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Cool Japan Fund invests $12.5m in Tastemade food video service

Cash will go toward studio in Japan where high-quality content can be produced

The Cool Japan Fund believes it has found a conduit for promoting Japanese culture.

TOKYO -- The public-private Cool Japan Fund has injected $12.5 million in U.S.-based Tastemade, a video platform that specializes in cooking tutorials and tourist experiences.

The investment is the fund's first since a new management team took over operations in June.

The fund expects to support Tastemade in creating videos that introduce Japanese food, tourist destinations and local specialties -- as well as in showing off these videos to the service's global audience.

The fund was founded in 2013 to promote Japanese goods and culture overseas. But the old management team made few investments, and fewer still that succeeded.

In five years, the fund has suffered pretax losses totaling 10 billion yen ($88.9 million).

The losses led to criticism, which spurred the fund to shake up its management. Former Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) CEO Naoki Kitagawa took over at the top. Yuji Kato, who used to head the Japanese office of U.K. investment fund Permira Advisers, is responsible for the investment.

Established in 2012, Tastemade delivers one-minute cooking tutorials and tourist videos to Instagram and other social media sites.

The service attracts 250 million viewers worldwide each month, racking up about 2.5 billion video views. U.S. financial company Goldman Sachs and TV cable operator Comcast are the existing investors.

Tastemade's food tutorials are short but demonstrate everything from preparing the ingredients to cooking them and presenting the final result. 

The Cool Japan Fund acquired newly issued stock to become a minority shareholder in Tastemade.

Tastemade will use the cash to open a studio with a cafe in Japan, similar to one it has in Brazil.

The company says Japan-related content is globally popular and wants to create a system that enables the mass production of high-quality videos.

The Cool Japan Fund hopes that by collaborating with Tastemade, it can create more fans of Japanese culture.

Parts of Tastemade's global community provide content that presents Japanese food, destinations and experiences from viewpoints that often differ from how Japanese showcase their country's delights.

The platform's food tutorials are short but demonstrate everything that goes into making a dish -- from preparing the ingredients to cooking them to presenting the final result. The videos are especially popular with millennials -- people who were born in the 1980s through 2000 or so.

In Japan, the big food video services are Delish Kitchen and Kurashiru, which have drawn investments from trading house Mitsubishi Corp. and telecom company KDDI.

As CEO and president of the Cool Japan Fund, Kitagawa is prioritizing partnerships with overseas companies that can help it attract foreigners.

The fund's previous management team focused on partnering with Japanese companies, including retailer Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings and entertainment conglomerate Bandai Namco Holdings. Kitagawa intends to minimize risk by investing in established businesses like Tastemade, which has a track record as a video platform, rather than in new businesses.

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