‘Cool Japan’ or ‘Your Japan’?

In October, “Cool Japan” ambassador Benjamin Boas published a book titled From ‘Cool Japan’ to ‘Your Japan’. The volume was in part the result of Boas’s feeling that the people in charge of marketing (“cool”) Japan to the world were missing the point: it’s not up to a government agency to tell tourists what they should appreciate in a country’s culture; they’ll find that thing on their own.

In Boas’s case, video games provided the spark for his interest in Japan, he studied Japanese language and culture at university in the United States, and eventually made his way across the Pacific, where he found himself serving as a bridge between Japan and the world.

Several years after the Japanese government launched its “Cool Japan” campaign in 2010, Boas published a critique of the initiative, and not long after, was contacted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Creative Industries Promotion Office and asked to serve as an ambassador for the brand.

In a recent interview with The Japan Times, Boas said, “Nobody ever told me to like video games, I found them on my own. I never understood why anyone had to put any degree of effort into telling people what to like.”

Well, yes and no.

The average Hollywood movie costs $100 million to make, of which $35 million is spent on marketing.

Why? So you’ll know the movie exists. So you’ll know who stars in it, and whether it’s a comedy or a love story or an action-packed thriller.

The fact is, today’s travelers have a lot of choices.

They can go to Morocco or Brazil or New Zealand or Japan, among many other attractive destinations.

It’s our job to first of all put Japan on travelers’ radar screens, then help them find “their Japan”.

How do we do that?

By trying to understand their interests.

Are they outdoors people? Indoors people? Techies? Foodies? Sports nuts? Culture vultures?

Most importantly for us, are they interested in experiencing something different?

Because we’re not the people to come to for a “plain vanilla” (or even “plain matcha”!) travel adventure.

But we do disagree with Benjamin Boas that people can and should “find their Japan” on their own. Japan, like most countries and cultures, is a complex place with a long and interesting history.

We spend lots of time outside our offices, road-testing the experiences and meeting the characters that tell Japan’s story, and working to figure out how best to package Japan’s attractions to meet individual desire (and exceed expectations!). So although we’re very happy when clients come to us with a very clear idea of what they want from their Japan adventures, we’re also very happy to offer suggestions based on our collective decades of experience!