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Orla Timlin

Project 1: Is Japan Really That Cool?

The Cultural Policy That Damages the Image of Japanese Females

From 2002 Japan reimagined the exportation of cultural facets such as manga, anime, otaku, kawaii and cute under the rubric “cool Japan”. Led by government minister Shunichi Yamaguchi, the Cool Japan Strategy Promotion Council was a private-public body established to manage the exportation of Japanese culture in accordance with what ‘overseas’ customers perceived to be “cool”. This research demonstrates that the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and numerous private companies who run Cool Japan, have, in the name of increasing domestic profits, oversexualised the exported image of women. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the policy has permitted a paedophilic sexualisation at the heart of this exportation strategy.

This research argues that Cool Japan exists as a contemporary Japonisme and has contributed to an Orientalist worldview of Japanese females. By investigating the gender inequality demonstrated through Cool Japan such as manga, anime and kawaii, the probable cause(s) and potential breakthroughs that have transpired in recent years are examined. This research analyses Japan’s national branding by delineating female character construction under the male otaku culture, with specific focus on Lolita. In doing so, the ideological and cultural reasoning behind the harmful use and commodification of these gender norms is made clear.

Edward Said’s framework for understanding Orientalism is used to contextualise the Westernised versions of these Japanese females. Through Orientalism, this research questions who is responsible for the sanctioned view of Westerners on Japanese cultural exports. It problematizes the extent to which this is constructed through Cool Japan, and the extent to which it constitutes a Western appropriation of these aspects. Takashi Murakami is used as a case study to reinforce this problematic regarding the construction of a contemporary Japanese construction of femininity. Through this examination, it is demonstrated that the contemporary exportation and consumption of sexualised and objectified images of Japanese females outside of Japan has contributed to recent racism and violence.

image1 31 by japan image2 33 by japan