How to rebrand Ukraine in Japan and vice versa?
17 March 2021, 12:54


The New Europe Center held the first online-discussion “How to rebrand Ukraine in Japan and vice versa?”.  The event was organised following the results of the “Asia Strategy in Action. The Role of Ukraine-Japan Cooperation” forum. During this week the New Europe Center will hold one more Ukrainian-Japanese online discussion.


During the event the analytical commentary “How to rebrand Ukraine in Japan and vice versa?” by Takashi HIRANO, Head of Japan section in Ukrinform agency was presented.


Participants points at the discussion:


Takashi Hirano, Head of Japan section, Ukrinform agency

  • In my comment I focus attention on how adapt the content in order to increase the awareness of Ukraine in Japan. To rebrand Ukraine in Japan we need to raise awareness about Ukraine in Japan.
  • It is very important to understand the perception of Ukraine by Japanese, who take information radically differently than Ukrainians. The word “Europe” for Ukrainians is an obvious word. We have the consensus what is Europe. In Japan it’s different. It’s not democracy or freedom. When we say “Ukraine is Europe” Japanese understand it as country with great history and culture, not democracy.
  • Ukraine is an exotic country for Japanese because of the big distance between the two states and we don’t know much about each other. We don’t understand what exotic means. You have to have a dialogue with the local population on how we perceive information, especially on things that we don’t have in common. They have completely different contexts of Ukraine’s image.
  • After 2014 the attention to Ukraine has increased, but there is a lack of information about Ukraine in Japan in Japanese language. They don’t understand what kind of country Ukraine is. Ukraine has a thousand years of history, but Japanese think that it has only 30 years of history because of its independence. You have to provide this information about Ukraine in good quality Japanese language. 
  • Japanese like to associate the country with specific food and cuisine. Ukrainian Institute has presented a new visual about Ukrainian cuisine, but we need to translate it to very good quality information in Japanese. 
  • Unlike Ukraine, Japan has a certain reputation in Ukraine, it is known in Ukraine. Yet, Japanese counterparts cannot provide this demand. It’s not only the Embassy’s job. The Embassy has to coordinate the efforts. Having a monthly competition on the best content about Japan (best text, video about the culture) would be a good idea. There will be more synergy to increase the level of awareness. It’s not the task of the government. To improve the soft power – it’s the task of the people.



Violetta Udovic, Second Secretary, Embassy of Ukraine in Japan

  • When communicating Ukraine in Japan need to stress the ancient history of Ukraine, its traditions like Malanka and Ivana Kupala, as well as its technological potential, as Japan is a country of well-developed high technology. 
  • I would like to dedicate my comment to the tools, how we can promote the image of Ukraine in Japan. We understand that today, especially in the pandemic time, the most important tool is the Internet, and its social networks. We need to talk about Ukraine. Social networks are related to the media. It is not just the governmental job to promote the Ukrainian brand. It’s important to get partners and friends of Ukraine in Japan.
  • We have two brotherly cities: Kyiv-Kioto, Odesa-Yokohama. Based on these relations, we have Japanese support in promoting Ukraine on the regional level. 
  • It’s important to have a proactive community in Japan, because that’s in the best interest of all Ukrainians, so that Japanese know about our country, its positive sides.
  • There are 3 Ukrainian schools in Jpan. On April 2 we are planning to open another school. There are 2 schools in Tokyo “Dzherelʹtse” i “Khrobachok”.
  • We want very much to support businesses related to Ukraine. There are ideas to open a Ukrainian restaurant, shops of Ukrainian products, food, wine in Japan. Ukraine should enter the mass market. The Japanese should know what Ukraine is.
  •  Localization of cultural content and finding shared interest, learning about tastes and interests of Japanese audience, and of course the language factor are very important. We need to learn and speak Japanese more actively.



Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General, Ukrainian Institute

  • It’s a great start for Ukraine for systemic rethinking how to represent Ukraine based on fine data. We not always are perceived abroad the way we want to be perceived. We need to focus on something we believe is interesting about ourselves. We think less about what is interesting for them. 
  • Cultural diplomacy is under appreciated. We don’t think much about where stereotypes are born from; how do we form the stereotypes. The stereotypes have been born over some time. Economic and scientific community has to do with that. We want to learn and to know how to spread this kind of knowledge in Japan more, because the potential for further multiplication is big. 
  • Valuable point from Hirano Takasi is that there is a lack of established cultural associations in Japan about Ukraine. We can talk of Ukraine as a country of dynamic, creative and inventive people, but it doesn’t form the unique image of Ukraine abroad, because there are a lot of such countries. We need to talk about this, to know some unique proposals which will be associated with Ukraine and be our business card.
  • National cuisine and food is a very prospective direction. People need to know about our cuisine. 
  • There can be a lot of activities that will strengthen the image of Ukrainian cuisine, our ancient culture, history, regional peculiarities and ethical context. Among those markers, listed in the note: “dynamic, creative, democratic” there is another marker missing – Ukraine is a cultural state. 
  • We want Ukraine to be known in Japan as the country of cultural potential. Ukrainian culture deserves to become a brand-building-thing in Japan. Through culture it’s the best way to translate our history, to get foreigners knowledgeable about it. It’s a powerful retranslator of public and cultural diplomacy.



Sugimoto Satoshi, Director, JICA Ukraine Office

  • Information and knowledge about Ukraine in JapanI tried to review the information about Ukraine in the books of the Japanese high schools. First case is concerning world history. I found out that there is a little piece of information about Ukraine. It is only about Kyivan Rus’, the Russian Empire era and collapse of the USSR. The books are mostly about the history of asian countries, European countries. In case of the geography, there is information about agricultural products, engineering, steel production. It is necessary to start rebranding work from this point. We have to be careful about USSR heritage. 
  • Common cultural aspects in two countries. Food, cuisine are very needed for mutual understanding. There are cuisine and cultural exchange events in centres in cooperation with embassies in Japan. Such events contribute also to mutual understanding. Why? Both countries are agricultural countries. Most of the population are farmers. Both of us have a history associated with agricultural works. We have famous heroes and stories. These common aspects play a crucial role in rebranding framework. 
  • Rebranding approach for Japanese people. Based on the limited knowledge about Ukraine in Japan it is necessary to select right materials or content for rebranding. It is important to remember about target groups. Branding takes time. We need to engage younger generation. They are good at digital devices. Due to the epidemic of the COVID it is very difficult to conduct rebranding works face to face. Rebranding through academic cooperation to higher education. Work with universities to create the image. 



Olga Khomenko, Associate Professor, Kyiv School of Economics; PhD (University of Tokyo, 2005)

  • We have to talk with Japan. We have an almost “unploughed field” there, because little is known about us, sometimes they know by mistake, and we are now at this moment when this image can be changed. Here we really have to speak to Japan not only in its language in the linguistic sense, but to speak to it in understandable cultural codes, because the same words can mean completely different things or have a very peculiar connotation.
  • We need to look for common ground, we need to understand what we can give: not what interests us, but what interests them.
  • We need to gain Japan’s trust: make it clear that we are a serious, trusted partner to deal with.
  • We are an exotic country for the Japanese, but I would not put it as a slogan, because French Polynesia is also exotic. Ukraine is rather a country with a unique ancient culture and history. At the same time, we are a country with a young spirit – that’s what impresses the Japanese. 
  • Our country can be positioned as an ‘ancient gateway between Europe and Asia’. We are the hidden emerald of Eastern Europe, hidden behind the Iron Curtain for 70 years.
  • We are a country of delicious food, a country of traditional agriculture that feeds not only itself but also other countries.
  • We are still a country unknown to Japan, but we are hospitable and safe. Our material culture is very old and it has historical longevity and it can be sold very successfully. All this will not only increase tourism or cultural exchanges, but also increase Japan’s interest in Ukraine.


The discussion was moderated by Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Partner, CFC Consulting.


Watch the event in English here:


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