This Japan Times article was making the rounds a couple of days ago and I finally got around to reading it. Basically, “Cool Japan needs to listen to its target market” is talking about how the so-named initiative, which is ambitious and good and aimed at building cultural interest ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, needs to spend more time connecting with people who aren’t Japanese but who do like Japanese things.
As far as awards ceremonies go, the Sugoi Japan Awards were a fairly flashy affair. … [T]he prizes recognized recent titles in anime, manga and fiction that an online poll of Japanese fans wanted to do well overseas. … In a room filled with those dedicated to getting people in other countries interested in Japanese culture, however, the room seemed conspicuously absent anyone from outside Japan.
That does seem strange, doesn’t it? Not that there would be awards for things that Japanese people love and want to do well internationally, but that there weren’t international voices involved.
A case in point is a lot of the stuff that we kick around on this site. As Jul pointed out recently in the comments, a lot of these artists have very small, at best, followings in their own country; I’d be willing to bet a few dollars that there may be idols currently working and performing somewhat regularly who have more fans outside of Japan than in.
Which is not actually to say that those are the idols that Cool Japan or any other initiative should quietly promote; in addition to being ludicrous, there are huge international idol superstars, from the 48s to Perfume and so on, and Babymetal more than holds up the extreme end of that spectrum, so stick with what already clearly works.
But, acknowledging that, the fact that some idols (or manga or anime or whatever) actually resonate more with foreign fans than with domestic does say that there are potentially big rifts between what those two markets will respond favorably to, and that needs to be acknowledged for Cool Japan’s goals to be met — otherwise, it’s a very expensive echo chamber.
The Japan Times article gets to that same point, and that it’s in English-language media from Japan says a lot. It may be part of the criticism of Cool Japan that causes the foreign ministry to shift gears, and that could be very cool for people like us. Like, we won’t get anything from it, but it could mean that international promotional resources make their way to, for instance, a PassCode, and something that we really like and champion gets a meaningful boost.
I have no idea of the likelihood of that, but it would be interesting.