These days the government is jumping on the bandwagon. The Foreign Ministry is singing in tune. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has hopped on, with a conductor's baton in his hand and a spring in his step that you don't even see when he's ascending the stairs to pay his public-private respects at Yasukuni Shrine.

This is the bandwagon of popular Japanese culture overseas. Let's label it "MASK": Manga, Anime, Sushi, Karaoke. These four phenomena have taken the world by storm.

Back in 2003, in his opening address to the Diet as prime minister, Koizumi heaped praise on Japanese anime and its role in promoting Japanese culture overseas. The Foreign Ministry, for its part, has recognized Japan's popular culture as its most unassailable diplomatic asset.