Michal DALIOT-BUL is a cultural researcher in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Haifa, Israel. Her ongoing research explores the deep cultural meanings of play in Japan. Her other research interests include the sociology of consumption, youth popular cultures and the production of intra- and intercultural imaginaries. Her recent publications include: ‘Asobi in Action: Contesting the Cultural Meanings and Cultural Boundaries of Play in Urban Japan from the 1970s to Present,’ Cultural Studies23(2): 1–26 (2009); ‘Japan's Mobile Technoculture: The Production of a Cellular Playscape and Its Cultural Implications,’ Media, Culture & Society29(6): 954–971 (2007); ‘Eroticism, Grotesqueness, and Non-Sense: Twenty-First-Century Cultural Imagery of Japan in the Israeli Media and Popular Culture,’ Journal of Intercultural Studies 28(2): 173–191 (2007). She can be reached at the Department of Asian Studies, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel, or by e-mail at email@example.com
The production of a new and attractive ‘Japan Brand’—one that resonates with the emerging global image of ‘Cool Japan’ associated with Japan's popular culture—is a national project incorporated in the Japanese Intellectual Property Strategy promoted by the state since 2002. This article critically examines the Japan Brand Strategy as a government-owned production site of Cool Japan imagery and as a cultural policy designed to promote a specific sense of cultural identity. Detailed reconstructions of the selective appropriation of cultural products in order to create a new cultural imagery for Japan, of the meanings attached to this imagery and of the tactics devised to spread it, highlight how problematical it is to appropriate market-made images of Cool Japan for national ends. Furthermore, by examining the various functions attributed to this national strategy, I show that while it is primarily promoted as a means for enhancing Japan's industrial policy and cultural diplomacy, it is also devised as a mechanism to mobilize the nation during unsettled times. Through examining the Japan Brand Strategy, this article highlights the challenges faced today by cultural policy makers, questioning the contemporary relevance of the modernistic approach to the state as a regulatory cultural planning apparatus.