Japan has ambassadors to more than 150 countries. Earlier this year, the Foreign Ministry appointed three more – “kawaii” (cute) ambassadors whose job is to travel abroad to introduce Japanese pop culture to young people in other countries.
One of the ambassadors is Shizuka Fujioka, 20, whose trademark high school uniform-like fashion has already proven a hit on her first official assignment abroad at the Japan Festival in Thailand in March.
Born in Ibaraki Prefecture, Fujioka says her dream was to be a ballerina, although she had a secret desire to go into show business. “However, in Ibaraki, I didn’t have any connections and didn’t really go as far as to mail in applications to agencies or anything like that, so I just continued doing ballet. I was scouted at Yokohama Station, which led me to enter the world of show business when I was 18.”
Fujioka’s first acting job was the role of a classmate in the TV show “Shika Otoko Awo Niyoshi.” “Then, one night in February, I was on an NHK program called ‘Kawaii TV’ and someone from the Foreign Ministry who had been watching it took a liking to me and chose me as one of the ‘kawaii’ ambassadors. At first, I felt anxious and worried at the idea of being an ‘ambassador,’ but I knew I was being given a huge opportunity and decided to change those negative feelings and show my true colors.”
So what does a “kawaii” ambassador do? “My duties include introducing Japanese fashion, in my case, by starting off with school uniforms,” Fujioka explains. “By doing so, I will spread the message to Japanese people that school uniforms are very popular abroad as well as within Japan, and also induce an interest in Japanese culture in the minds of people abroad. In Thailand, I visited an anime production company, attended a fashion show of Thai models and participated in a talk show with a Thai celebrity named Neko Jump.
“The Thai people kept saying ‘kawaii,’ which made quite an impression on me. They told me over and over that they think Japanese people are really pretty. They said they were jealous that Japanese girls could wear such cute school uniforms. In Thailand, since they sell Japanese magazines translated into Thai, they know of Japanese fashion and told me that they implement a lot of the styles in their own fashion, in not just their clothes, but also their nail designs, accessories and hairstyles. They think of Japanese girls as their source of reference in terms of fashion. In fact, Thai girls looked like Japanese girls—their fashion, and their white skin…the only thing that was different was that they didn’t speak the language. Their image of the typical Japanese girl was someone who has really white skin, a small face, pretty hair, and just someone who is really gorgeous in general.”
Being a cute ambassador is not a full-time job for Fujioka. She most recently released a photo book that shows different ways of styling school uniforms according to each brand. Fujioka models the various uniforms in the book. She says fashion is her main interest. “I love clothes; not just school uniforms, but regular clothes too. I don’t always wear school uniforms…after all, I am 20. I love wearing girly dresses that have lace designs on them, and particularly those that are pink or white. I normally buy anything that I think will look good in, and spice it up a bit with accessories.”
When she is not busy being a cute ambassador, Fujioka enjoys watching musicals, especially Takarazuka, and trying out new cafes and cake shops. “I have a sweet tooth, which I’m trying to control because I don’t want to gain weight. I’m also into darts and billiards right now.”
Fujioka says she is very happy that her new role is garnering a lot of media attention. “My parents always tell me that I shouldn’t be afraid of challenges,” she says.