Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Recharging Japan: Can Pop Culture Recharge Japan?

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Recharging Japan: Can Pop Culture Recharge Japan?

Article excerpt

Toyota, Toshiba, Sony and Canon--these are a few of many Japanese brands that became globally famous after Japan established itself as a manufacturer of quality products in the postwar period.

It might be too soon to declare an end to the nation's manufacturing glory, but with South Korea, Taiwan and other economies improving their technology, Japan's global presence likely will continue to wane if it depends solely on manufacturing. How can the nation revitalize itself?

This is the first installment of a series of articles exploring ways Japan's vitality can be tapped.

By Kazuhiro Katayama

Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

At a recent concert in Cairo, young Muslim women wearing head scarves jumped up and down and roared with delight. The crowd of more than 500 people were on their feet.

The star they had come to see? Hironobu Kageyama, a singer known for animation songs such as the theme tune of "Dragon Ball Z."

Kageyama's concert, his first in the Middle East, was part of the Grand Japanese Pop Culture Festival held in Cairo on March 8 and 9. Self-published manga magazines were given away, and a cosplay competition was held at the event, where the recent political uncertainty in Egypt seemed to have been forgotten for a while at least.

Ahmed Hisham, a 19-year-old Egyptian university student studying business administration, wore a Dragon Ball costume and had a picture of himself taken in front of the pyramids.

"My goal is to open an anime store," he said.

Kageyama has been invited to anime events in more than 10 Asian and European countries, as well as in the United States, drawing enthusiastic audiences.

"I never knew I had so many fans in Egypt," said Kageyama, 52. "Japanese industrial products made inroads overseas after tremendous efforts, but animation has spread naturally."

Animation and manga are not the only Japanese cultural products that have become popular far from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Japanese food and fashion have been well received around the world, far beyond Japanese expectations. Japanese terms such as "umami" and "kawaii" have gradually become global words. …

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