by Brendan Colgan
A new city brand campaign, dubbed the ‘Creative Tokyo’ project, was unveiled by the Japanese government earlier last month in the nation’s capital. The campaign targets Tokyo’s creative industries and consists of numerous art, fashion, music, food, and other cultural events planned into the New Year.
The initiative comes into full swing this week with the Creative Tokyo Forum kickoff event entitled “Designing New Futures” in which leading figures working in the international creative industries will gather to exchange opinions and to discuss the “reformation and revival of Japanese society”. The project aims to foster sustainable development of Tokyo’s creative industries and to “firmly establish Japan’s capital as a creative hub in Asia”.
While the Creative Tokyo project is concerned primarily with the city itself, its emergence is part of a broader, national initiative organized by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) dubbed the ‘Cool Japan’ initiative. In 2010 the METI established a new Creative Industries Promotion Office that was tasked to promote cultural and creative industries as a strategic initiative operating under the single, long term ‘Cool Japan’ concept. The idea now is to showcase Tokyo as the “creative” capital (and gateway) of the ”Cool Japan’.
These initiatives come after 2 decades of economic standstill in Japan as national leaders, planners, and experts are seeking ways to address the challenge of stimulating sustainable development, particularly in light of the dot-com bubble and rapid growth in China and other nearby regions. Moreover, in light of the earthquake and tsunami last March that spurred the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis and left much of Japan’s infrastructure either damaged or destroyed, these initiatives appear to be a mechanism to restore domestic pride and foreign confidence in Japanese products and services.
Through these initiatives, Japan is looking to capitalize and redefine its cultural capital. However, it is interesting to note that despite being deemed as ‘creative’ initiatives, the ‘Cool Japan’ is undeniably similar to the ‘Cool Britannia‘ campaign of the 1990s and the Creative Tokyo initiative seems quite similar (but not related) to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Moreover, the Creative Tokyo seems to emulate the success of other Asian city branding campaigns such as Hong Kong’s “Asia’s World City“, Seoul’s “Soul of Asia“, and Singapore’s “YourSingapore” initiatives.