Saturday, May 8, 2010

Turning Japanese

I've written before about inter-concentrational smack talk at American University's School of International Service, but it's worth noting that friendly ribbing occurs even within individual concentrations. So it was that an anonymous IC student was recently lamenting her inability to locate any information on Japanese public diplomacy. This led, of course, to disparaging remarks about her abilities as a researcher in general and at least one arrogant boast (from me) that the information could be located quickly--with the right skills.

Well, the information is out there. But locating it proved more difficult than I'd initially assumed. Scholars and journalists (at least those publishing in English) have been comparatively silent on the subject of Japanese public diplomacy. But after some scrounging around, I did manage to find some information, highlighted below.

Japan seems to be emphasizing cultural diplomacy, particularly programs that involve exchanges, pop culture and language instruction. But the objectives and targets of Japan's efforts are unclear, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website makes a vague reference to the importance of PD as a soft power resource and many of the sites listed below refer to the importance of dialogue, exchange and mutual appreciation.


Japan's Gross National Cool: This 2002 Foreign Policy article addresses the growing soft power influence of Japanese pop culture, including film, animation, manga, music, electronics, architecture, fashion and cuisine. Sample grab: "Japan is reinventing superpower--again.... From pop music to consumer electronics, architecture to fashion, and animation to cuisine, Japan looks more like a cultural superpower today than it did in the 1980s, when it was an economic one. But can Japan build on its mastery of medium to project an equally powerful national message?"

A New Dimension in Japanese Public Diplomacy: This 2008 press release from the Tokyo Foundation describes efforts to increase international exchanges and Japanese-language instruction. Sample grab: "Spurred by the momentum of China's Confucius Institute, the Japanese government is pressed to rebuild its overseas language education program and public diplomacy."

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website offers quick links to several educational and
professional exchanges, as well as investment information. A page dedicated to public diplomacy and culture has more links to provide general information about Japan, Japanese pop culture, language education, exchanges, partnerships with international organizations and cultural grants. Sample grab: "In order to conduct foreign policy smoothly and effectively, it is essential to promote an understanding of Japan among the general public overseas and to enhance their image of and sense of affinity toward Japan, in addition to appealing directly to policymaking groups in other countries."

The Center for Global Partnership focuses specifically on
promoting collaboration and exchange between Japan and the United States. The Japan Foundation and the Japan Center for International Exchange also further exchanges. The Agency for Cultural Affairs supports culture-promoting policy. And the Foreign Press Center provides information on the country in both English and Japanese.

The general objectives of Japanese public diplomacy are clear. But what are the specific goals? And who are the main targets? I'll throw the question out for any IC student eager to demonstrate her superior researching abilities: What's at the heart of Japanese public and cultural diplomacy?


  1. There is also Kazuo Ogoura, Japan's Cultural Diplomacy (The Japan Foundation, 2009).

  2. You might like the piece in PD Magazine on anime diplomacy by Japan's DG for PD:

    Japan also carries out the crux of its pd through exchanges. Programs like JETT, JASC and other cultural exchanges are main key to pd efforts. Japan's exchange pd is based on the notion that if you visit, you will return to your home country as an ambassador for Japan and as someone who is local, your message is more readily absorbed.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions! I'll be sure to pass them on.