What does Japan export? Automobiles and electronics will probably flash to the minds of many Georgians. Although it may not be as visible as those products, Japanese cartoons have joined the ranks, becoming one of the most promising exports. According to a market research published by the Japan External Trade Organization, the U.S. market for amine, or Japanese cartoons, grew to $4.36 billion.

Yutsuko Chusonji, a popular Japanese cartoonist, was visiting Georgia to raise a profile of Japan weeks before the G8 Summit on Sea Island. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will attend the June 8-10 meeting to discuss global political and economic issues with the leaders of other political and economic powers.

Speaking at Georgia State University, Ms. Chusonji, known for her comics describing changing characteristics of Japanese women, refuted American images of Japanese women. She coined the term Oyaji gal, a combination of the words for middle-aged men and girls. The term refers to young women acting like a middle-aged man. Oyaji gal won the popular Phrase of the Year Award in 1990.

Chusonji pointed out Americans may still view Japanese women as a geisha pouring sake or a secretary serving green tea. She argued such images are no longer true, saying Japanese young women gained more power and became career-oriented in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Japan’s economy was strong. Japanese young women started spending money on playing golf, betting on horses and frequenting yakitori drinking bars and karaoke — things that had been the entertainments for affluent middle-aged men. By now, such women are so common in Japan that the term Oyaji gal has lost its glare, she said.

Her lecture was sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan, Georgia State and Japan-America Society of Georgia and attracted a crowd of 250 people, many of them college students. More people came to hear her than a famed Japanese economics professor, who was also a guest speaker at Georgia State last September.

George Hisaeda, Japanese Consul General in Atlanta, told the audience that the importance of culture cannot be underestimated in the development of relationships between countries. That’s true. Japanese cartoons are not only a culture, but have become a big business in the United States.