Gross National Cool

According to an increasing number of believers, Japan’s days as an industrial powerhouse may well be on the wane, but its role as a global trendsetter is only now just getting started.

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Time MagazineCutting-edge music, art, fashion, design and other pop-culture categories of every stripe are attracting the world’s attention. In Japan, they say, the future is cool.

Even as Japan’s economic leadership has been slipping for more than a decade, its cultural hegemony has only swelled. “Japan has changed from being a corporate manufacturing and industrial society to a pop-culture society,” says Ichiya Nakamura, a visiting scholar at Stanford Japan Center and M.I.T. Media Lab.

According to Tsutomu Sugiura, director of the Marubeni Research Institute, an economic think tank, Japanese cultural exports–such as from the media, licensing, entertainment and other related industries–have tripled over the past 10 years to $12.5 billion, while manufacturing exports have increased by only 20%.

Japan’s future identity no longer rests in being the leading manufacturer of goods–whether cars, cameras or stereos–but as the world’s foremost creator of cool.

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

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