Japanese cultural diplomacy, as seen by Kazuo Ogoura in his Global Asia article “From Ikebana to Manga and Beyond”, generally operates as a temporal response to international events and trends, whether to counter post-WW2 international perception of Japan as an overtly-militarized nation bent on conquest in Asia or American fear of a Japanese economic take-over during the 80s and early 90’s. Japan’s current cultural diplomacy strategies thus serve, I believe, to balance against rising anti-Japanese sentiment in a nationalistic China as well as introduce a new generation (Millennials) to the ‘content industry’ created and fostered in Japan. One of these initiatives through which Japan hopes to accomplish these goals is the newly-created Kakehashi Project (Kakehashi is Japanese for ‘bridge’), an exchange program where Japanese Millennials will have the opportunity to explore America for two weeks while their American counterparts will have the chance to visit Tokyo plus one other Japanese city over a ten-day period.
Through my work with Dr. Quansheng Zhao and the Center for Asian Studies at AU, I had the chance to be selected into a group of AU students who will be traveling to Tokyo this summer as part of the Kakehashi Project(we have not confirmed yet what the second city will be). I am very excited about the prospect of participating in this new cultural diplomacy initiative. Although our programming is still in its early stages, we will have the chance to visit government officials and leading academics as well as discuss relevant and current themes with Japanese students. I look forward to the opportunity to observe how Japan is positioning itself in the new world order emerging in East Asia, particularly viz a viz China (and to a lesser, yet no less extremely important extent, Taiwan), through the use of soft/smart power strategies.