“Cool Japan”, a program started in June by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, is aimed at exporting more cultural products of the country, including animation, films, music, food and fashion. It was rumored than that the Japanese private sector would be backing such a project, but it is only now that Mizuho and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust have been announced as the two financial institutions that would underwrite a government-backed fund to support “Cool Japan.”
The fund will initially be capitalized at US$607 million (60 billion yen), with the government putting up US$507 million and the rest of the amount covered by the private sector. It is not clear how much each bank has invested, but statements from both banks reveal that their investments focus on different cultural aspects of the country. Sumitomo Mitsui Trust said that it will be promoting a consortium of “Cool Japan” export businesses, which includes distributors, manufacturers and retailers of these cultural products. Sumitomo may also help them establish business bases abroad. Mizuho, on the other hand, intends to offer financing and personnel support to clients interested in expanding into overseas markets, focusing mainly on traditional arts and crafts.
Just this year, a question was asked as to why Japan is not competitive in selling its television shows in Asia, a market overwhelmingly controlled by South Korea and China to some extent. For this reason, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) set up a Creative Industries Promotion Office to coordinate efforts aimed at increasing cultural exports under the government’s “Cool Japan” project. In addition to traditional Japanese arts and crafts, the government has included pop culture products – which include cartoons, television shows, and feature films – in its “Cool Japan” promotions.