Cool Japan Forum 2011

Japanese businesses continue to work toward globalization

03 December, 2011 by

Along with the staging of Anime Festival Asia, an event named the Cool Japan Forum was held as well. Cited as an event that brings the top minds from various industries under one roof, we visited the Forum to hear them speak.

Ever since ‘Gross National Cool’ was brought into the fray by Douglas McGray, many have looked at Japan’s culture products and how they affect Japan’s standing and influence in the world. Cool Japan Forum, with its presentation format, represented an opportunity to rub shoulders and speak with people who head the businesses and make these products possible.

The first to appear was Danny Choo. He spoke of the various companies he worked with, along with his site Culture Japan. Danny also introduced his mascot Suenaga Mirai, and the upcoming anime, Mirai Millenium. As his presentation came to a close, he called on the festival manager from Dentsu, Haruhiko Miyano.

Haruhiko Miyano introducing the invited speakers

Mr Miyano introduced the theme of this year’s Cool Japan Forum: Examining Japanese content and its creation. While speaking, there was more than one occasion where the noise from the bands rehearsing for the I Love Anisong concerts (held in the hall next door) bled into the hall and no one could hear anything. After a while though, the problems were sorted out and he went on introducing the guests, who would go on to present in order:

Yoshihiko Hasegawa is a Chief Consultant for Dentsu. With a presentation on the application of contents, he spoke of the ways Dentsu shapes its advertising, and the growth of new social advertising platforms. He introduced the visitors to the Freedom project, Dentsu’s animated advertising campaign for Nissin’s famous cup noodles. The Dokusha Model (readers who are also models) was another concept he touched on, referring to indicators that suggested celebrities do not entice people to a product as much as one would think.

Yoshihiko Hasegawa with charts from Dentsu's research team

Dr. Nissim Otmazgin from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was up next. A professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, he has published several papers on Japanese soft power. He has done fieldwork in various parts of Asia (including China, Thailand and Korea), to examine whether soft power (formerly only used in the context of the United States) really does exist in Japanese cultural products.

Dr. Nissim shows photos from his research fieldwork

Tow Ubukata is a light novelist turned anime and manga creator. The man behind the anime Soukyuu no Fafner and Mardock Scramble amongst others, the author offered his views on creating the perfect storyline. Given his background as a novelist, his approach differs from those in the business, with much of the timeline of creation devoted to a script and continually revising its continuity.

A short intermission followed, as Takaaki Kidani, Yoshiyuki Matsunaga, Takanori Aki stepped on stage. The heads of Bushiroad, COSPA and Good Smile respectively, the 3 along with Danny Choo as moderator had a panel discussion on the monetization of anime content. All 3 companies were in attendance in Anime Festival Asia itself, and the men spoke of content expansion to the rest of Asia. One interesting point brought up was that of piracy; while all agreed it was deplorable, Takanori also said it signaled discontentment in consumers and a lack on the part of the company, as well.

Panel with COSPA, Bushiroad and Good Smile Company

This was followed by another discussion, this time with Sony Music’s Ken Isayama and Aniplex’s Masaharu Yamanouchi. With a short history of Japanese music in other countries by Isayama, he examined the trends in Japanese pop music, and noted how anisong (music specifically for anime) has overtaken other Japanese pop music overseas. They also discussed the increasing ties between anime and music in Japan.

Ken Isayama and Masaharu Yamanouchi

Haruhiko Mikimoto and Hideaki Kobayashi then took over the stage for a presentation on manga production and character design. Haruhiko Mikimoto is a name not unfamiliar to many who follow anime. A character designer, he built his name doing designs for a number of anime including Macross and Gunbuster. The pair spoke of the role of a character designer, as well as the many obstacles someone working as a character designer faces. Hideaki, from Kadokawa Publishing, also shed some light on the contributions of a publisher and editor in the manga industry.

Hideaki Kobayashi speaks about his experiences publishing manga in Kadokawa

Keiichiro Hirano, the last speaker of the day, is an Akutagawa Prize winner. He introduced his philosophy of what he terms the ‘dividual’, the many facets of one individual that they show to different people in different situations. He employs this philosophy in all his writing as well, having written 2 novels since his first in 1998.

The event ended with Danny Choo thanking the guests for their attendance and rounding the whole affair up. At that point, some guests were anxious to leave; they were given only 10 minutes intermission over a span of 5 hours. While the start of the event was plagued with problems with the rehearsals going on, it was nevertheless an eye-opening experience.  Those who are put off by the language barrier need not worry, as receivers would be provided for on-the-fly translation as well.

While the entry price of SGD$85 might put some people off, in the opinion of this writer, it is a small price to pay to be able to associate with some of the big names in Japanese popular culture. The event comes highly recommended for anyone who has an academic or business interest in Japan.


Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.