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Nobel Prize for up-and-coming non-Japanese comic-strip artists as a way to boost the country’s diplomacy.

“I would like Japan, as the origin of manga, to give these rising artists an award equivalent to the Nobel Prize,” Aso said. “In that way, they would feel a connection with Japan.”

Aso was speaking at the University of Digital Content, an animation school in Tokyo’s Akihabara district.

Aso also proposed an award for promising young Japanese manga artists to encourage them to follow Oscar-winning animation film director Hayao Miyazaki’s lead in promoting Japanese culture and raising the country’s international profile.

Aso, a manga aficionado, praised the key role played by Japanese animation, music and fashion in boosting the country’s image. He promised his ministry would do its best to use the pop culture as a tool for what the ministry calls “cultural diplomacy.”

The minister said it was important to establish a 24-hour English TV channel for foreign audiences to learn about Japan’s culture.

“Unless we create an English-language channel for non-Japanese viewers, there is no way we can carry out our cultural diplomacy,” he said.

Aso also suggested a new program in which students in other countries serve as interns in Japanese embassies and consulates to help disseminate Japanese culture.