Japanese Culture and Arts: Nurture Young People so They Can Contend on World Stage

Japanese manga, anime and music have many fans overseas, and they are business sectors in which additional growth can be expected in the future. In order to further enhance their appeal and power to convey a message, it is necessary to focus on fostering young people.

The Cultural Affairs Agency has decided to establish a new fund at the Japan Arts Council, an independent administrative agency, and it has earmarked ¥6 billion in the fiscal 2023 supplementary budget to nurture young manga creators, musicians and other artists who want to play an active role overseas.

The fund will support projects led by creators with proven track records overseas, who will take on the challenge of creating new works while fostering young artists. Organizations and companies that wish to receive the financial support will be solicited, according to the agency.

Recipient projects should aim for innovative and creative initiatives that will lead to the discovery of new talent for the future of Japanese culture and the arts.

Japan’s content industry, which includes video, music and video game software, has annual domestic sales of about ¥14 trillion, ranking third in the world after the United States and China. Overseas sales, however, are less than ¥5 trillion.

It has been argued that such music and other Japanese content have the potential to captivate the world, but there have been insufficient efforts to market them overseas. Compared to South Korea, which has made the music group BTS a global phenomenon, it must be said that Japan’s strategy to this end is inadequate.

In Japan, the domestic market is expected to gradually shrink with the continuing decline in the birth rate and graying population. The content industry could decline if things continue as they are now, and overseas markets must be actively developed.

The government has supported young content creators in the past, but the initiatives have been limited to such efforts as subsidizing individual performance programs and creations and providing travel expenses for overseas training programs.

This time, the fund will provide financial support from the planning stage. Also, it will continue to support recipient projects over about three years, from holding performances and exhibitions in Japan to taking part in overseas trade fairs and events, according to the agency.

Creators should also work to improve their language skills so they can interact with overseas fans and negotiate with business partners.

It takes a certain amount of time for culture and art to flourish. It is important to support creators from a long-term perspective, rather than just requiring short-term results.

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) has set a goal of increasing the scale of overseas sales in these business fields to ¥15 trillion to ¥20 trillion in 2033. It is essential to create a system in which the public and private sectors work together through such efforts as companies supporting the development of new markets.

There have been cases recently in which works of art have spread through the internet and become popular around the world. More creative ways should be implemented to disseminate content, such as attaching foreign-language subtitles to music videos and video artwork.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 10, 2024)