1-month festival to start this week, showcasing Japanese pop culture now



Japan will showcase the full lineup of its creative powers ranging from games, animation and ”manga” comic books to films, music and fashion through a series of events starting this week to highlight their attractiveness and seek more international business opportunities.

The events, to be held under the banner of the Japan International Contents Festival, or CoFesta, until late October, will begin with the Sept. 24-27 Tokyo Game Show 2009, the world’s largest computer entertainment show, at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Other events of this year’s CoFesta, the third of its kind, include the CEATEC Japan 2009 cutting-edge information technology and electronics Oct. 6-10 and the Oct. 17-25 Akihabara Entamatsuri 2009, a festival of manga, anime and other Japanese pop culture phenomena held in Akihabara, known as a magnet for ”otaku” geeks.

The International Drama Festival in Tokyo, the Tokyo International Film Festival, the Tokyo Asia Music Market and the Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo are also among the events.

”As this is the third time we will have the festival, we want to be more conscious about internationality,” CoFesta Executive Producer Yutaka Shigenobu said. ”That is a big theme this year.” In an effort to strengthen its function of promoting the attractiveness of the Japanese content industry to an international audience, CoFesta for the first time opened a booth at the Japan Expo, a convention on Japanese pop culture held in Paris in July.

Shigenobu, chairman of TV Man Union Inc., a TV program production company, said he wants to have CoFesta participate in the Shanghai World Expo next year if possible to seek more international business and collaboration.

He said he wants to show a strange but natural mixture of traditional and modern Japan this year as many events will be held at places along the Ginza Line, a Tokyo subway line linking Asakusa, popular with foreign tourists for many historical sites, and Shibuya, one of Japan’s fashion centers.

”Now it’s no surprise to see young foreign people drinking hoppy (a beer-flavored beverage usually mixed with shochu distilled spirits) and eating yakitori grilled chicken at the Asakusa Rokku (the entertainment district in Asakusa),” Shigenobu said.

CoFesta, the world’s largest comprehensive content festival, began in 2007, integrating various content-industry-related events under the initiative of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

It is the world’s largest comprehensive content festival. More than 800,000 people visited CoFesta events in 2008.

”Japan had lacked power to highlight the attractiveness of its content industry internationally as various events had been held separately and at different times,” a METI official said. ”So we have integrated those events as one festival.” ”Now all Japanese content exists at CoFesta,” the official said. ”Buyers from foreign countries can see a number of things at a time.” As demonstrated by the popularity of manga, anime and ”cosplay” costume games, global interest in Japanese pop culture is strong. But this does not necessarily result in the expansion of the Japanese content industry.

Japan’s domestic content market in 2008 shrank 2.6 percent from the previous year to 13.82 trillion yen (about $151 billion) due partly to the economic downturn and the country’s rapidly aging population, according to data compiled by the Digital Content Association of Japan.

The industry and METI are seeking to expand the business by cultivating overseas markets. The ratio of the industry’s overseas sales to overall sales stood at a meager 1.9 percent in 2004.

CoFesta has its own original events, including ”Genki 3,” a three-hour talk show from Oct. 5 through 13 in which each of the 10 content creators speak about their success and experiences in a ”passionate” and ”dramatic” fashion to help foster younger generations of aspiring creators.

This year’s presenters include Ichikawa Kamejiro, an actor involved in the traditional Japanese performing art of kabuki, and Kenshi Hirokane, known as the writer of the Kosaku Shima comic series. He is the first comic writer to talk at the Genki 3 event.

They also include anime content producer Koji Taguchi, copywriter Shigesato Itoi and art director Kashiwa Sato.

”I want as many talented people to come from this as possible,” said Genki 3 general producer Ryuichi Okumura. ”I’ll be happy if new, interesting and amusing things are created (through Genki 3) and we’ll make efforts steadily to achieve such a situation.” CoFesta General Producer Shigenobu said the popularity of Japanese pop culture is not a one-time boom but rooted in daily life in an increasing number of foreign countries as a culture.

”There is respect in Asia for such new Japanese sensibilities and it’s very important,” he said.

”Now that such respect is also coming from Paris and Italy, we need to catch this move promptly and expand it,” Shigenobu said. ”That’s one of CoFesta’s roles.” (Kyodo)