The term soft power was coined by Joseph Nye, an American political scientist in the 1990s.
He describes soft power as “the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than coercion.”
Japan is well known for its aesthetics, culture, technological expertise, food and its dominance in TV shows. Japan attained soft power peak before 2019 by placing fifth among all the countries of the world. Even though by 2019 it had fallen down to eighth place, it was still a soft power giant as it remains as Asia’s highest-ranking country and the sole Asian representative among the top 10 of the Soft Power 30. Moreover, the years of 2019 and 202 were big for Japan as it headed the G-20 summit in 2019 which was a success as it reaffirmed the world leader’s commitment to free trade and open markets.
Japan's soft power refers to its ability to influence and attract others through non-coercive means, such as culture, values, diplomacy, and ideology. Soft power is often contrasted with "hard power," which involves military and economic coercion. Japan has been successful in cultivating and leveraging its soft power to enhance its global influence and improve its international relations. Some key aspects of Japan's soft power include:
1. Cultural Influence: Japanese culture has a significant global presence, including anime, manga, traditional arts (like tea ceremony and ikebana), literature, cuisine (sushi, ramen, etc.), and pop music. These cultural exports have gained immense popularity and have helped shape global perceptions of Japan.
2. Pop Culture: Anime and manga have become particularly iconic aspects of Japanese pop culture, resonating with audiences worldwide and leading to a fanbase that appreciates Japanese creativity and storytelling. Japanese pop culture, including anime, manga, music, and fashion, has a global fanbase and has played a significant role in shaping Japan's soft power. Icons like Hello Kitty, Studio Ghibli films, and Pokémon have gained international recognition.
3. Technology and Innovation: Japan is known for its technological advancements and innovation, particularly in fields like robotics, automotive engineering, and electronics. The country's reputation for producing high-quality, cutting-edge technology contributes to its soft power. The reputation of Japanese technology has contributed to the country's image as an industry leader.
4. Soft Diplomacy: Japan engages in various cultural exchange programs, scholarships, and educational initiatives to promote understanding and goodwill among nations and to showcase its culture and foster cross-cultural understanding.. The Japan Foundation, for instance, promotes Japanese language education and cultural exchanges globally.
5. Tourism: Japan's tourism industry has been growing steadily, drawing visitors to its historical landmarks, natural beauty, and vibrant urban centers. Tourists often gain firsthand experience of Japanese culture, boosting the country's image. Japan's rich cultural heritage, modern cities, and natural beauty draw tourists from various countries, giving them a firsthand experience of the country's attractions.
6. Traditional Arts: Japanese traditional arts, such as tea ceremony, ikebana (flower arranging), calligraphy, and martial arts, showcase the country's rich heritage and values, contributing to its appeal. Historical sites, temples, and shrines also attract visitors.
7. Cultural Diplomacy: Events like international film festivals, art exhibitions, and traditional performances showcase Japanese culture and foster cultural diplomacy between Japan and other nations. Japan actively engages in cultural exchange programs, hosting events, exhibitions, and performances to showcase its culture and foster cross-cultural understanding.
8. Global Contributions: Japan actively engages in international cooperation and humanitarian efforts, such as disaster relief and development projects, projecting an image of responsible global citizenship. Japan's foreign aid initiatives, disaster relief efforts, and contributions to international organizations have enhanced its global reputation as a responsible and compassionate nation.
9. Historical and Social Values: Japan's emphasis on discipline, hard work, and politeness, as well as its traditional values and philosophy, such as Zen Buddhism, attract global interest and admiration.
10. Soft Power Icons: Figures like the Japanese imperial family, respected scholars, artists, and diplomats contribute to Japan's soft power by representing the nation's values and traditions.
11. Cuisine: Japanese cuisine, especially sushi and ramen, is beloved worldwide for its taste, presentation, and health benefits. The popularity of Japanese food has led to the establishment of Japanese restaurants in many countries.
Overall, Japan's soft power is built upon its cultural exports, technological prowess, diplomatic efforts, and positive international interactions. It allows Japan to exert influence, enhance its reputation, and strengthen international relationships without relying solely on military or economic dominance.