Japantown coming to you soon

2012-06-03 22:50
Harakuju style in Japan.

Harakuju style in Japan.

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo - Japan is hoping to cash in on its rich culture by recreating fashionable districts of Tokyo in foreign cities, determined that enclaves of vibrant shops, cafes and restaurants can find new markets abroad.

For decades, exports have been the driving force behind the world's third largest economy with brands like Toyota and Sony becoming household names around the globe.

But a key plank in the government's "Cool Japan" strategy, which launched last year, is to transplant Tokyo's trendy districts overseas, taking the shops to the customers instead of bringing the customers to the shops.

It could see quirky areas like shopping district Harajuku pop up in cities around the world, boosting Japan's brand overseas and helping to reverse the nation's flagging fortunes.

Harajuku is known for a subculture in which young women dress up in a style known as Lolita fashion, looking not unlike Little Bo Peep. The area and its fashion has inspired pop diva Lady Gaga.

In October, more than a dozen Japanese apparel companies opened a mini-commercial hub called Harajuku Street Style in Singapore, the kind of venture that Cool Japan advocates are hoping to replicate many times over.

Japan's cultural exports are already valued at $58bn a year, according to government figures.

Pop acts like hugely popular girl group AKB48 make up a sizeable chunk of this figure, while manga and anime do their share with a significant, but falling, contribution.

The cutesy Hello Kitty, a moon-faced cartoon cat, is present in more than 100 countries around the world, its maker says.

Matchmaking fair

But the government wants to more-than-double the amount Japanese pop culture makes for the country's economy, and is eyeing 11 trillion yen by 2020.

The idea is to pair up property developers who are keen to buy real estate abroad with several small businesses eager to expand overseas, creating Japanese enclaves where the country's trendy design and sometimes quirky culture work as selling points.

"It's hard for small businesses to go into overseas markets on their own, but they have enormous potential to sell in foreign markets," a trade ministry official said.

Last month, the government held a business matchmaking fair, where dark-suited salarymen from the nation's major real-estate developers mingled alongside the owners of a nail-art shop and red-lanterned "izakaya" -- Japanese-style bars offering grilled meat and beer.

"I think this event is very meaningful," said 28-year-old Maiko Fukushima, who runs a bar featuring young women singing popular anime songs in Tokyo's Akihabara district.

"We have many fans abroad who monitor our activities via the internet, but small businesses don't have the capital to go overseas by ourselves."

Yuichiro Suzuki, 37, president of "maid cafe" operator Neo Delight said he planned to start selling the concept in a major Asian city such as Hong Kong or Bangkok later this year.

But although image-themed restaurants and other establishments are hugely popular in Japan, their allure abroad remains to be seen.

Nobutoshi Yamanouchi, a lawyer specialising in mergers and acquisitions with legal firm Jones Day said the strategy hinged on being able to export "Japaneseness".

But, he cautioned, projects needed to be handled by a manager with vision.

Japantowns

"It won't be so simple to sell an image of an entire town. Such a project will need someone to orchestrate and design the image of a town, for example Harajuku," he said.

The "Cool Japan" campaign comes at a time other nations are also trying to cash in on aspects of their culture or history to boost investment or trade.

The GREAT Britain campaign is particularly visible with advertising campaigns in a number of world cities that coincide with London's hosting of the Olympic Games and Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.

For Japan, it is less about grand themes than cultural particularities.

Akiko Shinoda, director of Japan Fashion Week, said Japanese attention to quality and detail, especially on the fashion front, is a key selling point.

"[Japanese are] raised in an environment where everything is high-quality - manga, anime, games and other toys. The Japanese in general are known for craftsmanship," she said.

"Because people in trendy fashion streets such as Harajuku, Shibuya, Ginza and Daikanyama are highly sensitive to fashion, Japanese designers inspired by them turn out excellent products."

Izakaya manager Koichi Fukami said he was hoping that the country's cuisine would help spread the uniquely Japanese pubs around the world.

"Japanese cuisine's power is great," he said at the fair. "Chinatowns are everywhere in the world. Let's make Japantowns."

Read more on:    japan  |  design

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.