Three Faces of Japan's Soft Power

In: Asian International Studies Review
Author: Yee-Kuang Heng
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After two lost decades of economic stagnation and faced with rising neighbors such as South Korea and China, soft power has been touted by politicians and academics alike as a means for Japan to maintain its global profile and influence. "Soft power" is a concept coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye to maintain American preponderance in the post-Cold War era, but what does it mean in the Japanese context? This paper suggests that there are three discernible faces to Japanese soft power. First, there is a conventional emphasis on promoting pop cultural assets overseas such as manga (comic books); anime (animated cartoons) and cosplay (costume play). Second,Japan may also seek to project influence by aligning with international norms on freedom of maritime navigation or combating climate change. Third is a somewhat more unconventional use of Japanese military assets in a non-threatening manner to attract others into supporting Tokyo's policies through, for example, providing humanitarian assistance. The paper concludes by evaluating the impact and limitations of this Japanese traid in attaining desired goals through soft power.

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