Budget allocation would promote entertainment abroad

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While Japanese cultural exports have been popularized overseas in recent years, such content has not been as lucrative as it could be, and the government is moving to do something about it.

Under the catchphrase “Cool Japan,” the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will request $22.4 million in next year’s governmental budget to promote design, manga and pics outside Japan. METI’s Creative Industries Promotion Office believes it can triple sales of cultural content products overseas to $25 billion in 10 years.

Concrete details for the initiative have not yet been established; market research is ongoing. A METI report from July notes that Hollywood currently shows great interest in Japan — pics like “Shall We Dance?” and “The Ring” have been remade, and others highly commended, such as “Departures,” last year’s foreign-language Oscar winner — but thus far the financial return has been lacking.

“Japan is now a focus of interest for many people around the world,” says Masakazu Maeno, a representative from the promotion office. “Yet we have not been able to make a profit from that interest, and we need to develop a mechanism to do so.”

METI’s Media and Content Industry Division collected data from China and found that of the 10 most popular manga titles, nine were Japanese, including the long-running pirate adventure “One Piece” and ninja series “Naruto.”

Troubling for METI is that only 5% of revenue for manga comes from international sales. “The study showed that manga is well received overseas,” explains Yoko Ikeda, a representative of the division. “But the percentage means that we are not utilizing this success.”

Promoting Japanese content in bundled form is not new for METI. The Japan Intl. Contents Festival (CoFesta), now in its fourth year, is an umbrella organization that brings together 17 confabs taking place across Japan over three months. It kicked off with the Tokyo Game Show last month and will include the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival this month. CoFesta also held a special exhibition at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, where it exhibited Japanese music, fashion and 3D animation.

But many have been expressing a need for more support. At a September press conference prior to the unspooling of “Kyoto Story,” Yoji Yamada’s latest pic for studio Shochiku, co-helmer Tsutomu Abe indicated that the time is now for government action, saying that opportunities are lacking for Japan’s new generation of filmmakers.

“How to nurture the next generation of talent is a question,” he said of the pic, which utilized film students from Ritsumeikan U. during production. “Hopefully, the government will start supporting films like this one.”

METI may now be listening more intently. “In order to bring our 2020 goal to fruition,” Ikeda says, “we have to conceptualize a vision and work with our creators and producers directly.”

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