Diplomatic Bluebook 2019

Chapter 3

Japan's Foreign Policy to Promote National and Global Interests

Section 4 Efforts to Promote Understanding and Trust in Japan

1 Strategic Communications

(1) Initiatives in Strategic Communications

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is implementing strategic communications based on the three-pillar approach of (1) conveying Japan's views, policies and initiatives, (2) sharing Japan's rich and varied attractiveness, and (3) cultivating understanding and support for Japan. Regarding conveying Japan's views, policies and initiatives, the initiatives have mainly been focused on increasing the understanding of Japan's contributions toward peace, stability and prosperity of the international community and the maintenance and strengthening of the international order based on the rule of law, and on promoting understanding of issues regarding history. Specifically, MOFA has been actively communicating Japan's stance and way of thinking on the occasions of daily press conferences, interviews, contributions to the media, and speeches at official visits to foreign countries and international conferences by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and other government officials. The diplomatic missions overseas have actively communicated to the governments of assigned countries, their citizens, and the media on Japan's fundamental stance and views on a range of issues including the recognition of history as well as maintenance of territorial integrity. When the foreign media publish reports that include factual errors, under the name of Ambassadors, Consuls General, or the Press Secretary of the ministry, MOFA promptly sends rebuttal pieces or provides explanations to ensure that media reports be published based on objective facts. MOFA also actively engages in communications with the public via social media and websites, while creating publicity materials such as videos on Japan's foreign policy and utilizing them in a variety of forms. In order to make Japan's fundamental stance and views on policy issues understood, it is also important to enhance coordinated efforts with experts and think tanks. Based on this recognition, MOFA has invited influential experts and media personnels from around the world, providing them with opportunities to exchange views with various people including government officials, to visit various places around Japan for study tours, and to conduct interviews. Furthermore, MOFA dispatches Japanese experts abroad while extending its support for Japan-related seminars by overseas research institutions.

Foreign policy video “Japan's Worldwide Projects for the Future of our Oceans” (Released on November 27, 2018 and it can be viewed at MOFA's YouTube channel. Broadcast on CNN)Foreign policy video “Japan's Worldwide Projects for the Future of our Oceans” (Released on November 27, 2018 and it can be viewed at MOFA's YouTube channel. Broadcast on CNN)

In 2018, Japan promoted the importance of the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, respect for international law, keeping in mind the urgent issues faced by the international community including nuclear and missile development by North Korea, and unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the international order. It was also stressed that Japan is continuing to make significant contribution to the peace and development of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Regarding a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” proposed by Prime Minister Abe, in particular, Japan communicated its efforts at the opportunities of the 10th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting in October, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-related Summit Meetings, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting in November, and other occasions. By taking advantage of various opportunities and utilizing various tools, Japan is also engaged in efforts to strategically communicate information about matters on the recognition of history, including the issue of the so-called “comfort women” and various issues on Japan's territorial integrity. In addition to groundless criticisms against the Rising Sun Flag that have been seen in recent years, MOFA has responded with clear explanations.

To share Japan's rich and varied attractiveness, Japan is implementing a variety of public relations/cultural projects mainly through on the diplomatic missions from the perspective of promoting understanding of Japan and fostering a sense of affinity toward Japan and consequently promoting tourist visits to Japan, an area in which currently “All-Japan” efforts are being made. Diplomatic missions around the world have implemented cultural projects, while the Japan Foundation (JF) has taken initiatives such as the “WA Project” and “Japonismes 2018,” as well as the 11th Japan International MANGA Award. Japan has also actively communicated the attractiveness of all areas of Japan, including regions that have been affected by disasters, in various forms including social media.

To cultivate understanding and support for Japan, MOFA has been making various efforts to promote people-to-people and intellectual exchanges and Japanese language education through promoting youth exchange programs with Asia, the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, holding a U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON), and providing support for Japanese studies at universities and research institutions in major countries of the world. To ensure the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, “Sport for Tomorrow (SFT)” program has been launched to contribute internationally through sports. Moreover, in order to preserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage throughout the world, and promote inscription of Japan's cultural heritage on the World Heritage List and the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, initiatives were implemented in cooperation with people in Japan and overseas.

In order to enhance Japan's communication and contribute to the realization of its foreign policy and national interest, MOFA will strategically and effectively continue to implement initiatives based on the three-pillar approach described above, through the effective use of its budget for strategic communications.


Since 2015, MOFA had advanced preparations for the establishment of the JAPAN HOUSE communication hub in the three cities of São Paulo (Brazil), Los Angeles (the U.S.) and London (the UK). The purpose is to attract a wide range of people, including those who were not necessarily interested in Japan previously, and to enlarge the base of the people who are interested and well-versed in Japan to improve understanding of the policies and initiatives of Japan by communicating Japan's rich and varied attractiveness and policies and initiatives. Following the opening in São Paulo in April 2017 and partial opening in Los Angeles in December the same year, JAPAN HOUSE opened in London in June 2018 and fully opened in Los Angeles in August, meaning that all three hubs have opened.

JAPAN HOUSE São Paulo: The design is by architect Kengo Kuma (São Paulo, Brazil; Photo: JAPAN HOUSE São Paulo Secretariat)JAPAN HOUSE São Paulo: The design is by architect Kengo Kuma (São Paulo, Brazil; Photo: JAPAN HOUSE São Paulo Secretariat)

The JAPAN HOUSE project is unique in that it (1) communicates through “All-Japan” efforts by the central and local governments, private sectors, and other actors, (2) promotes outreach that reflects the needs of local communities, and (3) provides “one-stop-service” where various information related to Japan can be obtained by one stop.

Some of the events organized by JAPAN HOUSE are based on public proposals. The proposals selected in Japan are exhibited in all three hubs as touring exhibitions. By this project, JAPAN HOUSE tries to present answers to the fundamental question “What is Japan?” from a variety of perspectives, with the aim of enabling people overseas to encounter the attractiveness of Japan. MOFA aims to establish the JAPAN HOUSE brand by organizing such high-quality exhibitions.

To date, the first-opened JAPAN HOUSE in São Paulo has developed themed exhibitions on a variety of appealing aspects of Japan including the architecture, technology, food, fashion, art, etc. Furthermore, it has served as the location for diverse forms of communication. For example, a pop-up store (limited-time-only store) was set up by MUJI, a brand which had not established a presence in Latin America, and in cooperation with martial arts associations and other related organizations, it has held photo exhibitions on the theme of martial arts along with lectures, experience-based workshops, etc. In May, at the JAPAN HOUSE in São Paulo, Foreign Minister Kono gave a lecture about Japan's foreign policy, and addressed to local experts and business people about Japanese diplomacy in Latin America and initiatives for global issues. In August, the cumulative total number of visitors exceeded one million, and the JAPAN HOUSE continues to draw the interest of the local people as a new cultural hub in São Paulo.

The JAPAN HOUSE in London celebrated its grand opening in September in the presence of His Royal Highness, The Duke of Cambridge, representing the British Royal Family, and with the attendance of Deputy Prime Minister Aso from Japan, which gave strong impressions of JAPAN HOUSE London inside and outside the UK. From September to October, it held the exhibition ‘Biology of Metal: Metal Craftsmanship in Tsubame-Sanjo' which was the starter the project to introduce specifically the attractiveness of Japan's local areas at the JAPAN HOUSE. The business operators of factories in Tsubame-Sanjo took the lead in this exhibition, which incorporated elements of the “Factory Festival” in the Tsubame-Sanjo region in Niigata Prefecture, and with the support of Tsubame City and Sanjo City they introduced the metalworking culture of their region through exhibits and demonstrations. Furthermore, during this period the shops in the building sold related products. For the business operators of the factories presenting exhibits, it was a highly effective exhibition from the perspective of the regional revitalization where future business development can be expected. For example, there were people who were inspired by the exhibits to take an interest in the manufacturing of Tsubame-Sanjo and actually visit the Tsubame-Sanjo region, and business talks are continuing. Furthermore, in September, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, a seminar about the Meiji Restoration from the British perspective was held.

JAPAN HOUSE London: His Royal Highness, The Duke of Cambridge touching the Magic Metal* of Takeda Kanagata Seisakusho during his tour inside the building (September 13, London, U.K.; Photo: JAPAN HOUSE London Secretariat)JAPAN HOUSE London: His Royal Highness, The Duke of Cambridge touching the Magic Metal* of Takeda Kanagata Seisakusho during his tour inside the building (September 13, London, U.K.; Photo: JAPAN HOUSE London Secretariat)
* When the characters for “factory” (in Japanese) protruding on the metal plate are pushed in with fingers the surface of the plate becomes flat and the seams between the characters and the plate become invisible

The JAPAN HOUSE in Los Angeles held its grand opening celebration in August, and approximately 800 people participated, including Foreign Minister Kono, his spouse, Minister of State Matsuyama, members of the Japan-California Parliamentary Friendship League (Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Administration in the House of Councillors Yamamoto, and Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Onuma), Special Advisor to Prime Minister Sonoura, Mayor of Los Angeles Garcetti, U.S. Congressman Takano, and other U.S. congress officials, local government officials, representatives of Japanese-American organizations, etc. Furthermore, performances were given by Rhizomatiks Research & Elevenplay and X Japan's Yoshiki, and the opening of JAPAN HOUSE left a strong impression on American society. Since the opening, government-affiliated agencies, local governments, private sector organizations, and others have collaborated to develop multifaceted communication projects including exhibitions, experience-based events on the theme of Japanese food, sake and shochu tastings, seminars, lectures, movie screenings, etc.

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles: Foreign Minister Kono giving a speech in the Grand Opening Celebration (August 24, Los Angeles, U.S.)JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles: Foreign Minister Kono giving a speech in the Grand Opening Celebration (August 24, Los Angeles, U.S.)

(3) Reports by Foreign Media on Japan and Communications through Foreign Media

In 2018, the foreign media paid much attention to the promotion of free trade, including the conclusion of the TPP11 Agreement and the Japan-EU EPA, Japan-U.S. relations, Japan-China relations, Japan's response to North Korea, Japan's domestic economy, and the acceptance of foreign workers. Furthermore, active foreign visits by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in line with “Japan's foreign policy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map” captured the attention of the foreign media, primarily those of the local media of the destination countries.

MOFA actively provides to foreign media timely information and offers assistance for their press coverage in order to gain understanding and support from the international community about Japan's positions and its activities. Communication through foreign media includes interviews with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, regular press conferences by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the provision of information to correspondents in Japan via press releases and other materials. MOFA makes efforts to achieve strategic and effective communications by providing information at the appropriate timing taking into account the diplomatic schedule.

For example, on the occasion of the visit to Japan by Australian Prime Minister Turnbull in January, Prime Minister Abe accepted an interview with the Australian Financial Review, and communicated his message about the enhancement of Japan-Australia relations and cooperation in the field of the security of the Asia-Pacific region. In April, prior to the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit in the following month, he accepted interviews with Chinese media outlet CCTV and Phoenix TV (Hong Kong) in which he communicated his message regarding the importance of Japan-China relations and economic cooperation between Japan, China and the ROK. In May, Foreign Minister Kono accepted an interview with the Washington Post with the first ever U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting in the following month in mind, and he explained Japan's position in its responses to North Korea and the importance of Japan-U.S. cooperation.

Furthermore, there was active communication through foreign media during foreign visits by Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Kono, and their participation in international conferences including the UN General Assembly. During his visit to Europe in January, Prime Minister Abe received written interviews with local newspapers in Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania, the countries he was visiting for the first time as the Prime Minister of Japan, and communicated his message about strengthening bilateral relations with each country, expanding trade and investment, and cooperation in the field of security centered on the North Korean issue. Prime Minister Abe also accepted an interview with a Russian television station (Russia-1) prior to his visit to Russia in May, in which he spoke about the strengthening of Japan-Russia relations and Japan's efforts toward the conclusion of a peace treaty, and on the occasion of his attendance at the UN General Assembly in September he contributed an article about climate change to the Financial Times (the UK). Foreign Minister Kono, prior to his visit to China in January, accepted an interview with Phoenix TV (Hong Kong) in which he spoke about Japan's ideas about Japan-China relations, and in July prior to his attendance at the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' Meetings he accepted an interview with the Straits Times (Singapore) in which he spoke about Japan's initiatives to achieve a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and Japan's response to North Korea.

In this way, in 2018 Prime Minister Abe gave a total of 18 interviews and article contributions and conducted four independent press conferences during his overseas visits, while Foreign Minister Kono gave a total of 43 interviews and article contributions and held one press conference for the foreign press during his overseas visit.

Active efforts were also made by the Press Secretary and others to provide information to the foreign media. For example, a total of about 60 people attended the press briefings held during the ASEAN-related Summit Meetings, the visit of Prime Minister Abe to Australia, and the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Papua New Guinea in November.

In addition to these initiatives, MOFA invited 95 journalists and eight TV teams from abroad, with a focus on media outlets with no correspondents in Japan, to provide opportunities for them to enhance their understanding of Japan's priority policies and positions. For example, on the occasion of the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) in May, eight journalists from eight Pacific island countries were invited to Japan, and MOFA provided them with the opportunities to cover the Meeting as well as topics related to Japan's cooperation with the region. In addition, on the occasion of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) Ministerial Meeting (Tokyo) in October, 11 journalists from ten African countries and France were invited. Furthermore, taking the opportunity of the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, groups of journalists were invited from China in March and September and MOFA provided them with the opportunities for media coverage that contributed to promoting mutual understanding between the two countries.

(4) Dissemination of Information through the Internet

MOFA has been actively engaged in disseminating information through the internet, including websites and social media, with the aim of gaining the understanding and support of people in and outside Japan on Japan's foreign policy.

MOFA considers its English website an important tool of public diplomacy, and has been enhancing the distribution of information in English on Japan's foreign policy (including maintaining territorial integrity, historical issues and security), Japan's position on international affairs and Japan's rich and varied attractiveness. Furthermore, MOFA has been making efforts to disseminate information in local languages through the websites of Japan's embassies, permanent missions and consulates-general overseas.

MOFA's official websiteMOFA's official website

MOFA speedily distributes a wide range of information to the international community through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.