State-sponsored Cute: Kawaii Ambassadors
There’s no doubt that there are some quirky aspects to Japan and Japanese culture, but how about state-sponsored quirkiness?
Meet Misako Aoki (青木美沙子), one of Japan’s three Cute Ambassadors who were appointed by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs February 2009.
Misako Aoki, in all her ultra-cute Lolita garb, performs an official function for the Japanese government.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes that sending Aoki-san and the other two cute ambassadors around the world will increase international understanding of Japan and its people. These activities will then benefit Japan in the future by cultivating goodwill towards Japan as a nation. This is sort of cultural diplomacy is practiced by other countries around the world in a variety of forms… None quite as cute as this though.
There are two other official cute ambassadors, Shizuka Fujioka who is a stylish school girl, and Yu Kimura who apparently is a master of layering clothes to create cool fashions.
The official Japanese term for “Cute Ambassador” is Kawaii Taishi (カワイイ大使), and the cute initiative is no joke, the ambassadors have been busy. Shizuka Fujioka was in Thailand in March, and Misako Aoki and Yu Kimura in Paris in July being cute and creating new friends of Japan. Misako Aoki was also in Spain separately in October.
If you’re heavy into Gothic Lolita fashion you may have already known Misako. She has modeled for BABY, The Stars Shine Bright, Putumayo, Algonquins and other well-known Japanese gothic and lolita fashion brands.
Here is a clip from the Brazilian media introducing lolita fashion and Misako Aoki. I believe this was recorded November 2009 in the build up to Misako Aoki’s visit to Brazil.
I wonder whether this type of cultural diplomacy will have any real impact on Japan’s standing in the world. For those people whose first interaction with Japan or Japanese people are the Cute Ambassadors, I would imagine that their view of Japan would become strangely skewed as a result. On the other hand, maybe that initial contact will be enough to spark a long-term interest in Japan that will eventually result in a well-rounded view of Japan… maybe even followed by a visit to Japan or serious study of the Japanese language. I guess this is the same effect that anime and manga have been having for the past few decades.
There you have it. Misako Aoki and the Kawaii Ambassadors. This was my post for the January 2010 blog matrsui. If you enjoyed this article please head over to JapanSoc and ‘soc’ it! While you’re there check out the other JapanSoc posts, it’s a great source for Japan-related topics.
One last thing. Misako Aoki was appointed as a Kawaii Ambassador for 2009, but there is no word yet on what will happen to the program in 2010. It will be interesting to see if MOFA decides to continue with the initiative!
I’ll leave you with one last clip of a message from Cute Ambassador Misako Aoki.
Other Misako Aoki and Cute Ambassador Related Links around the Web:
Misako Aoki’s official blog, the lovely pink diary.
Many more pictures of Misako Aoki.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Cute Ambassadors description.