Time Magazine: From Japan With Love
The cover story of the December 1, 2008 Japan issue of Time Magazine, titled Japan Reaches Out, describes Japan’s growing soft power making it a responsible world leader, in spite of its poor political and economic situation.
Foreign interest in learning Japanese is stronger today, with nearly 3 million people worldwide studied Japanese as a foreign language in 2006. Instead of learning Japanese simply for career reasons (which is already a good reason), people learn the language because of their interest in Japanese culture.
According to the article, Japan’s “soft power comes from its culture, innovation and financial heft”.
- Cute Factor. A prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personal appearance, behavior, and mannerisms is called kawaii. Cute merchandise is extremely popular in Japan- who hasn’t heard of Hello Kitty?
- Gaming. Homes worldwide feature Japanese gadgets like Nintendo Wii
- Financial Might. Amid the global financial crisis, Japan has embarked on an investment and M&A spree. Japan is the second largest economy behind the US
- Foreign Assistance. Although less in recent years due to its economic slowdown in the past decade (Japan was first in the early 1990 during its boom, but now ranks 5th in the world), Japan continues to send billions of foreign aid. More recently, there has been a rise of Japanese volunteers abroad
- Environmental Awareness. Japan is the home of the Kyoto Protocol and pioneered ecologically friendly vehicles such as the hybrid Toyota Prius
According to a BBC poll this year, Japan was ranked second in the world when it comes to a positive global image. Germany barely edged out Japan for the No. 1 spot, while the U.S. was seventh. It is interesting that the two countries involved in World War II have transformed and quickly rebounded from their devastations. About 10 years ago I worked in Germany for about 6 months and am currently working in Japan, and I would definitely agree with this ranking.