Cool Japan is a descriptive media policy that looked to economically harness Japanese youth cultures in global markets. However, what quickly becomes apparent is that media policies are not monolithic expressions of cultural needs and mores. They are, instead, often uncoordinated and changeable policies that react to domestic markets and demands, national politics, international politics and economies, trade strategies, and sometimes just idiosyncratic leaders. Yet even in this complicated representation, the power of media circulation is somewhat ignored. Policy is about actors, to be sure; yet, policy is in response to market demands, and those demands often put pressure on policy makers who are trying to craft unifying narratives that are often conservative in nature. In this presentation, I look to the challenges of Japanese media policy in the era of Cool Japan. Because Cool Japan is predominantly an international distribution policy engaged in expanded markets and cultural diplomacy, I focus my discussion on the media that dominate this initiative—namely, anime, manga, and video games. First, I look to media censorship and rating systems in Japan and analyze both the national and international debates that emerge from this discourse. Following this, I turn to a closely related topic: copyright and digital distribution in Japan and international markets. Finally, I attend to the conservative turn in the Japanese government and its relationship with Cool Japan, a policy that attempts to exploit the economic potential of functionally anti-establishment practices. Such an analysis highlights the uneasy relationship that even supporters of Cool Japan have in policy and practice.
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