April 18, 2011

Informal PD: Solidifying Cool Japan

While Japan has a long history of traditional PD, it is emerging with a new more popular culture PD today through the soft power of anime and manga. Similar to China, Japan plans on educating the world about its culture. For instance, in 2006, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed setting up a "Nobel Prize" for foreign "manga" cartoon artists and awarded talented Japanese artists the title of "Anime Ambassador". Aso, said Japan’s anime and manga could be the way to China’s heart. "What you have been doing ... has grabbed the hearts of young people in many countries, including China," he told an audience of some 100 students at the University of Digital Content in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. But does winning over people’s hearts equate to a legitimate and credible image within the international community? Japan, on occasion, has been known to have an odorless culture. So it is trying to set itself apart from that primarily through cultural diplomacy.

A brief look of images show Japan’s attempt to display its gastronomy, tourist destinations, electronics, hello kitty, and anime and manga culture. Just because one public likes another’s culture doesn’t necessarily equate to spectacular international relations between the two countries. There are many factors to consider if an actor has a successful PD policy. Furthermore, this form of PD targets a younger audience abroad. One thing is for sure, the younger generations are most open to change in the field of public diplomacy. Of course, making Japanese culture cool does not hurt Japan’s image but it does not necessarily mean that people trust in Japan as a leading global actor. Younger generations, however, are fueling new ideas to modernize traditional diplomacy and bring it to the world’s people. There are now large relief programs using social networking sites to raise relief funds for the earthquake/tsunami. The opportunities are endless for where PD can go…the only question is if whether or not the opportunities that became a reality successfully changed the image of the country in question.

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