The future of soft power policies

 ■The future of soft power policies

I was invited for a talk at the LDP's Soft Power Special Committee.

Appearing there were people like Chairman Takeo Kawamura (former Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, and Science), Toshiaki Endo (former Olympics Minister), Masahiko Shibayama (former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, and Science), and Takeaki Matsumoto (former Minister of Foreign Affairs).

I shared my personal opinion on the current state and issues around soft power, Cool Japan, and content policies as follows.

About 30 years ago, Harvard University professor Joseph Nye, who proposed the theory of soft power, pointed out that Japan should make use of the power of pop culture in particular.

The term "Cool Japan" originates in 2002, when Douglas McGray published a paper called "Japan's Gross National Cool," stating that the country changed from an economic powerhouse in the 80s to a cultural powerhouse in the 90s.

Compared to hard power, the evaluation criteria for soft power are not clear, and it is difficult to handle in terms of policy. And Cool Japan refers to things discovered about Japan from overseas. So the point is less about how to launch what Japan wants, but how to develop the kind of content people overseas are looking for. It was because of that trend that pop culture was the central theme, rather than traditional arts.

One frame of reference is NHK's Cool Japan program. It is a long-lived program that has run for 14 years since 2006, where foreigners living in Japan talk about what is cool about the country. I appear once monthly, and there are seemingly endless topics. The foreigners propose idea after idea. The more you explore, the more cool content Japan has to offer.

At first, a lot of the content was around pop culture like anime and games, but now it covers a wider range. Food topics include rice bowls and ramen. Other topics are friends, shopping, books, club activities, aquariums, convenience stores, deliveries, manners, and more. A recent topic was take-out food. The program talks about how a new culture is being born out of the bento box culture in the wake of COVID-19.

The government began paying particular attention to the content industry from the early 2000s.

In 2003, the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters was established, and together with related ministries and agencies such as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Agency for Cultural Affairs, they began focusing on intellectual property policies such as those around use of content. There has been a shift from domestic emphasis and industrial promotion measures in the past to an emphasis on overseas expansion and growth on the Internet.

First is overseas expansion. On a funding basis, policy tools have been built up, such as the establishment of the Cool Japan Fund in 2013. Overseas sales increased by 26% in 5 years. Anime increased by 3.6 times, and movies by 4.3 times. Broadcasting increased by 4.3 times. It could be said to be the result of the policies that were made. However, Japan's sales account for just 2.5% of the overseas market, so further growth is expected.

Next is development online. Online streaming grew from 9.5% in 2008 to 26.0%, but there is a big difference by area, with manga taking up 40%, anime 15%, music 8%, and video 4%. Sales in publishing increased last year for the first time in 23 years. The electronic publishing copyright business saw growth. On the other hand, the Japanese music industry has not been able to ride the wave of the global market growing online.

Overseas players are a threat, such as from pirated manga, anime on Netflix, games being made for the cloud, such as by Google, and music on Spotify. However, they also provide production funding and overseas sales channel expansion. Streaming has grown in unique ways due to emergency demand under COVID-19, but the question is how Japan's content industries should get on board with that.

I propose two trajectories to take.

First is matching between content and other domains. Strategies that leverage synergistic effects through collaborations between content and fashion, food, tourism, and other industries are key.

Of the 10T JPY from Pokémon-related sales, more than 6T JPY is in the character merchandise business.

Sales from anime creators are 240B JPY, and the rights business is 2.1T JPY. It's nearly 10 times larger.

Another issue is compatibility with Society 5.0. The content industry, which is mainly made up of small and medium-sized enterprises, has been unable to adapt.

Distribution will shift to 5G and the cloud, and content will be viewed through diverse environments such as IoT and VR. In particular, it is important to develop systems for data usage. Netflix is a targeting business based entirely on data, but domestic TV is unable to use viewing data.

Also, coordination between intellectual property strategy (copyright) and IT strategy (telecommunication encryption) is an important issue in anti-piracy measures. Similarly, policy issues surrounding intellectual property, content and IT, and technology are likely to grow. The Digital Agency has become an important issue for the Suga Cabinet, but the state of administrative organizations around Cool Japan should also be evaluated.

Here are two private sector projects I was involved in. The first is e-sports.

Japan has been late to the game in e-sports, but the environment is in place, so it looks poised to set off as an industry. According to a report by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and JeSU, it is predicted that it will grow by 16 times in the next five years. It is growing rapidly due to demand under COVID-19, and growth is slated to be faster than expected. However, to that end, there are issues that should be addressed by both industry, government, and academia.

Another example is about building sites. In September, the CiP opened in Takeshiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo as a site to aggregate content. Content creators, IT, universities, and other entities congregate here to run pop and tech projects. Digital Minister Takuya Hirai stated that he would like to make this location a branch of the Digital Agency, and preparations are underway.

We'd like to make it a hub by promoting cooperation within Tokyo, such as with sites like Haneda and Shibuya, and cooperation with other cities such as Sapporo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Naha. Agreements have also been concluded with governments and local municipalities that are keen on content, such as the Korea Creative Content Agency and the Spanish state of Catalonia, and we will also promote collaborations with international cities. Talks are also underway with Shanghai.

The live entertainment industry has been hit the hardest by COVID-19. CiP has compiled some statements and is moving to ask the government and bureaucracy to take action. The content includes a mechanism to shore up content dissemination from rural areas, and support for utilizing the latest technology such as 5G and AR/VR. We have also expressed our interest in cooperating on measures such as the establishment of funds by the music industry.

Based on the above, I have 5 requests to make.


This is the first topic of importance for the current administration. Digital support for content is still insufficient. There is an urgent need for live streaming, global expansion, and AI and data support. We should provide support and guidance through tax systems and the like.


The foundation of soft power and Cool Japan is a creative cultural state where everyone can participate and create in a free environment. That requires education that maintains and enhances the creativity of the citizenry.

This year, the one computer per person policy will be realized in elementary and junior high schools all at once. I hope they will proceed with measures like enhancing creative activities through programming learning.

Core organizations

I want to create a core organization for public-private partnerships that advance the Cool Japan policy.

This has been repeatedly proposed at government meetings, and it has also been described in recent intellectual property plans. The private sector will prepare a context for this to work, so we should at the very least implement it and let them run with it.

"Ministry of Culture"

The Digital Agency is important, but administrative IT is the core pillar undergirding this. What is more important is the fusion of IT and intellectual property policies.

Recently, the Keidanren proposed the idea of a Ministry of Digital Affairs and Ministry of Information Economy and Culture. Digital is but a means, while the purpose is culture. I also agree with the establishment of a powerful ministry organ that represents the shape of the country to come. The core is culture, so the name should be the Ministry of Culture.

Olympics and Expos

There is no country that has had as many opportunities given to it as Japan. This should be used intensively for hybrids approaches, such as as a promotion venue for soft power.

Japan is seen by the world as creative, but it doesn't see itself as such. We have a low sense of self-affirmation. It's this issue of the prevailing atmosphere. We need to freshen things up and breathe new life into it so Japan can see itself for what it truly is. I hope the political leadership will take charge here.

A lawmaker asked how we should strengthen soft power through digital education.

Digital is a tool for creation and expression. It's therefore more effective for music, arts, and crafts than language, arithmetic, science, and sociology curricula. The extent of that education is the source of soft power. So double the time for music, arts, and crafts classes!

That was my reply.

0 コメント: