This week I’ve been thinking about soft power. I first came across the term in my second year at university, and I haven’t really thought too much about it since until now. It can be argued that Pokemon has had a huge impact on how Japanese culture has spread and is perceived international in the past 18 years or so, and thus has contributed to Japan’s soft power.
So what is soft power exactly?
Let’s begin with the definition of hard power. “Hard power” can be thought of as the “A coercive approach to international politicalrelations, especially one that involves the use of military power (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2014). Countries can sometimes obtain the outcomes they want without the tangible threats of hard power. This indirect method is often referred to as “soft power”. Soft power rests on the ability to shape the preferences of others. It must be noted that soft power is a difficult thing to both obtain and to measure in a sense. Unlike hard power, soft power relies on the ability of a nation to influence others tends to be associated with intangible assets such as an attractive personality, culture, political values, institutions and policies that are seen as desirable or legitimate (Ey.com, 2014).
Joseph Nye could be considered the soft power Guru, and explains the concept quite well in this VIDEO.
Recently I found an article by Nissim Kadosh Otmazgin (2007) that examines the nature of the Japanese soft power that derives from the proliferation of its popular culture in East Asia. Otmazgin notes that the Japanese government has been examining ways to promote the country’s cultural exports, in order to generate economic benefits and nurture positive appreciations of the country overseas, through investing in Japan’s cultural industries including food, fashion and content production. By cultural production I refer to the Japanese television, film, music, print and gaming industries. It is no surprise that the success of Pokemon has contributed to Japan’s soft power. The franchises’ success over the past two decades has helped to change the attitudes of nations around the globe towards Japan and Japanese culture.
After reading the article, I’ve have tried to reflect by asking myself “how do I explore Japanese/Pokemon related soft power in an auto-ethnogrpahic sense?”
The more I tried to answer this question, the more difficult the task seemed. That was until I realised that I’ve been exploring Japanese soft power throughout my entire auto ethnographical journey. If soft power can be measured by the ability of a nation to influence others relations with cultural assets, like, for instance, Pokemon, then my exploration of Pokemon fan art online is in itself, an expression of Japanese soft power. Fan art produced online that is able to circulate and thus, be appreciated globally, shows the extent of the influence Japanese culture has had on my own online experience as well as thousands of others. People from around the globe who come together online to discuss, create and explore Pokemon online are participating in an expression of Japanese culture.
I’ll call this Part 1 of my discussion, as i feel like there is so much more to be said.
Ey.com, (2014). Rapid-growth markets soft power index:Soft power defined. [online] Available at: http://www.ey.com/GL/en/Issues/Driving-growth/Rapid-growth-markets-soft-power-index-Soft-power-defined [Accessed 27 Sep. 2014].
Otmazgin, N. (2007). Contesting soft power: Japanese popular culture in East and Southeast Asia. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, [online] 8(1), pp.73-101. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/irap/lcm009 [Accessed 27 Sep. 2014].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2014). hard power: definition of hard power in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/hard-power [Accessed 27 Sept. 2014].