Current Institutional Affiliation
Freelance Journalist, New York Times

Award Information

Abe Fellowship for Journalists 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Freelance Journalist, New York Times
How Cool is Japan?

When Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics, fans from around the world will meet Miraitowa and Someity, the event's official mascots. Miraitowa and Someity are prime examples of the "kawaii" culture that Japan projects overseas, and emissaries of sorts for a "Cool Japan" policy campaign that develops and markets the country's creative industries. But how cool has Japan become since the campaign began nearly a decade ago? And to what extent has the government received a healthy return on its investments in Japan's creative industries? The record is mixed. On one hand, contemporary Japanese culture clearly fascinates the world. A perfect example is a segment about a "yuru chara" that aired in April on John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" TV program (and which was directly inspired by my New York Times reporting). But some economists and tastemakers contend that Cool Japan could have done more to develop and promote the country's creativity, and that the campaign's shortcomings have enabled South Korea to overtake Japan as a prime cultural influencer in East Asia. My reporting would take a deep look at Cool Japan based on four weeks of interviews with Japanese officials, philanthropists, executives, artists, illustrators, musicians, chefs and fashion designers across the country. For policy context, I would spend a week in London exploring the legacy of Tony Blair's "Cool Britannia" campaign of the 1990s. And to see how Cool Japan is received in emerging Asian markets, I would spend my last week reporting from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.