Apparently Tokyo wants to raise its international profile, which seems pretty odd. I think that if you asked people what the best-known cities in the world are, Tokyo would easily land in the top ten. That’s the kaizen ethic for you.
In addition to their work ethic, the Japanese have some other qualities of note, including a fondness for all things cutesy and a commensurate ability to give that cutesiness a slightly creepy twist. This Reuters report says that they’ve got ambassadors for these qualities now:
In a bid to raise its international profile, Tokyo has appointed three young women as cultural envoys because they represent Japan’s long-running craze for all things cute.
Inspired by the characters in Japan’s distinctive "anime" animated films and "manga" cartoon books, one of the new ambassadors dresses as a schoolgirl, another as a Victorian doll in voluminous frilly skirts.
On first glance, it looks like just another tourism board promotion effort. The Reuters article suggests that these “ambassadorships” are part of a larger strategy:
Faced with the prospect of being overtaken in both economic and military might by giant neighbour China, Japan has been making concerted efforts to boost its "soft power", a strategy that analysts see as important.
"You get people to love your culture and use that as a way of gaining power around the world," said Phil Deans, professor of international relations at Temple University’s Tokyo campus.
"America has a lot of soft power, because people like American culture."
So it would seem that one of the strategy’s core assumptions is that the tastemakers and other holders of the levers of power in culture are also the vaguely creepy shut-in type who almost never say the word “legal” without preceding it with the word “barely”.
I wonder if Tokyo is considering ambassadors of subway groping and “upskirt” photos.