Cool Japan Gets Olympic Momentum, Cash Injection

Cool Japan Fund and JETRO take on the world

Noboyuki Ota of Cool Japan Fund
Courtesy of Cool Japan

“Cool Japan,” a now nearly decade-old government initiative to promote Japanese popular culture abroad, has long been derided as more high-flown talk than well-financed action.

Compared with the South Korean government’s lavish and aggressive support of pop cultural exports, from frothy K-pop acts to violent action films, the efforts of their Japanese
counterparts have been muted, to put it mildly.

The roadshow continued Tuesday at FilMart, but there could be a new dynamic soon.

The success of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics has lit a fire under “Cool Japan” bureaucrats, with a re-launch of the initiative announced on March 18 by Administrative Reform Minister Tomomi Inada.

The first step will be to set up a panel of prominent figures from various fields, including music, TV, fashion and academia. Their remit is to come with recommendations for publicizing Japanese culture abroad in the run-up to the Games.

Meanwhile, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), an independent government org that has been boosting Japanese exports since 1951, and the Cool Japan Fund, which launched last November with ¥30 billion ($295 million) in government funds and ¥7.5 billion ($74 million) from 15 private companies, announced on March 13 that they were partnering to support Japanese cultural products and services overseas.

Their aim, the partners said in a statement, is to revitalize Japan’s economy, “by joining forces to develop new demand abroad, nurture industries and effectively transmit Japan’s coolness” to foreign fans consumers.

One focus will be the rest of Asia, which already has a big appetite for Japanese pop culture content, but where returns to Japanese rights holders have been relatively small.

With 73 offices abroad, as well as a vast range of business contacts, JETRO will help match Cool Japan Fund’s clients with prospective foreign partners, as well as supply info on local market conditions and regulations. One plan is to beam Japanese anime and TV shows and other contents to foreign viewers, though details are yet lacking.

More, however, may be forthcoming as a result of the JETRO hosted business meetings with 11 invited foreign companies at the Anime Japan 2014 trade fair, which took place over the weekend (March 22 and 23.) The intent is to boost sales of Japanese anime abroad and facilitate cross-border co-productions.

Said Cool Japan Fund prexy Nobuyuki Ota at the partnership announcement: “Using our shared know-how, we will be able to make the world even more aware of the coolness of Japan.”