The “Cool Japan” wave that began in 2001 has ebbed and flowed, with many continuing to extol the country’s success in global pop culture markets while others express concern that it has fallen behind “K-Pop” and the increasing global weight of China. This chapter critically examines Joseph Nye’s conception of “soft power,” considering its affective role in representing national aspirations and concerns about global status. The achievement of “soft power” became a broad goal that would link a new, creative generation to the collective endeavors of their parents and grandparents, who had built ostensibly Japan’s postwar economic miracle. In this examination of post-Bubble Japan’s nervous efforts to maintain global cultural weight, the chapter draws from Lauren Berlant’s widely noted book Cruel Optimism, particularly its recognition of addictive modes in contemporary political and social life.
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