The article examines the recent changes in Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) to Southeast Asia in response to domestic and international challenges after the cold war. It argues that Japan is in a position where it has to choose between “spending” and “earning” strategies in the disbursement of aid. Influenced by external and internal developments, Japan has tilted toward a “spending” approach over the last decade. Due to a limited ODA budget, Japan has to optimize the use of aid and disburse it more strategically. Also significant is the noticeable across-the-board increase in the grant allocation to South-east Asia and Vietnam’s emergence as a major recipient.