The foreign ministry announced last Friday (March 14th) it was appointing the cartoon cat Doraemon as the nation's first "anime ambassador," in Japan's latest effort to promote its soft power through its animation industry.
Doraemon - or at least a person dressed as the earless, blue-and-white cat - will receive his official assignment letter from Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura in a ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, officials said.
The character will appear in films to be shown in Japanese missions overseas, talking about the country's lifestyle and customs.
"By appointing Doraemon, we hope people in other countries will understand Japanese anime better and deepen their interest in Japanese culture," said Yuko Hotta, a foreign ministry official.
Created by a cartoonist under the penname Fujiko F. Fujio, Doraemon is the main character in an animation series that is among the most popular in Japan and is widely known in much of Asia.
The friendly cat travels back to the present from the 22nd century to help out a schoolboy by lending him an "anywhere door," which allows people to travel wherever they please.
The government has been trying to turn growing worldwide interest in its anime cartoons, manga comics and cuisine into political capital with a campaign promoting "Cool Japan."
Last year, Japan launched the International Manga Award for foreign artists. The first winner was Hong Kong's Lee Chi Ching. (AFP)