Diplomatic Bluebook 2022
Japan Strengthening Its Presence in the International Community
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) making further efforts to disseminate Japan's policies, initiatives and positions, (2) sharing Japan's rich and diverse attractions, and (3) expanding the circle of people with a great affinity toward or knowledge of Japan, while enhancing the capabilities of its overseas missions, which are on the frontlines of public diplomacy. Regarding pillar (1), MOFA focuses mainly on promoting public understanding of Japan's contributions to peace, stability and prosperity in the international community, and the maintenance and strengthening of the international order based on the rule of law, as well as on enhancing public awareness of issues concerning the recognition of history and territory/sovereignty. In particular, MOFA is actively communicating Japan's positions and viewpoints through opportunities such as daily press conferences, interviews, contributions of articles, and speeches at official visits to foreign countries and international conferences by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and other government officials. Japan's diplomatic missions overseas are also actively communicating to the governments of assigned countries, their citizens and the media on Japan's positions and viewpoints on a range of subjects including the recognition of history and territory/ sovereignty. When foreign media outlets publish reports that include factual errors, the headquarters and diplomatic missions abroad promptly lodge protests or post rebuttals, to ensure that media reports are made based on objective facts and understanding. In addition, MOFA actively communicates with the public through online tools such as social media and websites, while creating publicity materials such as videos on Japan's foreign policy and utilizing them in a variety of forms. Furthermore, in order to make Japan's basic positions and viewpoints on policy issues understood, it is also important to enhance coordination with experts and think tanks. From this perspective, MOFA invites influential experts and media personnel to Japan from abroad, and provides them with opportunities to exchange views with various people including Japanese government officials, as well as to visit various places around Japan for study tours and to conduct interviews. MOFA dispatches Japanese experts abroad, while extending its support for Japan-related seminars conducted by overseas research institutions.
In 2021, as COVID-19 continued to spread, MOFA actively communicated with international society to gain an accurate understanding of the situation and efforts in Japan. It has also put effort into online initiatives with a view to overcoming restrictions under the COVID-19 situation. For collaborative projects with overseas research institutions and invitational/dispatch projects in particular, it has actively implemented feasible initiatives that do not involve physical interpersonal exchanges, such as online seminars (webinars) and exchange programs.
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 territory and sovereignty. In addition, for baseless criticism of the Rising Sun Flag, accurate information about the flag is provided in a variety of forms, including making multi-language explanatory materials and videos available on MOFA's website to gain understanding from the international community.1
Concerning pillar (2), “sharing Japan's rich and diverse attractions,” a variety of efforts involving public relations and cultural projects are being made mainly through diplomatic missions to promote understanding and support for Japan, which will also lead to the promotion of inbound tourism in the post-COVID-19 world. Cultural projects have been conducted by diplomatic missions around the world and the Japan Foundation (JF), and the 15th Japan International MANGA Award was organized by MOFA. Also, the attractiveness of all regions of Japan was communicated through various means including social media. While many projects have been postponed alongside the suspension of mass gatherings and the cross-border movement of people around the world in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, special programs have been conducted through online media with the aim of maintaining and further developing Japan's ties with the world through culture. Moreover, Japan has worked on initiatives in cooperation with people in the country and abroad to preserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage throughout the world and to promote the inscription of Japan's cultural and natural heritage on the World Heritage List and the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Concerning pillar (3), “expanding the circle of people with a great affinity toward or knowledge of Japan,” MOFA has been making various efforts to promote people-to-people and intellectual exchanges, and Japanese language education. The efforts include youth exchange programs between Japan and other countries and regions under Japan's Friendship Ties Programs. MOFA also provides support for Japanese studies at universities and research institutions in major countries around the world. MOFA will continue to make use of initiatives in accordance with the abovementioned three pillars strategically and effectively, in order to contribute to the realization of its foreign policy and national interests.
- 1 Reference materials concerning the Rising Sun Flag are available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here:
(2) Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9co0U5lcE0c “Rising Sun Flag as Japanese Longstanding Culture” (Posted on MOFA's YouTube channel from October 8, 2021)
(2) JAPAN HOUSE
MOFA has established JAPAN HOUSE overseas communication hubs in three cities, namely São Paulo (Brazil), London (UK) and Los Angeles (U.S.). 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 by communicating Japan's rich and varied attractiveness as well as its policies, initiatives and views.
JAPAN HOUSE promotes effective communication by (1) communicating through “All-Japan” efforts by the central and local governments, private sectors and other actors, (2) promoting outreach that reflects the needs of local communities, and (3) providing a “one-stop-service” where various information related to Japan can be obtained from one location.
With the slogan “Mind-blowing Encounters with Japan across the Globe,” each JAPAN HOUSE conducts locally designed exhibitions which are independently organized by each hub, as well as touring exhibitions that are selected by experts from public proposals in Japan and exhibited at all three hubs. In this way, JAPAN HOUSE works to provide high-quality exhibitions by leveraging the knowhow of experts both in those hub cities and in Japan. In addition to exhibitions, Japan's diverse attractions, including traditional culture and arts, advanced technology, nature, architecture, food and design, as well as its policies, initiatives and views, are also widely disseminated through other formats such as lectures, seminars, workshops, webinars, merchandise, food and beverages, books, websites and cafés. In 2021, the JAPAN HOUSE hubs were temporarily closed or operated with restrictions on admission numbers, etc. under the COVID-19 measures. However, in addition to physical exhibitions and other projects, they actively disseminated information online or through hybrid methods that combined the two means of communication. By the end of 2021, the total number of visitors for the three hubs had exceeded 3.8 million, indicating that the hubs are becoming firmly established as a major cultural facility in each city.
(3) Media Coverage of Japan in Other Countries and Regions, and Dissemination to Foreign Media
In 2021, foreign media coverage of Japan was centered on diplomatic issues such as the Quad Leaders' Meeting, the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), Japan-U.S. relations, Japan-China relations, and the issues concerning North Korea, as well as Japan's domestic politics and economy including the inauguration of the new Cabinet, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 (hereafter, “Tokyo 2020 Games”), Japan's response to COVID-19 including border measures.
MOFA promptly and proactively provides information and assistance to foreign media in order to gain the understanding and support of the international community on Japan's policies, initiatives and positions. Communication through foreign media includes interviews with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, regular press conferences by the Foreign Minister (livestreaming in Japanese and English is also available online), and the provision of information and opportunities for press coverage to correspondents in Tokyo via briefings, press releases, press tours and other means. MOFA makes efforts to achieve strategic and effective communications by providing information in a timely manner based on the diplomatic schedule.
In 2021, as in the previous year, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister had limited opportunities to make overseas visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, during his visit to the U.S. in April, Prime Minister Suga took the opportunity of a face-to-face interview with Newsweek, a leading American magazine, to stress the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance as well as the strengthening of Japan-U.S. cooperation toward the realization of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).” During his visit to Central America and the Caribbean in July, Foreign Minister Motegi had an interview with Agencia EFE, a major news agency in the Spanish-speaking countries. In the interview, he called for the promotion of “diplomacy with both tolerance and strength” with Latin American countries.
In 2021, the Prime Minister contributed articles and held interviews seven times, and the Foreign Minister contributed articles and held interviews for a total of 24 times. Additionally, MOFA provided information to foreign media through the Press Secretary and other means, and held press briefings to local media on the occasion of overseas visits by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
Under our project to invite foreign media coverage, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided opportunities for foreign journalists to cover Japan, mainly online, with the aim of disseminating the latest developments in Japan across a wide range of fields, including bilateral relations, politics, economy, and culture. In March, which marked 10 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, we provided a number of opportunities for reporters in certain countries to hold online interviews with the disaster-hit municipalities that had received rescue teams as well as medical teams from those countries immediately after the disaster. In addition, the victims in Ishinomaki City of Miyagi Prefecture were reunited, through an avatar robot, with the leader of the Turkish rescue team who had engaged in rescue activities in the city, The scene was broadcast via Turkish national broadcasting company (see Special Feature 3 on page 334). We have also provided opportunities for pre-event publicity for the Tokyo 2020 Games and press coverage on host town exchanges, which were reported in the media around the world. From the end of October to November, as part of the measures to prevent reputational damage stemming from the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident as well as public relations for the 2025 World Expo Osaka, a journalist from the United Arab Emirates, the host country for the Expo 2020 Dubai, was invited to visit Japan for the first time in a year and seven months.
(4) Information Provision through the Internet
MOFA has been actively engaged in providing information through the Internet, such as the MOFA websites and social media, in order to gain better understanding and draw further support of people inside and outside Japan on Japan's foreign policy.
As face-to-face diplomatic activities were significantly constrained in 2021, as in the previous year, efforts were made to provide information through the Internet, such as live streaming of the regular press conferences by the Foreign Minister, and posting of video messages delivered at international conferences on websites and social media.
Considering MOFA's English website to be an important tool for public diplomacy, MOFA has been enhancing its efforts to provide information in English on Japan's foreign policy concerning such subjects as territory and sovereignty, recognition of history, and security, as well as Japan's position on international affairs and Japan's various appeals together with attractive features of Japan's diversity. MOFA has also been working to provide information in local languages through the social media and the websites of Japanese embassies, consulates, and permanent missions overseas.