Will Japan’s Mushy Energy Enhance After the Tokyo Olympics?

Sport is usually an incredible supply of soppy energy, or the power to form the preferences of others by attraction as a substitute of coercion or financial incentives. The Olympic Video games are a robust software for this sort of attraction. Awarded to Germany earlier than the Nazis got here to energy, the 1936 Berlin Olympics helped the regime to promote a picture of an organized nation open to the world. Anti-Semitic propaganda was hid from view, whereas Leni Riefenstahl recorded each single facet of the occasion for her documentary, “Olympia.” With solely the Soviet Union boycotting the occasion, the American journalist William Shirer famous in his diary, “I’m afraid the Nazis have succeeded with their propaganda.”

The 2008 Beijing Olympics had been a soft-power victory for China, a momentous occasion that pushed to the sidelines controversies like Tibetan freedom activists protesting alongside the Olympic torch relay. The 2016 Rio Olympics attracted 1.17 million vacationers who loved the video games at one of many world’s most well-known seashores whereas Brazilians had been protesting towards financial corruption involving state oil firm Petrobras and the political scandals that led to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

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In 1964, Tokyo turned the primary Asian metropolis to host the Summer season Olympics. The 2020 video games, nevertheless, face an invisible problem to turning the occasion right into a soft-power coup for Japan. With the COVID-19 pandemic exhibiting no signal of subsiding, tons of took to the streets of Tokyo to protest towards holding the occasion. “Cancel the Olympics,” they demanded, fearing that there are numerous variants of the coronavirus circulating within the capital, with 90% of the residents involved that athletes would possibly convey extra an infection into the nation.

Tokyo’s video games are already thought-about the costliest Summer season Olympics in historical past, with a price ticket of at the least $25 billion. The 2019 Rugby World Cup introduced a 29,4% improve within the variety of vacationers coming to Japan, and the nation is anticipated to attain a report 40 million in 2020. Because of the pandemic, the video games had been postponed to 2021 and can go forward amid a state of emergency in Tokyo. Which means that occasions within the capital will run with out spectators, whereas some venues across the nation will probably be allowed to function at 50% capability. The exclusion of overseas followers might imply a lack of 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion). 

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If Not Sport, Then Tradition

If the organizers handle to steer the video games by with out main incident and stop the unfold of COVID-19, the Tokyo Olympics will, no doubt, convey with them a soft-power legacy, though with inevitable financial loss. However Japan’s major supply of soppy energy is its tradition, bringing billions in income. Particularly distinguished is MAG tradition — manga, anime and video games. These are a necessary software of what’s known as “Cool Japan,” a marketing campaign launched by the Japanese authorities in 2010 to advertise its cultural trade all over the world. This soft-power technique went international and bought the eye of Western media when revenues from gross sales and royalties of Japanese cultural merchandise soared to $12.5 billion in 2002, a 300% improve from 1992.

MAG tradition is so vital for Japan’s picture and price range that through the Rio Olympics, when the important thing to the following video games was handed on to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he shocked the world by coming out of a inexperienced drainpipe dressed as Tremendous Mario, accompanied by a video exhibiting athletes dressed like Good day Kitty and Doraemon. The stunt made the usually-somber politician the highest pattern on Twitter the following day. Years earlier, Good day Kitty was appointed Japan tourism ambassador in locations like China and Hong Kong because of the recognition of the character in nations that suffered Japanese aggression on the finish of the 19th century and through the Second World Struggle.

Manga turned considered one of Japan’s most vital exports and an vital gateway into Japanese tradition, getting main exhibitions in locations just like the British Museum in London. In keeping with a survey carried out in 4 European nations, nearly all of readers uncover manga whereas nonetheless at college, a time notably vital for shaping our identification and perceptions of different cultures. Japanese anime trade pulled a report of $17.7 billion in 2017, with the assistance of artists like Hayao Miyazaki, who received an Oscar in 2001 for “Spirited Away.”

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The win served as a “wake-up name for lots of people within the movie enterprise who had been disregarding Japanese animation for years,” says Dr. Jonathan Clements, a researcher of Japanese anime. Japan was the second-highest exporter of video video games earlier than the pandemic, representing simply over 10% of all international gross sales worldwide in 2019. On prime of that, not like China, the world chief in online game exports, Japan has created characters which can be acknowledged worldwide. Pokemon alone introduced in $5 billion in income within the first 5 years of existence.

Korean Problem

However even the established delicate energy of MAG has confronted competitors over these previous few years. One of the vital is Hallyu (Korean Wave), the rise within the recognition of Korean tradition all over the world. Used within the early Nineties as a part of reestablishing diplomatic relations with China, the time period describes a delicate energy that included phenomena like Okay-pop and Okay-drama that proved as crucial as conventional diplomacy.

Korean boy band BTS reached the highest 10 of the Billboard 200 in 2017 with 300 million votes worldwide, producing extra engagement on Twitter than artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Justin Bieber. From Psy’s international hit “Oppan Gangnam Fashion” to the synchronized dancing of the lady band Blackpink, Okay-pop is a multibillion-dollar trade that unites thousands and thousands of followers in stadiums all over the world and may have its personal stadium in 2024 in Seoul as a part of the plan to draw extra vacationers to the nation. 

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Bong Joon-ho’s Okay-drama “Parasite” bought greater than 300 awards worldwide, together with finest image on the Academy Awards and the Palm D’Or in Cannes final 12 months, grossing practically $260 million worldwide. The nations’ movie trade has registered fixed development for years, with gross sales revenues going from 1.22 (2008) to 2.51 (2019) trillion South Korean received. Netflix is about to speculate $500 million in 2021, with its Korean subscriber base nearing 4 million. Minyoung Kim, Netflix vice chairman of content material for Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, says that the streaming platform desires to be a part of Hallyu in a “large second of nationwide pleasure,” including 80 authentic Korean reveals and movies to the service.

Will Hallyu be cooler than “Cool Japan” within the following years? The reply is that it’s extra probably that each nations will share the main dominance in Asia’s cultural delicate energy. It is a optimistic improvement for each nations provided that they already shared soft-power affect after they hosted the primary World Cup to be held in Asia in 2002.


Even with out overseas guests, the Tokyo video games could assist improve Japan’s delicate energy by showcasing the nation’s wealthy tradition alongside the sporting spectacle to thousands and thousands all over the world. The Olympics are nonetheless one of many most-watched occasions on international tv, with US broadcaster NBC alone paying $1.275 billion for broadcasting rights per Olympiad. The Worldwide Olympic Committee estimates that 3.6 billion individuals watched at the least one minute of the Rio 2016 video games, with over 342 million viewers tuning in for the opening ceremony. Again then, the world was not residing with a pandemic. In 2021, even with vaccinations rolling out, many are nonetheless favoring residence leisure. This would possibly make the Tokyo Olympics much more well-liked than Rio’s, which might be an enormous win for Japan’s delicate energy.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.