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Poll reveals Japan as land of rising soft power

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono takes a picture during a conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” at the European Council in Brussels on April 25, 2018. (AFP)
Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono takes a picture during a conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” at the European Council in Brussels on April 25, 2018. (AFP)
27 Oct 2019 12:10:04 GMT9
27 Oct 2019 12:10:04 GMT9

Emina Osmandzikovic, Abu Dhabi

Respect for Japanese people and their culture are among the key factors shaping Arab perceptions about Japan, according to a YouGov survey.

Arabs have a high regard for the Japanese and associate them with positive attributes such as hard-working (61 percent of respondents), organized (54 percent), punctual (42 percent) and polite (30 percent).

The consensus was common among men and women from different regions in the Arab world and among different age groups, reflecting the healthy and stable position of Japan in the hearts and minds of people in the region.

Furthermore Arabs see Japan as synonymous with car manufacturing (56 percent), samurai (58 percent) and sushi (53 percent), with respondents aged between 16 and 24 mainly associating Japan with anime (62 percent).

One of the main objectives of Japan's cultural diplomacy after its defeat in World War II was to reposition its role in the world.

Yoichi Funabashi, the co-founder and chairman of the Asia Pacific Initiative, said: “Since the end of World War II, Japan has been a democratic, pacifist nation, whose main tool for exerting influence across the globe has been soft power.”

In recent times, the projection of Japan's soft power has been greatly aided by its pacifist policies, knack for technological innovation and its social values, all of which have contributed to the country's distinctive cultural appeal.

Roberto Nisi, an East Asia expert, said the soft power spillover can be attributed to Japan being “able to turn around its international image as a defeated, devastated, aggressor both because foreign consumers recognized the quality and availability of its products, and because of its newly pacific profile.”

As a continuation of its cultural diplomacy, and focus on sustainable energy and development, the Japan government drafted, and in 2013 finally set in motion, the Cool Japan Fund.

Spearheaded by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the fund aims to promote the nation's creative industries at home and overseas, combining its economic exports with arts, culture and the fashion industry.

Leveraging soft power resources to foster a deeper understanding of the country is also the goal of Japan House, a new government-directed strategic communications initiative with hubs in London, Los Angeles, and Sao Paulo.

The hubs are to serve as one-stop shops for visitors to engage with diverse aspects of Japanese culture, regions, lifestyles, values and industry.

Building on Japan's economic miracle, pacifist reputation and a formidable work ethic is the country's unified foreign policy, which projects an image of creative openness and tradition-embedded innovation.

This approach is a continuation of Japan's identity as a non-military nation, applying the universal principles of peace and stability.

There is also Japan's reputation as a manufacturer of some of the Middle East's most beloved automobile brands. 

Unsurprisingly the survey showed that Toyota came out as the region's favourite Japanese car, surpassing other brands. The next two positions were also occupied by Japanese brands: Nissan and Lexus.

From the Corridor of Peace and Stability, which was aimed at accelerating the peace process between Palestine and Israel in 2006, through cultural and educational exchanges between Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, to the $60 million humanitarian aid pledge for Syria, there has been a noticeable rise in Japan's profile in the region.

The bonds between Japan and the Arab world have become stronger over the years, cemented by far more than just common economic and energy interests.

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