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Japanese exporters may have been suffering lately, but Japan still has one major export up its sleeve: Cool.

And now there’s a new strategy for spreading Cool Japan across the world. Up until now businesses haven’t really connected with what’s popular, but from here on a new public-private initiative will use “big data” to more comprehensively measure and predict the foreign appetite for Japanese culture.

  • Gross National Cool

“Cool Japan” (Borrowing from the UK’s Cool Britannia – not sure they quite got the wordplay there) is a government initiative aimed at promoting Japanese culture abroad. Japan has been trying to increase its “Gross National Cool” since around 2002, with a range of strategies such as giving subsidies of 9.5 billion yen towards the subtitling and dubbing of Japanese dramas and movies, and supporting the creation of a “Japan mall” filled with Japanese clothes stores, restaurants and bookshops. It may not be generating the same interest as Abenomics, but it’s a big enough economic issue that the Japanese government has contributed 50 billion yen to a public-private fund dedicated to Cool Japan.

However, critics have pointed out that the Cool Japan initiative didn’t have any real connection to the businesses actually creating this consumable culture.

Actually, in terms of cultural exports, only games have been in the black (more exported than imported). Movies, music, and books are all still more likely to be coming into the country from places such as Korea and America, than going out into the world. The government now wants to push for the “contents” industry, fashion, and food to become the country’s overseas earners.

The new strategy involves public-private cooperation and will enable the use  of “big data” in order to measure and predict foreign demand.

  • So what is this “big data”?

“Big data” means a large, complex, unstructured set of data that is so huge it becomes extremely difficult to analyse. It’s not only the overwhelming amount that’s the problem, but also the fact that it can contain many different types and forms of data.

It often involves the collection of real-time or chronological data that amasses in huge amounts as it is generated and recorded, particularly on social media and networking sites.

Big data requires significant expertise and technology to break down into manageable and interpretable results.

  • Asia Trend Map

One of the ways this data has been put to use is in the Asia Trend Map, developed by Tokyo University associate professor Matsuo Yutaka in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Check it out to see what Japanese media is trending where.

The map collates and analyses big data such as the number of times a manga, anime, or game title is mentioned on social media sites such as Twitter.

We did a search for popular anime Naruto, and the site came up with this cool weather-map-style diagram showing where it’s been the biggest hit. The forecast? Sunny in Vietnam, Korea, and Indonesia (rising popularity), but rainy in Russia, Malaysia, and also Japan (declining popularity). And unfortunately for Naruto, the world-wide forecast seems pretty stormy (rapidly declining popularity).

▼ Naruto trending

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Click here to search your own favourite Japanese anime, game, or drama to see how it’s doing.

  • What’s it for?

So what’s the big deal about predicting trends by country? What can this data be used for?

Well, apart from being pretty fun for Japan-fans to play around with, the map could have an impact on the export of Japanese culture. In particular, it is hoped that businesses will make use of this data to reduce their initial investment in market research when formulating their marketing strategies, and so be able to more successfully spread their products across the world.

  • What Japanese media is trending in Asia this Summer?

A quick site search tells us that the following three are doing pretty well right now. If you’re looking to do a little online trading, these are the ponies to bet on!

Thailand: Bleach

Vietnam: InuYasha – Now there’s a blast from the past!

Indonesia: Doraemon

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See? Even raw data can be fun! Sort of…

Source: Naver Matome

Images: Asia Trend Map