A very brief look at Japan's soft power based upon the "Cool Japan" concept has this writer arguing that the country's coolness was happening long before 2002, when the term "cool Japan" was apparently coined (as an offshoot of the UK's 1990s "Cool Brittania" concept). Whether we're talking "Nintendo games in the 1980s or Japanese art in the 1880s," he argues that Japan's coolness over the decades is not a new thing.
Sure, that's all true. But don't tell me that the sharp rise in Japan's cultural relevance during the 1980s was anything remotely close to its obscure--yet just as awesome--art from a century before. Just ask a Japanese person if they feel safer, better, or "cooler" walking around the US now as opposed to fifty years ago. I'm pretty sure that we know the answer to that question. While the past certainly paved the way for what we see coming out of that country today, Japan's "it" factor--whether you think it's "over" or not-- has everything to do with its more recent cultural accomplishments during the past few decades.
The one thing that doesn't change is that every "cultural cool" eventually plateaus. Look at the UK compared to a few decades ago. Japan is still interesting and "cool," of course, but it now shares the global cultural spotlight with other significant sensibilities such as South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. None of this is "over," yet Japan's near-monopoly on Asian cultural cool pretty much is. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that, unless inevitable change isn't something you welcome.
However, I do have to wholeheartedly agree with the final sentiment of the piece: "Japan didn't just start being cool. It didn't stop being cool, either. But governmental programs and trade organizations? Those were never cool." In my opinion, this is precisely the main difficulty of using the official government context and means to facilitate cultural influence. Governments haven't figured out how to really tap into the "cool factor" yet.