Advantages must accrue through cultural agency’s transfer to Kyoto

The Yomiuri ShimbunMarking an important juncture in its history, with the passage of 50 years since its foundation, the Cultural Affairs Agency has drastically reorganized its structure.

The agency should carry out highly effective measures to achieve both the utilization and preservation of irreplaceable cultural and artistic resources.

The agency’s reorganization has been conducted with a view to transferring its functions to Kyoto by the end of fiscal 2021. The agency has abolished its Cultural Affairs Department and Cultural Properties Department, and has reexamined its vertical administrative divisions, in which the promotion of fine arts, the protection of cultural properties and other duties had been separately handled.

The agency will strategically advance measures that combine such efforts as the promotion of tourism, regional revitalization and global publication of information. Its newly established cultural resources utilization division will play a central role in that endeavor.

The decision to relocate the agency to Kyoto reflects the fact that much of the nation’s cultural heritage is concentrated there, and that the city is extremely popular among foreign visitors to Japan. Seventy percent of the agency’s personnel, including its commissioner, will be transferred from Tokyo.

Prior to the agency’s transfer, the headquarters for the creation of regional culture was established in Kyoto in the spring of last year to facilitate the move.

The headquarters will assist local governments with their promotion measures, including the use of cultural treasures and old folk houses as a focus to attract visitors. Traditional culture will be handed down to children; activities will also include studying such things as food culture rooted in people’s daily lives and spreading information gained through these studies. The measures to be taken by the headquarters can be described as a condensation of the reorganized agency’s course of action.

Respect history, nature

The transfer will require funds commensurate with its scale, including those for the construction of a new agency building. There are concerns about a decrease in the agency’s efficiency due to its dual operating structure, as divisions in charge of copyrights and international exchanges will remain in Tokyo.

It is essential to maximize the effectiveness of the transfer by sufficiently utilizing assets inherent in Kyoto, including the many shrines, temples and universities, as well as people serving as guardians of traditional culture.

Nijo Castle, managed by the Kyoto city government, attracted a record 2.43 million visitors last fiscal year. The increase in visitors was due to wedding ceremonies and events held at the castle, which has many national treasures and important cultural assets, including various buildings and wall and other paintings.

It is essential to utilize cultural assets, not just focus on their preservation, so more and more people will get to appreciate Japanese culture and deepen their sense of affinity. As a result, regional economies will benefit. It is hoped that there will be an accumulation of such cases with support from the agency.

Needless to say, it is vital to respect the history and nature of temples, shrines and other properties in utilizing them.

It is preposterous if, in spaces that require tranquility, a surge of visitors makes it impossible for temples to maintain their functions. Efforts should be made in a manner suited to the distinctive feature of each facility, and an excessive attempt to attract visitors should be avoided.

The work of the agency is not limited to cultural properties alone. Meticulous attention should be paid to a wide range of areas, such as fine arts, movies and performing arts. The government has said it will seek to make Japan a nation that will thrive on its art and culture.

Won’t the agency’s transfer to Kyoto result in a disproportionate emphasis on measures related to cultural properties in Kyoto and Nara? A nationwide perspective with which to support the nurturing of culture across a broad spectrum must not be forgotten.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 4, 2018)Speech


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