SATURDAY, February 24, 2024

Doraemon’s Thai takeover: Japan offers government a lesson in soft power

Doraemon’s Thai takeover: Japan offers government a lesson in soft power

As the Thai government ramps up its multibillion-baht “soft power” push, Japan has highlighted the effortless impact on Thailand of one of its own cultural icons – Doraemon.

On Wednesday, the Japanese embassy in Bangkok posted photos of Doraemon dolls clustered all over a tree shrine in front of Montien Hotel on Surawong Road.

Blue dolls of the animated time-travelling cat have spilled out onto the shrine’s roof and can even be seen hanging from branches of the tree.

Worshippers make wishes at the shrine and offer Doraemon dolls when they are granted, according to the embassy Facebook page.

“Doraemon is a soft power of Japan that has spread worldwide. The cute character is loved not just by children but also by people of all sexes and ages. So it has become an offering made to sacred beings in the hope they will grant wishes,” the post said.

Doraemon has also popped up at other sacred locations in Thailand, securing its own shrine at the historic Wat Yai Chaimongkol temple in Ayutthaya and a role in the murals at Wat Sampa Siw in Suphan Buri.

Doraemon is a blue robotic cat from the future who travels back in time to help a clumsy young boy named Nobita Nobi. With the help of his magical gadgets from the 22nd century, Doraemon helps Nobita overcome his everyday challenges and embark on fantastical adventures.

Created by the legendary manga artist Fujiko F Fujio, Doraemon first appeared in 1969 and has since become a beloved cultural icon in Japan and around the world. The manga series has been translated into over 20 languages and has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. The anime adaptation, which continues to air today, is one of the longest-running animated series in history.

The Pheu Thai government’s National Soft Power Development Committee initially earmarked a budget of 5.1 billion baht to promote national arts and culture.

However, the push has suffered pushback. Critics say soft power cannot be forced, since it spreads naturally when other countries adopt a spontaneous love for a nations’ culture, traditions, customs, or food.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin reined in Thailand’s soft-power push on Monday, saying the 5.1-billion-baht budget was considered too high and would be reduced.