chapter  5
21 Pages

Nationalizing “cool”: Japan’s global promotion of the content industry

During the past two decades, Japanese popular culture in the global market has been consumed through television dramas, live-action films, Anime, Manga and video games. At the end of the last millennium, the popular culture industry was estimated to equal the annual sales revenue of the Toyota automobile industry.1 With the increased demand for Anime and Manga titles in non-Japanese markets, and in response to Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power” and Douglas McGray’s article on Japan’s “Gross National Cool” (2002), the Japanese government shifted its focus from a century-long practice of promoting traditional arts to supporting the popular culture industry under the banner “Cool Japan.” The official promotion policy came in June 2004 with the Content Industry Promotion Law (kontentsu sangyo¯ shinko¯ho¯), which allowed the Japanese government to openly, and full-fledgedly, support what it deemed as Japan’s future soft power. Considering that much content, especially Anime and Manga, was previously regarded as “vulgar” and a part of mediocre culture in Japan (Nakamura and Onouchi 2006: 45), the current shift in the government’s stance is noteworthy and calls for critical analysis.