Sun, Apr 12, 2009 - Page 11 News List

Japanese ‘otaku’ PM looks to comics to rescue economy

THE GUARDIAN , TOKYO

As part of ¥15 trillion (US$149.5 billion) of fresh stimulus measures unveiled on Friday, Japan hopes to raise the percentage of its exports of “soft power” — manga, animated films, video games and pop music — from 2 percent of the total to 18 percent over the next decade, creating half a million jobs.

“Japanese content, such as anime ... video games and fashion, draw attention around the world,” Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso — a self-confessed manga addict — told reporters as he waved Chinese and Taiwanese magazines featuring Japanese pop stars.

“Unfortunately, this ‘soft power’ is not being linked to business overseas ... By linking the popularity of Japan’s ‘soft power’ to business, I want to create a ¥20 [trillion to] ¥30 trillion [US$200 billion to US$300 billion] market by 2020 and create 500,000 new jobs,” the prime minister said.

Cynics will view the move as an election ploy as Aso attempts to build on a rise in support after North Korea’s rocket launch and the arrest of a senior aide to the main opposition leader, Ichiro Ozawa.

Manga fans lined the streets to support Aso’s bid for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership last autumn, and novelty goods bearing his likeness sell well in Tokyo’s otaku (geek) district, Akihabara.

The cultural affairs agency has reportedly requested ¥12 billion for a national media art center that would promote Japan’s pop culture overseas.

The manga genre comprises every possible theme, from tales for children, history and politics to sports and pornography.

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