns were able to spark interest in Japanese language and culture, as discussed in the previous passage, but not fundamentally change people’s views about Japan as a state. To develop a more co-optive strategy, Japan should prioritize building bilateral relationships.

More complications and limitations arose from the perceived statelessness of Japanese content. Many of the most successful cultural products exported from Japan could be considered “culturally odorless,” as coined by Koichi Iwabuchi, in that their Japanese origins are not easily identifiable to global consumers.[50] For example, Mario is an Italian plumber who only speaks English, while the Pokémon franchise occupies a universe that bears more resemblance to Western than Japanese society.[51] The statelessness of these cultural products was, in part, the reason for their receptibility and success worldwide, but also what hindered them from representing Japanese culture and its underlying values. Truthfully, modern Japanese popular culture is inescapably inspired by its allies to the West; and like most countries around the world, it has been susceptible to cultural globalization. Without the ability to fully evoke recognition and respect for Japan in its consumers, the soft power potential of certain cultural products remains limited.

Other than the perplexities of manipulating such a decentralized affair as content diffusion, the “anti-social,” “anti-establishment,” and youth-oriented elements of Japan’s postmodern cultural products makes them even more unsuitable to mobilize in official affairs.[52] A self-evident example would be Death Note, one of the most acclaimed 2000s anime whose plot centered on a protagonist that could murder people by writing their names in a notebook. Considering that the goal of Japanese public diplomacy in the 20th and 21st century was to eliminate its image as warmongering criminals, this widely popular but excessively violent series was impossible to wield in the practice of PD. Though not all Japanese popular culture is vulgar, violent, or anti-establishment, stereotypes originating from specific genres of content industries have caused anime, manga, and video games to remain relatively stigmatized and overlooked in higher political institutions, despite the clear power it holds in influencing public opinion.[53] Thus, it would take significant time before foreign diplomats readily accept popular culture as a source of soft power and international influence. The younger demographic of content industries too limited its short-term effects on foreign relationships.

In addition to mismanagement, unilateral communication, and practical unsuitability, the lack of historic accountability in Japanese foreign policy too needs to be addressed before Japanese soft power could become a powerful resource. The more sinister side of public diplomacy could be seen from the adorable Hello Kitty. After recognizing its potential as a nation-branding emblem, MOFA appointed this character as the cultural ambassador of Japan to China.[54] By using soft, vulnerable, child-like, and seemingly innocent icons such as Hello Kitty as national symbols, Japan inadvertently framed itself as a victim of WWII and exploited manufactured sweetness to conceal a record of military expansionism.[55] Through the selective promotion of Japanese pop-culture, Japan rebranded itself in a way that justified its retreat from wartime responsibility.

Still, the lack of sincere communication between Japan and its Asian neighbors overrode these controversial efforts to ease anti-Japanese sentiments in Asia. In his heavily cited essay, Peng Lam argued that “despite the attractiveness of Japanese pop culture, Tokyo’s pursuit of soft power and a good international image [was] undermined by its failure to overcome its burden of history.”[56] As echoed by Nye, soft power is not solely dictated by the attractiveness of a nation’s culture, but also its credibility and accountability.[57] For example, when Abe refused to acknowledge government involvement in the comfort women system in 2006, a wave of backlash and protest arose from both Asia and the USA.[58] Long-term public opinion surveys conducted in China and South Korea also revealed fluctuating attitudes towards Tokyo that were more influenced by territorial disputes than cultural products. [59] As Iwabuchi describes, “Koreans and Chinese are perfectly comfortable playing Nintendo games while angrily protesting Japanese claims to sovereignty over the Liancourt/Tokdo/Takeshima and Diaoyu/Senkaku island chains, respectively.” A love for Japanese popular culture and a hatred for the Japanese government are often not mutually exclusive; therefore, without the proper acknowledgement of past actions, the fragile power of pop culture alone was unlikely to heal the hardened scars of wartime atrocities. For Japan to establish stable soft power within the scope of East and Southeast Asia, a more bilateral diplomatic strategy that not only promoted pop-culture, but also properly addresses and prioritizes history, is necessary.

Besides the ineffectiveness of Japan’s diplomatic strategy, Japan’s cultural policies had damaging effects on the domestic population of Japan. By homogenizing, politicizing, and weaponizing national heritage, Japan risks sacrificing the welfare of Japanese content creators and the natural relationship created by a shared culture. To start with, production incentives provided by METI and the Japan Foundation indirectly stimulated the abuse of workers within Japan’s content sectors. The anime industry, for example, was notorious for underpaying its artists, with starting animators earning as little as $7.10 per hour for 400-600 hours per month.[60] MOFA’s “Kawaii Ambassador” program, which appoints several young women to represent aspects of Japanese fashion trends, has been critiqued as an institutional exploitation of youth subcultural fashion.[61] Furthermore, not only had individuals within content industries been harmed, but also the authenticity and diversity of Japanese culture. MOFA and other PD agencies often dealt with soft power in mono-dimensional ways, flattening centuries of development into fictitious, homogenous narratives that advertised only the most profitable and often most “westernized” portions of Japan.[62] From representing all of Japanese culture with only a few ambassadors, to drawing forceful connections between pop-culture and traditional Japanese customs, Japan’s 2000s cultural PD strategy stifled domestic multiculturalism, creativity, and unity.


Although titles like Pokémon and Super Mario are becoming ever more familiar to international audiences, endeavors to politically capitalize on Japanese popular culture had been unsuccessful. MOFA and METI’s attempts in the 2000s to promote the diffusion of content industries largely failed due to mismanagement, but even if they were effective, Japan’s pop-culture campaigns alone likely could not spark a significant growth in soft power resources. Not only did MOFA’s 2000s soft power campaigns lack detailed planning, but also the accountability and bilateral communication that was necessary for a comprehensive soft power strategy. The reluctance of Tokyo to undertake sincere expressions of war responsibility also barred PD efforts from reaching their maximum potential in Asia. As the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun described, “it takes months, even years, to build up the respect that gives soft power ¾ and all that is gained can be lost in a moment.”[63] Japanese content functioned in part as Japan’s introduction on the global stage, as seen from its success in prompting people to study the Japanese language. However, the assumption that countries would support Japanese foreign policy on the basis of manga, anime, and Hello Kitty alone is vastly unrealistic. For Japan to strengthen its soft power and achieve its ambitious foreign goals without damaging its domestic populations, much reform and reconsideration is required; but for now, the world shall at least be blessed by the sight of Abe cosplaying as a fictional Italian plumber.


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[1] Douglas McGray, “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” Foreign Policy, November 2009, accessed March 29, 2021, In his influential article, McGray introduced the term “Gross National Cool” to describe Japan’s rising cultural power.

[2] Media and Content Industry Division, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry of Japan, “Content Industry: Current Status and Direction of Future Development,” Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, last modified April 2016, accessed April 26, 2021,

[3] Joseph S. Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2004), 5-7.

[4] Joseph S. Nye, Power in the Global Information Age: From Realism to Globalization (London: Routledge, 2005), 78.

[5] University of Southern California, “Defining Public Diplomacy,” USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD), last modified 2021, accessed July 30, 2021,

[6] Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, “What Is Cultural Diplomacy?,” Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD), last modified 2021, accessed July 30, 2021,

[7] See Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “MOFA Diplomatic Bluebook 2003,” page 11, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, last modified 2003, accessed April 29, 2021,; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “MOFA Diplomatic Bluebook 2020,” page 7, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, last modified 2020, Also see Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “United Nations Reform: Priority Issues for Japan,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, last modified January, 2006, accessed April 29, 2021,

[8] “The Constitution,” Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet.

[9] The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Military Balance 2021 (Routledge, 2021), Japan, digital file.

[10] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “United Nations Reform,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

[11] McGray, “Japan’s Gross National Cool.”

[12] Taro Aso, “Policy Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso to the 166th Session of the Diet” (keynote address presented at 166th Session of the Diet, National Diet Building, Tokyo, Japan, January 26, 2007), accessed April 4, 2021,

[13] Nicholas Burns, “Illustrations and Influence: Soft Diplomacy and Nation Branding through Popular Culture,” Harvard International Review, April 2016, accessed March 29, 2021,

[14] Roberto Nisi, “The Soft Power of Cool: Japanese Foreign Policy in the 21st Century” (unpublished manuscript, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, December 2017),

[15] Kazuo Ogoura, “Japan’s Postwar Cultural Diplomacy,” lecture presented at Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany, November 7, 2007, Freie Universität Berlin,

[16] Bukh, “Revisiting Japan’s,” 470.

[17] Peng Er Lam, “Japan’s Quest for ‘Soft Power’: Attraction and Limitation,” East Asia 24 (October 27, 2007): 5,

[18] Bukh, “Revisiting Japan’s,” 470.

[19] Japan Foundation, “Arts and Cultural Exchange [Culture],” Japan Foundation, last modified 2021, accessed August 1, 2021,

[20] Takeshi Matsui, “Nation Branding through Stigmatized Pop Culture: The ‘Cool Japan’ Craze among Central Ministies in Japan,” Hitotsubashi Journal of Commerce and Management 48, no. 1 (October 2014): 89,

[21] Toshiya Nakamura, “Japan’s New Public Diplomacy: Coolness in Foreign Policy Objectives,” Nagoya University, 4, last modified April 12, 2012, accessed April 23, 2021,

[22] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “2003 Project Budget for ODA-related Ministries and Agencies (Original Budget) and Project Outlines,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, last modified June 10, 2019, accessed April 29, 2021,

[23] Lam, “Japan’s Quest,” 356.

[24] Bukh, “Revisiting Japan’s,” 474.

[25]  Matsui, “Nation Branding,” 87.

[26] The Japan Times, “Promoting ‘Cool Japan,'” Japan Times (Chiyoda, Tokyo), August 15, 2010, accessed July 29, 2021,

[27] Rafael Antonio Pineda, “Japan’s Digital Video Market Topped Combined Physical Video, Rental Sales for the 1st Time in 2020,” Anime News Network, June 26, 2021, accessed August 1, 2021,

[28] For more information, see Patrick A. Messerlin and Wonkyu Shin, “The Success of K-pop: How Big and Why So Fast?,” Asian Journal of Social Science 45, no. 4/5 (2017): 421,

[29] Iwabuchi, “Cool Japan,” 6.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid, 6-7.

[33] Junko Fujita, “Bureaucrats Seek to Pick Winners with $1 Billion ‘Cool Japan’ Fund,” Reuters (London, United Kingdom), November 24, 2013, accessed August 1, 2021,

[34] Cool Japan Fund Inc., “Investing in an Overseas ‘Japan Channel,'” news release, March 4, 2015, accessed August 1, 2021,

[35] Yuta Saito, “Cool Japan Fund’s Big Ambitions Mostly Fall Flat,” Nikkei Asia (Tokyo, Japan), November 6, 2017, accessed August 1, 2021,

[36] Ibid.

[37] Timothy J. Craig et al., Cool Japan: Case Studies from Japan’s Cultural and Creative Industries (Ashiya, Japan: BlueSky Publishing, 2018), 17.

[38] Michael J. Norris, “Exploring Japanese Popular Culture as a Soft Power Resource,” Inquiries Journal 2, no. 5 (2010): accessed March 30, 2021,

[39] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Survey Report on Japanese-Language Education Abroad 2018, comp. The Japan Foundation, 24, October 5, 2020,

[40] Grand View Research, comp., Anime Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Type (T.V., Movie, Video, Internet Distribution, Merchandising, Music, Pachinko, Live Entertainment), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2019 – 2025, December 2019, accessed April 17, 2021.

[41] Takeshi Matsui, “The Diffusion of Foreign Cultural Products: The Case Analysis of Japanese Comics (Manga) Market in the US” (unpublished manuscript, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, May 2007), 1, accessed April 7, 2021,

[42] Ibid, 18.

[43] Ibid, 19.

[44] Grand View Research, Anime Market Size.

[45] Wuqian Qian, “The Dissemination and Localization of Anime in China: Case Study on the Chinese Mobile Video Game Onmyoji” (unpublished manuscript, The Department of Asian, Middle Easter, and Turkish Studies; Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, November 2016), [Page #], accessed July 18, 2021,

[46] Norris, “Exploring Japanese Popular Culture”.

[47] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Opinion Poll on Japan,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, last modified March 18, 2020, accessed April 29, 2021,

[48] Nye, Soft Power, 110.

[49] Japan Foundation, “Arts and Cultural Exchange,” Japan Foundation.

[50] Christina Yano, Koichi Iwabuchi, and Yasushi Watanabe, “Soft Power and Cultural Diplomacy,” speech presented at Australian National University Japan Update, November 2015, Youtube, last modified November 9, 2015, accessed April 21, 2021,

[51] Bulbapedia, “Pokémon World in Relation to the Real World,” Bulbagarden News, last modified 2021, accessed August 1, 2021,

[52] Kazuo Ogoura, “Japan’s Cultural Diplomacy, Past and Present,” Academia, last modified 2008, 53,

[53] Atkins, A History of Popular Culture, 26.

[54] Koji Sasahara, “Hello Kitty Named Japan Tourism Ambassador,” NBC News (New York City), May 19, 2008, accessed April 29, 2021,

[55] Yano, Iwabuchi, and Watanabe, “Soft Power,” speech, Youtube.

[56] Lam, “Japan’s Quest,” 349.

[57] Nye, Soft Power, 7.

[58] Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, “Japanese PM Slammed during US Visit on Comfort Women Issue,” NBC (New York City), May 1, 2015, accessed April 29, 2021,

[59] Lam, “Japan’s Quest,” 360.

[60] Matthew Payne, “Animators in Japan Deserve Better Working Conditions,” North Texas Daily (Denton, TX), October 1, 2019.

[61] Laura Miller, “Cute Masquerade and the Pimping of Japan,” International Journal of Japanese Sociology 20, no. 1 (2011): 18.

[62] Daniel White, “How the Center Holds: Administering Soft Power and Cute Culture in Japan,” in Reframing Diversity in the Anthropology of Japan, ed. John Ertl (Kanazawa University Center for Cultural Resource Studies, 2015), 110-111, accessed April 17, 2021,

[63] “Soft power: Strive to be a ‘caring’ nation so as to help others that are less fortunate”, Asahi Shimbun, 23 May 2007, quoted in Lam, “Japan’s Quest,” 358.

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