cool japanAuthor: Tim Craig
Published August 2016, updated July 2017.
Length: 12 pages (plus exhibits)

With Japanese manga, anime, video games, fashion, food, and other cultural products popular worldwide but their creators not earning as much internationally as many believed they could, the Japanese government in 2010 launched the Cool Japan strategy, designed to make the nation’s cultural industries a driver of economic growth and increase Japan’s “soft power.” Like the industrial policy that helped jump-start Japan’s postwar “economic miracle,” however, the Cool Japan campaign, led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, had critics. Would government bureaucrats succeed in using taxpayer money, including the $1 billion Cool Japan Fund, in ways that benefitted the nation economically?

This case describes the background, aims, and mechanics of the Cool Japan strategy, including a comparison with neighboring South Korea’s successful efforts to promote its cultural industries. Arguments for and against the Cool Japan campaign are presented, along with descriptions of 23 projects the Cool Japan Fund invested in between 2014 and June 2017, challenging readers to judge for themselves whether the Cool Japan strategy will achieve its goals.

Topics: “Cool Japan” strategy, Industrial policy, Japan’s economy, Cultural industries, Soft power, Assessing economic impact of projects