Global understanding does not come cheaply. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has budgeted ¥70 billion — yes, that's more than $500 million — to help get the word out about Japan and ensure that China and South Korea aren't the only ones controlling the narrative.

This lavishly funded PR program more than triples the strategic communications budget over last year's ¥20 billion, essentially an admission that Japan has been losing the international war of words — and thus global support for its positions — during Abe's tenure. Given that Seoul and Beijing have been playing hardball in getting their sides of the story out, Tokyo is responding in kind.

Part of this gold-plated approach to global understanding involves conveying government positions on wartime history and overlapping territorial claims. A portion will be allocated to improving the government's ability to analyze and respond to developments in global opinion and making sure Japan's message gets across. Another slab is earmarked for supporting researchers and promoting Japanese studies at universities and think tanks; Columbia, Georgetown and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are getting $5 million each, no strings attached. Such endowments are the right way to go rather than doling out grants to Japan-friendly academics, because doing the latter will only provoke criticism about what criteria are applied to judge scholars' amenability. This would risk generating a backlash like the one China is facing with its 80 Confucius Institutes in the United States. There is also a risk that using the PR campaign to promote Abe's revisionist views will backfire, focusing attention on the worst chapters of modern Japan's history.