Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Case for Legislating the One Percent for Art Program
NISHIKAWA Megumi / Journalist

January 11, 2018
June 2017 saw the passage of the suprapartisan Revised Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts. Casting culture and the arts as the foundation of society, the law calls for undertakings to turn Japan into a true leader in culture and the arts. The spirit is good. Several challenges must be met, however, for the law to work as intended.

There are three key points to the revisions, the first since the law’s enactment 16 years ago. One is a shift in cultural administration, which hitherto focused on the preservation of cultural properties, toward the utilization of culture. Another is an expanded definition of culture and the arts; culinary culture is now included alongside the three arts of tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and calligraphy that comprised the “lifestyle culture” category under the original law. The last is the promotion of public art—installing works of art in public buildings and other shared spaces.

Regarding the utilization of culture, the new law notes the importance of organically linking culture and the arts with measures in such areas as tourism, community building, international exchange, welfare, education, regional development, and industry. The idea is that culture and the arts should not wallow in its own vacuum but should be put to broad use in society. In recent years, the State Guest Houses in Tokyo and Kyoto have come to be opened to the public more widely than before; this, too, is part of an effort to make better use of cultural assets.

Washoku, or traditional Japanese dietary culture, was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013. Given its worldwide popularity and how it embodies the way of life of the Japanese people, it is no wonder that Japanese cuisine has been included in the law as part of Japan’s culture. The promotion of public art is aimed at enriching public facilities and spaces with more art, an area in which Japan has been lagging behind Western countries. The revised law stipulates only that efforts be made to install public art, rather than making it an obligation as it is in the West. Still, this is a step forward.

The newly revised law is headed in the right direction. But I would like to make two proposals in order that the spirit with which the law is imbued can prove effective. The first is to upgrade the Agency for Cultural Affairs to a ministry, and the second is to write the government’s One Percent for Art policy into law.

There are laws in the West requiring that a set percentage of the total cost of constructing public architecture be applied toward public art associated with the buildings. As that percentage is around one percent in many countries, these programs are often given the name One Percent for Art. In the United States, meanwhile, it is called the Percent for Art Program.

When Takenobu Igarashi, former president of Tama Art University, was based in Los Angeles, he proposed building concrete sculptures into the balustrades of an iron bridge that was being reconstructed after sustaining damage in a major earthquake. His plan was accepted. Through the Percent for Art Program, artists played a part in constructing the bridge, a process that normally involves only engineers. The outcome, moreover, was an aesthetically pleasing bridge.

“The volume of work for artists generated by the Percent for Art Program is on an entirely different scale from what museums can offer by purchasing their creations,” says Igarashi. “Young artists, in particular, gain opportunities and grow in this way. The program’s spillover effect is immeasurable.”

South Korea and Taiwan have introduced similar policies in recent years. The time is ripe for Japan to seriously consider legislating its own One Percent for Art program.

Megumi Nishikawa is Contributing Editor for the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

西川恵 / ジャーナリスト

2018年 1月 11日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Case for Legislating the One Percent for Art Program