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In this article I join the debate on Japan’s soft power and cultural diplomacy. Most of the current scholarship focuses on Japan’s agency and implies that through a skillfully crafted policy that utilizes its cultural resources, Japan can enhance its soft power. I question the utility of this agent-based approach. I suggest that cultural diplomacy is not simply a matter of diplomatic craftsmanship; it reflects discursively constructed national identities that, to a large degree, are shaped by international ideational structures. Applying this framework to modern Japan’s cultural diplomacy, I argue that postwar Japan’s incorporation into the Western camp, and the subsequent identity transformations, have precluded the emergence of a strategic definition of Japan’s culture and hence constrained Japan’s cultural diplomacy.