During times of global recession countries have to innovate and find new ways of boosting their economy and extending their influence internationally. Japan is a shining example of how a country can mine its inherent resources to help the economy when times are tougher, and its new found ‘cultural clout’ is being used in areas as diverse as animation, hybrid cars, cuisine, video games, films, and many other technologies that Japan has traditionally excelled in. Pop culture, in the form of films, animation, digitial content, blogs and technological innovations, have helped place Japan in a unique position. For example, the renewed interest in Japanese cinema in the last ten years has been a major force in this cultural and economic rejuvenation. Films such as the Ring franchise, The Grudge, Dark water, Lady Vengeance, Old Boy, and animations by critically acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki (such as Spirited Away and The Howling Castle) have brought audiences to a new commercial and critical appreciation of Japanese culture.
Other shining beacons of ‘cultural clout’ in Japan are the increasing audiences for Manga comics – a form of cartoon that is very typical to Japan – in both the UK and the US, as well as the phenomenal success by games console manufacturers, such as the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS, and also Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PSP, with 6.5 million units sold in the US alone. These content-led industries, as well as techonological innovations in the very lucrative computer games market, have become a solid business core for the Japanese economy that should help it out of recession in 2010. With more resources and government backing, these new industries could be the foundations of the economic future for Japan, especially with the decline in manufacturing which the country has always thrived on. They may also be the world leaders in developing a set of carbon-friendly cars to help meet the needs of a world bound by Kyoto agreements to reduce their carbon emissions and to wean consumers off oil.
Japan is in a stronger position than many other countries in the world, and its internal expertise is unmatched elsewhere. This ability to reinvent industries and to capitalise on new technological advances and its own strengths should ensure that Japan becomes an economic model around the world and an example of how new and rising industries can replace older, anachronistic ones.
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