Japan appears far away from an Austrian foreign politics that is very much focused on regional issues

The overall consensus among all respondents was that, as far as they can tell, there is no specific image of Japan among administration officials in Austria and, where there is it is limited to a small number in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Economically, there was a mixed picture from our respondents with some saying that Japan has lost much of its image as a powerful economic player due to its slow growth and the rise of other markets in the region, most notably China, whose strong presence has “pushed” Japan off the radar of Austrian media and public. Others stated that despite being “taken over” by China in terms of GDP, Japan continued to be one of the largest and most important exporters, with a special relevance in the field of innovative technologies and a key economic market for Austria.

There seemed to be little intense political relationship building between Austria and Japan. Japan appears far away from an Austrian foreign politics that is very much focused on regional issues. Austria, as of now, has no particular agenda in Asia that would warrant more focus on a partnership with Japan. However, the possibility of a closer relationship in the future was not ruled out, since Austria occupies a geographical and political position that has the potential to bridge gaps between the West and the East, especially the Near East.

Japan’s soft power-image in Austria seemed to be much clearer to our respondents than its political and even its economic image. Over the past decades, there has been a steady demographic with a high interest in and positive image of the more stereotypical aspects of Japan’s traditional culture, and recent years have seen a surge of a high number of other imports from Japanese culture. Sushi and various interpretations of “Bento” have become a staple in most take-outs and delivery services. The younger generation is much more consciously engaging with Japanese popular culture than previous ones, often watching anime shows in their original language and reading manga comics, with a strict differentiation between western and Japanese content. 

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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.