April 22, 2009

Japan's pop-culture economic recovery

Prime Minister Taro Aso says that Japan's "cultural" exports--video games, manga and anime--will constitute one of the "three pillars" (Obama has five) of Japan's economic recovery (along with a "low-carbon revolution" and a "society of health and longevity").

That sounds way more fun than stuff like "TARP."

I'm skeptical about "low-carbon" anything ("low-fat" made us all fatter), but Japan already has the longest lifespans and the fastest-aging society in the world. Wherever the post-industrial economies are headed demographically, Japan will get there first.

They may have something to teach us in that respect, though I suspect cultural idiosyncrasies will make importing health care systems problematic. I doubt the average American would be at all happy with Japan-style health care, no matter how well it works for the Japanese.

Gazing fondly at the green grass elsewhere, the results of quasi-socialized medicine we like, the means not so much (the same way that, no matter how "good for us" high gas prices would supposedly be, nobody actually wants to pay them).

Anime, on the other hand, is a 20 billion dollar industry in Japan. It's a tenth of that in the U.S., but two billion bucks is nothing to sneeze at. Manga is worth 4.5 billion dollars in Japan, while licensing brings in only a 20th of that in the U.S. So there's a lot of room to grow.

And speaking of room to grow, the economic impact of Japanese genre fiction translations--my specialty--is currently too small to measure. But that means there's only one direction the market can go: up! (he says, crossing his fingers).

Mr. Prime Minister, I am doing my best to help Japan's economy recover. Perhaps a special favor? When's a new edition of Yokohama Shopping Log coming out? Here I am all ready to spend my hard-earned dollar-converted yen, and it's out of print! Aarrgh!

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# posted by Anonymous COACHING BY PETER
4/23/2009 8:27 PM   
Strength of domestic economy will sustain the external challenges. A nation should maintain confidence so that economy will remain afloat.