Japan’s Empire of Cool

The Washington Post published what is essentially a review of Douglas McGray’s May 2002 article in Foreign Policy Magazine, “Japan’s Gross National Cool.” That article has created a wave of media surrounding the idea that Japan is exporting a lot of culture to the rest of the world after having voraciously imported foreign culture since the turn of the century.
washingtonpost.com: Japan’s Empire of Cool
While it is obvious that modern Japanese culture is increasingly popular around the world, I’m not sure how sustainable it is. If one was to investigate the creators of the most popular Japanese cultural exports, I would bet that few of them are graduates of Japan’s elite universities. I don’t think that the Japanese education system is equipped to graduate the kinds of artists and creative types who, in small numbers so far, have gone on to create globally popular brands and intellectual property.
Other major media on the bandwagon include Time Asia:
TIMEasia Magazine: What’s Right with Japan
Wired Magazine Issue 9.09 – Is Japan Still The Future?

4 Comments on “Japan’s Empire of Cool

  1. Gross National Cool out of control

    Gen Kanai points to the Gross National Cool article by Douglas McGray in Foreign Policy which triggered a serious of…

  2. But typical of following trends, by the time people start writing articles, the fad is on the way out.
    Just from personal observations the winds seem to be changing. Not only is anime no longer the newest and trendiest media form anymore (after all the fad lasted sevaral years), but the Japanese no longer own the franchise. Taiwanese and Korean animation exports are growing steadily as the Japanese industry declines. I used to marvel as a kid at how the names in the credits of most cartoons in the US were mostly Japanese. Now I laugh as typical animation playing in Japan now credits Korean animators with most of the grunt work. In the drive to increase profits, Japanese media has outsourced most animation work to cheaper labor markets and increased reliance on technology. End result may be in a few decades all the big name animators could be non-Japanese.
    At the same time I take a lead from consumer trends in Hong Kong. Every time I visit an HMV in Hong Kong it seems that the Japanese music section keeps getting smaller and more towared the back of the store. Korean artists are again gaining in popularity, in step I believe with the proliferation of Korean TV. Japanese singers made a lot of headway through the popularity of Japanese TV Dramas, but now the new flavor is the korean variant. Ironic as it may seem, the fact that few pirates even bother pirating the latest J-drama should be of a concern to media companies in Japan.
    I mean, in the end its all so.. 1999 you know.
    Man I’m old

  3. Of Samurais and Subtitles

    We’ve had some friendly disagreement on Chanpon over Lost in Translation, a movie that plays with the jerky hipness of neon Tokyo. Was it honoring Japan from a foreigner’s eye? Or using foreignness to excuse cheap jokes? The recent film…