This article considers how the sustainable development paradigm of the 1990s has been transferred from Western donor circles to a non-Western donor, Japan, and has been “translated” in the implementation of Japan's international cooperation policy. In so doing, the article discusses issues of “greening” with relation to foreign aid, and more specifically Japan's bilateral international cooperation. It highlights how dynamics of cultural politics specific to an individual country (i.e. Japan) condition the ways in which its perception and practice of “sustainable development” unfold across time and space, and between a multitude of state and nonstate actors that crisscross national boundaries. Such conditions, in turn, emphasize the importance of understanding different ways of institutional learning (or adaptation) in Japan's international cooperation system for dealing with the socio-environmental aspects of its projects.

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