Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a roundtable style conference with veteran manga artists, talking about the importance of manga in Japan’s future and growth, at the Contemporary Manga Library run by the Meiji University in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on June 19, 2022.
The conference was attended by Ashita no Joe author Tetsuya Chiba, Machika Satonaka who has created nearly 500 manga, Kaze Kaoru author Kenshi Hirokane, Hajime no Ippo author George Morikawa, cosplayer turned mangaka Ippongi Ban, and also mangaka turned politician Ken Akamatsu.
In the conference, Kishida talked about the importance of manga in foreign countries, pointing out based on his experience that majority of people who studied Japanese overseas were inspired by manga. According to the Prime Minister, this was a doorway for foreign audiences to the Japanese culture.
“Language is a major point in understanding a person’s culture. When trying to get people to understand Japan, it is important to know how many young people (from overseas) are willing to learn Japanese. Most of the people who learn Japanese are inspired by manga and anime. I feel the presence of manga there,” Kishida said.
Kishida also talked about the role manga played in Japan’s growth, prompting him to consider promoting it from a political standpoint as well.
“It is said that when considering Japan’s future, the source of the country’s growth is soft power, not hard power, with manga playing a pivotal role,” Kishida said. “I would like to promote it from a political standpoint as well,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that he is also planning to talk about manga culture, including cosplay, with French President Emmanuel Macron at the upcoming G7 summit in Germany. Macron too is reportedly a huge fan of manga.
In the conference, Kishida also talked about his love for manga, looking back on the days when he ordered Weekly Shonen Jump from Japan to United States, where he attended elementary school.
“When I was a small child, it was like, ‘You won’t read it [manga] once you become a college student,’ but now, not only college students, but even adults and prime ministers read manga,” he said, pointing out that manga is loved by all generations.
He also added that manga was a “culture he never graduated from”. When Akamatsu asked him which manga he had read recently, Kishida replied saying he read all the volumes of Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer.
The manga artists also expressed their concerns about manga piracy and copyright issues to the Prime Minister, as well as their desire to support young artists. Chiba in particular asked Kishida to make Japan a country where young people can have hope, recounting his harrowing experience of the Sino-Japanese war.
“It was a terrible scene in the burnt-out ruins. Seventy-seven years later, the children of Japan have lost their vitality, and the number of suicides is increasing,” Chiba said. “I hope that the whole country will work together to make Japan a place where young people can have hope.”
At the end of the conference, Prime Minister Kishida was presented with boxing gloves by Chiba and Morikawa, much to his delight.