Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

A National Brand beyond Cool Japan
NUMATA Sadaaki  / Special Advisor for CULCON, The Japan Foundation

September 16, 2010
It has become a fashion to apply commercial branding techniques to produce nations' brands. The Republic of Korea, for example, set up the Presidential Commission on Nation Branding last year and has been promoting Korea's image through Hangul, Taekwondo and Kim Yu-Na, the figure skater.

The brand "Cool Britain" conveyed the fresh appeal of Tony Blair's New Labour government in 1997, though some eyebrows were raised at the "commoditisation" of precious British culture and tradition. In 2002, the American magazine Foreign Policy drew attention to Japan's pop culture through its feature "Japan's Gross National Cool", giving currency to the brand "Cool Japan".

Whether or not we like the term "national brand", we need to give this some thought from the following perspectives.

Firstly, we can take reasonable comfort in the fact that Japan is widely perceived in the world as a country of "rich tradition and culture". Professor Hirotaka Watanabe of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, who until recently was in charge of Culture and Information at the Japanese Embassy in Paris, finds that Japan itself has become a "brand" through its culture including pop culture such as manga and anime. It has helped nurture favourable images like "modesty", "peacefulness", "stability", "consideration for others" and "delicacy".

Secondly, pop culture alone, with its limited shelf life, may not suffice to sustain a favourable image of Japan. We should come up with a new phrase, which goes beyond "Cool Japan", to sum up the appeal of Japan's society and culture. "The World's Best Countries" feature of the 16 August 2010 edition of Newsweek ranked Japan 9th overall (1st in Health, 5th in Education, 10th in Economic Dynamism, 13th in Quality of Life and 25th in Political Environment). This gives us some ideas as we try to flesh out the image of Japan that is peaceful and blessed with culture and longevity.

Thirdly, it would be nice for people abroad to feel that something good will come out of being friendly with Japan. For that, a clear idea should be presented on how Japan is helping shape a better world for all. There should be universally appealing messages about what Japan can do, based on its own experiences, to build a "world without nuclear weapons" or achieve clean energy through technological advances. Slogans like "Beautiful Country Japan", "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity", "Fraternity" or "Protect People's Lives", put forward by some recent prime ministers, lacked action content to stir the imagination.

Action content needs to be based on sound judgment, which, in turn, requires contextual intelligence. We should grasp with alertness where Japan finds itself in this changing multi-polar world. It is incumbent on the policy-makers and the media not only to talk about what is happening immediately around us, in relation to the United States, the Korean Peninsula, China or Southeast Asia, but also to inform the Japanese public how events in far-off places like Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Middle East affect Japan.

The immediate task is to build a consensus within Japan on ways in which Japan, as a non-military power, can proactively contribute to global peace and stability, mindful of the plight of the strife-torn areas. Last month, a group of academics, business leaders and other pundits presented a report to the Prime Minister outlining the path toward a "Peace-Creating Japan", which would participate actively in international peace cooperation, non-traditional security and human security. This should be acted on.

At a recent symposium in Tokyo, a leading public intellectual from Singapore commented on China's considerable success vis-à-vis developing countries in Asia and Africa through its charm based on the soft use of military and economic hard power. Though Japan possesses more soft assets than China, he added, its soft power charm may pale somewhat if its economic prospects remain uncertain. Japan must come out of its economic and political uncertainties as soon as possible, and regain the confidence to think positively about its national brand.

The writer is a former ambassador to Canada, ambassador in charge of Okinawan affairs, and ambassador to Pakistan
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭 / 国際交流基金日米センター特別参与

2010年 9月 16日
商業的ブランドのテクニックを応用して国のブランドを打ち出すことが流行ってきている。たとえば、韓国は昨年大統領直属の国家ブランド委員会を創設し、ハングル、テコンドー、フィギャー・スケートのキムヨナ(金 妍兒)などを通じてそのイメージの普及に努めている。









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > A National Brand beyond Cool Japan