Gross National Cool: Japan's Shortcut For Self-Reinvention

  • By Satida Thipasathien
  • on 11 Apr 2022
  • Categories : Culture

Japan is cool. Kawaii. Peaceful. Every aspect of Japan appears to be so compelling. Japan seems to be doing everything right and better than the rest of us... But hang on a minute... notice how our perception of Japan is... so positive? It’s no coincidence that you and I share the same impression of Japan, let me tell you that! And the Japanese are pretty clever about it too..!

Let’s talk about how Japan crafted their picture-perfect reputation!

To give it to you straight: we see Japan the way we see Japan thanks to its gross national cool, the Japanese government’s marketing scheme that serves a sole purpose of exporting the Japanese culture. Gross national cool can be carried through media and other commercial goods like automatic toilets and robots (which is genius if you ask me)! Japan’s ‘new’ public persona gives it an all new playground for its creative population to pioneer new ideas. You don’t have to look very far to see a similar effect of what Japan accomplishes..! Some 942 km to its west, South Korea had already been putting a similar cultural plan into action under a different name, since the mid ‘90s. The Koreans call their take: Hallyu or the Korean Wave. K-pop surely didn’t just magically appear out of thin air. But there is a fine line that separates what the Koreans and the Japanese are doing from one another: Innovation! Japan has taken this one step further with unique and super niche products.

Yes, Japan has been exporting its culture as a token of something cool for ages – since the post-war era, I mean. Hence it should come as no surprise that we automatically understand Japanese words such as ‘sushi’, ‘samurai’, and ‘bonsai’ with no explanations! So, read this as another wave of its cool soft power export– which is great for us because it opens up to new exciting possibilities. This screams unlimited awesomeness to me!

Sushi, Emojis, and Anime

The traces of early Japanese cultural influence still linger with us today (it’s everywhere... really...). Look down at your phone’s keyboard: see those emojis? That’s adapted from the Japanese emoticons – hooray for Japan!! :) What about Avatar: The Last Airbender, have you seen the show? Notice the big sparkly eyes and over-the-top reactions? That’s right, even that one is inspired by anime! Have you tried some ‘California Rolls’? Yep, this one is also a direct influence from Japan! We may not see it but Japanese culture has interwoven into our contemporary culture so seamlessly that we overlook them most of the time. This is just how powerful and effective Japanese gross national cool was... is... and will be... because Japan will most likely do it again..!

Messages in Isekai: Fantasy in Real Life

(Source: Yoshiki Yokoyama on Unsplash)

Back to this Japanese wave of cultural influence! Now with Generation Z’s, and the globalized world, the future is bright for Japan. From bizarre dreams and fantasies of the better world that are shown only on screens or on pages of your manga, Japan has taken their own teachings and applied it to itself with paramount success. By looking deep into its internal issues like aging population and extremely introverted population; responding to them with innovative solutions i.e. the use of automation in household settings, Japan has earned itself a well deserved title of one of the world’s creative hubs! This is not to say that every country has to follow Japan’s footsteps to a tee; we learned from Japan first-hand that, breaking away from the norm and owning your perks and quirkiness can take you far in life!

Put Your Confident Hat On

That’s true but it’s all thanks to their steadfast government. What does that have to do with us? I’m so glad you asked! The Japanese government had all the ingredients they needed: the issues, the means of overcoming those issues, millions of solutions, and perfect timing to achieve global success. Not to mention that they have been developing this plan for decades, just take a minute to let that sink in.. They foresaw and place their trust in the abilities of their population, with all their introversion and unique creativity! Guess what? It’s not only the government that did their job well. Don’t forget the creative minds behind all of this: its citizens! That’s you and me! You play an important role in your future; the future of your country and the world. Don’t underestimate yourself, you are more valuable than you think! It’s your time to shine!

Take Notes From The Best Of The Best

You know you have it in you to change the world for the better. This is not an exaggeration, mind you. You are capable of changing the world. All you need is a tad bit of confidence. You know from our Japan case study that it takes years of practice, and a lot of creative power, to start and maintain this ripple effect of an astonishing cultural wave. To get creative, you must allow yourself to be in a place that treasures creativity! (Hint: totally not where you are now!!)

It’s time to give your daruma doll its missing eye. This is what you have been waiting for. Here’s the shortcut: Challenge yourself. Intern in Japan to experience the authentic Japanese way of living. Watch yourself grow in a new environment! It’s never too late to join the master classes and bring out your forte. Be unstoppable-ly you.

Let your creativity run wild. Make yourself known where you go. Be an inspiration.

For more information on AIP’s international internships, please follow the link here

Internship in Japan

About author

A language graduate from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. A culture enthusiast.

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