Japan prepares “Cool Japan” investment fund

Japan’s pop culture—a delectable concoction of anime, robot mania, Harajuku fashion, J-pop music, and seasonal cuisine—has swiftly attracted a cult following over the years.

Japan is now set to launch an investment fund to support businesses promoting “Cool Japan,” a multidisciplinary campaign aimed at showcasing its rich culture abroad.

Overseen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the campaign encourages private investors to export “Cool Japan” products.

Hideaki Ibuki, director of the creative industries division at METI, said the ministry has already received about 90 proposals from companies hoping to expand their businesses overseas.

The ministry will manage the fund, with an investment of 50 billion yen ($500 million) from the government and 10 billion yen from private financial institutions and manufacturers.

Because creative companies tend to be small or medium-size, there has been no sustained effort to exploit merchandising opportunities from Japan’s cultural exports.

“These types of Japanese companies tend to be small business,” Ibuki said at a news conference Monday. “As they don’t have the money and experience to expand business overseas that has been a big challenge for them.”

Japan is keen on following South Korea’s lead in which it has aggressively promoted its entertainment industry internationally through a cultural-promotion fund.

South Korea has cemented its popular culture in Asian society: K-pop artists dominate music charts while its soap operas and movies have captivated audiences across the region.

“South Korea is keenly aware of the global reach of its entertainment content,” says Seiji Horibuchi, a pioneer in the business of marketing Japanese culture abroad. He has also founded Viz Media, which has distributed Japanese manga, anime and popular culture in North America and elsewhere.

“They have created a successful model that Japan could emulate.”

The move signifies a more active role for the Japanese government in promoting soft power through its cultural exports.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Zack Lee/Flickr

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