Sparky: One Japan and an Vatican ramble ...
TOKYO (AFP) - Japan is planning a campaign to improve its image abroad by promoting its pop culture, including a possible international prize in Japanese-style manga comics.
Japanese entertainment, particularly manga and animation, has won a global following but the country's image has suffered due to tense ties with neighbors China and South Korea over wartime history.
The pop culture campaign will start as soon as the current fiscal year ends in March 2007, a foreign ministry official said.
"We are considering the establishment of an international manga prize for manga artists abroad, promotion of Japanese animation through our diplomatic missions and a cultural exchange program for foreign students," the official said.
The idea came from Foreign Minister Taro Aso -- better known for riling Tokyo's neighbors with hawkish political remarks -- who last month called for Japan to develop "a competitive brand image."
"Japan boasts newer forms of culture that have a high degree of appeal. This would be pop culture, including anime, music and fashion among others, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is really going all out to market this," he told a professional school for creators of animation and other media.
Japanese manga and animation, including the children's television series "Doraemon" and "Pokemon" and films by Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki, have enjoyed growing fan bases overseas.
A separate private-sector initiative launched last year is seeking to double the number of people who eat Japanese food at least once a year to 1.2 billion people in five years.
In New York, the annual Zagat survey last year found that Japanese had supplanted Chinese as the most popular Asian cuisine.
Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.
He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events.
Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods.
"Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That's why science and religion need to talk to each other," he said.
"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."
Brother Consolmagno, who was due to give a speech at the Glasgow Science Centre last night, entitled "Why the Pope has an Astronomer", said the idea of papal infallibility had been a "PR disaster". What it actually meant was that, on matters of faith, followers should accept "somebody has got to be the boss, the final authority".
"It's not like he has a magic power, that God whispers the truth in his ear," he said.