Japanese Cool Power

by Traci Ratliff

Lesson Design and Materials


Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design

Established Goal(s):

(15) Culture. The student will -

(F) identify and explain examples of conflict and cooperation between and among cultures.

(21) Social studies skills. The student will -

(B) analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions;



Students will understand that…

Japan had to find a way to cooperate with other cultures in the world as they lacked a military post-World War II.

They can organize and use information acquired to summarize what they have learned.


Essential Question:

How does a country keep itself safe without a military force to protect it?

How has cool power affected you?


Students will know:

How the Japanese created and utilized cool or soft power today in place of a military force.


Students will be able to:

Summarize what they’ve learned in verbal, graphic, and written format.



Performance Tasks:

Students will draw a picture of each paragraph read.

Students will then summarize the article.


Other Evidence:

List of known cultural icons and images.


Learning Activities:


1 – I ask the students to watch a short digital story that I’ve created of several images from Japan that are popular in America and other parts of the Western world. Images include Hello Kitty, Pokemon, sushi, Yu-Gi-O!, katana sword, ninjas, and other Japanese anime images and other popular Japanese icons they see regularly on television or the internet while Japanese pop music plays.

2 – I play the video again and this time, the students make tally marks on their paper of each image they know. They count them up after and share how many they knew with their table team. Starting with the number of the person I spun on our class spinner. (Each table has four people sitting at it with a mat in the middle that designates their spot. The spots are 1A, 2B, 3A, 4B. We have a digital spinner that chooses either A/B or 1-4 as I set it. This would be a 1-4 spin. The person’s whose number is spun first, then speaks first and then the discussion moves clockwise around the table.) When done, the table team gives me a thumbs up to indicate they are finished.

3 – I then ask them why do they know so many images from an archipelago on the other side of the world? Students discuss the question and share various answers and ideas starting with the person’s number I spin and moving clockwise around the table. When done, the table team gives me jazz hands to indicate they are finished.

4 – I remind the students of our previous World War II lessons about Japan being left without a military at the end of the war by showing a short newsreel video of Japan signing the peace treaty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4DsCQUWkVw

5 – I then tell them that Japan found a new kind of power that doesn’t require military and I have the article to prove it.

6 – I give each student a copy of an article about Japan’s Cool Power and they rally robin read it with their shoulder partner. After each paragraph, the students draw a picture next to the paragraph depicting it and then explain it to their shoulder partner. They then read the next paragraph until complete.

7 – The shoulder partners then develop a written summary together of the article using the class summary rubric.

8 – Students do a stand up, hand up, pair up and share the article with a new partner who does not sit at their table. The person who goes first will be the one with the lightest colored socks on today.

9 – Students journal about how Japan’s Cool Power has affected them personally and how they feel about it. They then share it with their face partner.

10 - Students answer the following question and provide evidence of it in their choice of format. Suggested formats are video, Prezi, Power point, graph, detailed meme, detailed drawing, social media power, or a written paper.

11 – I check in more frequently with the students who are ELL and have special needs and provide more individual assistance. Their work will be evaluated on their abilities in summary writing &/or based on personal rubrics, if developed.

12 – G/T students will answer the following question and provide evidence of it in their choice of format. Suggested formats are video, Prezi, Power point, graph, detailed meme, detailed drawing, social media power, or a written paper. The question is: What type of power do you have in your personal life?

Materials Needed:

Cool Power Video I created

Article on cool power

Summary rubric from the ELA department – used for cross curricular work



Technology access: iPad, Chromebooks, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Newsreel of Japan signing the peace treaty

Japanese Soft Power
Japanese Surrender

Cool Japan, Soft Power Article

March, 2011

Cool Japan, Soft Power
(Adapted) By Asger Røjle Christensen

Manga, Japanese comics; anime, Japanese animation; cosplay, Japanese role-play in which the young come together to perform for one another, wearing manga figures’ costumes: To many these may once have seemed eccentric or even frivolous symbols of a fin-de-siècle culture in Japan.

But they have taken root across the world, and increasingly they play a role in “cool Japan,” an important new adjunct to Japan’s concentrated effort to project so-called soft power across the world, replacing the hard power that the country had and then lost, first in World War II and later with the stagnation of its economic might in the 1990s.

The projection of soft power is a conscious, focused and highly prioritized effort by the Japanese government to exploit the country’s popularity among young people worldwide — multitudes of whom share a passion for Japanese fashions and fads — and to create a broader sympathetic image in the host country.

The effort is focused directly at young foreign nationals who have fallen in love with one or another of the cultural phenomena that originated in Japan. It could include classical interests such as Noh theater, the Japanese tea ceremony or haiku; or more modern forms of expression such as the films of Kurosawa or Kitano, fashion from Issei Miyaki or Kenzo, sushi and Japanese cuisine, and of course the world of electronics and computer games.

“If you sneak a look into stores in China addressing young geeky manga or anime fans, you will see that the shelves are crammed with every imaginable Japanese anime character,” said former foreign minister Taro Aso in a 2006 speech. “What kind of picture comes into your mind when you hear the name of Japan? Is it a bright and positive image? Hot? Cool? The more positive the image that comes to mind, the easier it will be in the long term for Japan to have its views conveyed.”

The growth of Cool Japan
Today this speech is seen as the unofficial kickoff for the Cool Japan campaign. While Japan has always used public funds to promote its highbrow culture, now the government wants to do the same with its noisy pop culture. Since 2005, it has sponsored an annual competition for cosplay fans from around the world in Japan. Since 2007, it has also awarded annual international prizes for the best manga artists worldwide.

Rumi Sakamoto, a lecturer in Japanese at the University of Auckland and an expert on comics and Japanese pop culture, sees the thread going back to prime minister Junichiro Koizumi’s 2001-2006 administration. “Since Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Aso, the Japanese government has been consciously promoting Japanese pop culture,” says Sakamoto. “It is taken seriously. At a time of economic recession, ‘culture’ and ‘Cool Japan’ are given the status of a new hope for Japan’s influence overseas.”

This effort by the Japanese is not only the expression of a struggle for a better global image. It is also an effort to provide concrete short-term benefits through the sale of cultural products and increased tourism. “If you look at some governmental documents that discuss ‘cultural diplomacy,’ it is clear that this is conceived in terms of economic gain via export as well as the improvement of the image of Japan by ‘branding’ the nation,” Sakamoto says.

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