Cultural Diplomacy and Poetry

Conveying to the foreign other

A sincere aspect of culture

Requires one to look toward the inner

Gaze further,

Bring to sound a melody that is quintessentially pure~

Cultural diplomacy is the practice through which nations accrue foreign interest through the medium of their own national culture. 

In the United States, examples of cultural diplomacy include (but are not limited to): comics and superheroes; cartoons; American football culture; cooking styles such as barbeque; Hollywood movies and actors; rock and roll; Jazz; Walt Disney and more. Many people around the world know about the United States of America because of these concepts and others such as 'the American dream'. Though these cultural aspects may not be anything physical at first, they attract people toward the country through the peoples' interests in the cultural pieces of the nation.

The United Kingdom's British Council and France's French Alliance are but two well known cultural diplomatic institutions that are present in various countries around the globe. Personally, I used to take French classes at the French Alliance when I was young and also at Italy's cultural diplomatic organization in Houston. Despite operating primarily as language schools, the institutions also provide information regarding traveling to the countries as well as information on cultural events in the city that take place in which the institutions are located. Though not primarily connected with the host nation, the institutions due heavily support the culture of the host nations.

Japan has an interesting form of cultural diplomacy and the national government becomes involved in it to a large degree. For instance, Japan's national and international broadcaster, NHK, produces many shows in only Japanese that are then shown worldwide. Furthermore, despite the English portion shows being mostly about Japanese scenery, food and traveling people still find themselves interested. One other cultural aspect about Japan that has attracted foreigners for generations is poetry. Though not a large percentage, many people come to hear of Japan through the haiku or tanka form of poetry. One of my favorite books, the road to the deep north, is a famous haiku collection written by the famous Matsuo Basho. Japan has a long history of poetry and much of it traces back to even pre-China days. Throughout history, it has retained popularity. 

Through manga, animation, poetry, and film, Japan has been able to encourage many foreigners to learn more about its language and culture. From study abroad programs to language exchange programs, students and teachers alike travel to and from Japan frequently. Furthermore, a wide community of foreigners also decide to make life in Japan as artisans and writers as well. The impact of poetry on Japanese culture, from the manyoshu and hyakuninshuu to the Tale of the Heike and the Tale of Genji onwards, Japanese poetry has truly inspired many to learn more about the culture and visit the country.


Takeaway point? Even what may seem like the most literary and least common point in culture, may actually be a unique tool of soft power abroad. Never underestimate the power of peace and art.


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