Japan eyes economic stimulus from comics, pop art

Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:34am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's manga-loving prime minister, Taro Aso, has long touted the importance of "soft power" content such as comics and anime to boost Japan's global diplomatic status.

Now he's targeting pop culture's economic potential.

Included in a giant stimulus package he unveiled on Friday was a target of raising exports from the "content" sector to about 18 percent of exports from less than 2 percent now.

Explaining his strategy for long-term growth at a news conference the day before, Aso waved glossy magazines from China and Taiwan featuring Japanese pop stars on their covers.

"Japanese content, such as anime and video games, and fashion draw attention from consumers around the world," he said.

"Unfortunately, this 'soft power' is not being linked to business overseas ... By linking the popularity of Japan's 'soft power' to business, I want to create a 20-30 trillion yen ($200-300 billion) market by 2020 and create 500,000 new jobs."

At least one government agency is already eyeing a cultural project using funds from the stimulus package -- Japan's biggest ever and aimed at rescuing the economy from its worst recession in 60 years.

The Cultural Affairs Agency wants nearly 12 billion yen to build a "National Comprehensive Centre for Media Art" that would showcase contemporary Japanese culture such as manga, anime and video games, the Asahi newspaper reported.

"We are thinking of making a request for the funds for such a facility, but the amount is still being worked out," an agency official said.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg)

<p>Visitors attend the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2009 in Tokyo March 20, 2009. REUTERS/Issei Kato</p>