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

Clear goals and focused targets are needed to project "Cool Japan"
KOHARI Susumu / Professor, University of Shizuoka

October 13, 2014
International attention has been focused for some time on the policy approach aimed at national branding. For example, Britain is known for its efforts to improve its national image under the banner of "Cool Britannia" since the 1990s. National branding means the process of managing a nation's image with a view to boosting its international reputation. Its ultimate aim is to establish a national image that can withstand international competition in such fields as tourism, trade and overseas investment. Japan, for its part, has been pursuing such a policy with the Cool Japan Fund Inc. set up by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry at the end of 2013 and the designation a Cabinet minister in charge of "Cool Japan Strategy".

What are the factors that determine how a nation is perceived? There seem to be two dominant factors. One is the image of "warmth" and the other is the image of "competence". In other words, the extent to which a nation appears to be "warm" and "competent" has a lot to do with its national branding,

Naturally, the image that a particular nation evokes depends on whose perception you are talking about. Let us look at this on a country-to-country basis. For example, in the quantitative survey of the people of the Republic of Korea and of Taiwan that I conducted jointly with Associate Professor Kenichi Ishii of Tsukuba University and Professor Satoshi Watanabe of the University of Shizuoka, both the Koreans and the Taiwanese rated European countries highly in terms of "warmth" and "competence". However, their rating of some Southeast Asian countries was high in terms of "warmth", but not so high in terms of "competence".

What is noteworthy is the difference shown in their respective perceptions of Japan. The Taiwanese rated both Japan's "warmth" and "competence" highly. The Koreans, on the other hand, rated Japan's "competence" highly, but not its "warmth".

Our survey also revealed that the image of "warmth" was linked to the desire to purchase such Japanese products as leather shoes, DVD movies, shirts and mineral water. Those who feel Japan's "warmth" tend to want to buy these Japanese products, whereas those who feel "competence" about Japan prefer to buy high-end manufactured products such as PCs and automobiles.

Bearing these points in mind, I am inclined to feel that Japan's "Cool Japan" policy should be promoted on the basis of clearly defined national branding goals. We should be clear in our own mind as to whether our main goal is to improve our overall image or to improve our image in promoting the export of our products and tourism to Japan by foreign visitors, and focus our targets accordingly. The targets should differ according to the country or the region concerned.

To put it another way, we should put our emphasis on enhancing Japan's image of "warmth" in those countries or regions where that image is not high. Likewise, we should underline our "competence" in those countries or regions where that image is deficient. Doing so could not only help improve their image of Japan, but also stimulate their appetite for buying Japanese products. It is well known that attraction as a tourist destination is closely linked to whether you "like or dislike" the country.
 It is easy to surmise that Japan's pop culture, which provides the source material for the "Cool Japan" strategy, is accepted ,depending on its content, in different ways in different countries and regions,. Take drama as a content, for example. Korean dramas are popular in the Chinese-speaking world and Southeast Asia. This is probably because the characteristics of Korean drama, such as simple and schematic stories centering around the main themes of family love and romantic love, strike the right chord with vast segments of people in these countries and regions. Japanese drama, by comparison, tends to contain unpredictable stories woven by diverse themes and multiple characters, and may be considered as too complex in a number of countries and regions. For example, in those countries and regions where post-modern societies dominate, Japanese drama with complex story lines may be popular. One such example is the TV drama series "Mita the House Keeper", a great hit in 2011, which depicted a typically trouble-ridden contemporary family and a strange housekeeper dispatched there to help the household chores. The countries and regions with still largely pre-modern societies are probably more receptive to the drama series by screenwriter Sugako Hashida, which focus on the web of love and hate in families. One such work by her is the serialized TV drama "Oshin" produced in 1983 about the life of a Meiji woman from a poverty-stricken rural village overcoming many hardships to become a successful businesswoman and the family love around her.

TV people are already aware of this and are making the necessary efforts, but it is important to bear in mind that even though a work is popular in today's Japan, it is a different story when it comes to selling the work to a different country or region. Whether it is a drama or something else, it does not follow that what is intrinsically goodwill be automatically appreciated as such without any effort.

Susumu Kohari is Professor, Faculty of International Relations, University of Shizuoka.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小針 進 / 静岡県立大学教授

2014年 10月 13日
国家ブランディングを目指した政策的取り組みが、国際的に注目を集めて久しい。たとえば、英国は90年代から”Cool Britannia”とよばれる自国へのイメージ改善に取り組んできたという。国家ブランディングとは、国際的な国の評判を高めることを目指した、国のイメージの管理のプロセスだ。最終的な目標は観光・貿易・海外投資等で競争力のある国家イメージを確立することである。日本も経済産業省が2013年末にクールジャパン機構を設置し、「クールジャパン戦略担当」大臣を置くなどの取り組みを進めている。









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) > Clear goals and focused targets are needed to project "Cool Japan"