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

Dear Agency for Cultural Affairs: An Invitation from Kansai to Relocate
CHINO Keiko / Journalist

April 12, 2004
It has been some time since land subsidence in the Kansai region had become cause for concern. Even in the recent publication of national land prices, Osaka was an exception to most other cities for whom bottoming out seems to be in sight. Kansai’s economic scale has already been surpassed by that of the Chubu-Nagoya economic zone, and though there are headquarters relocations from Kansai to Tokyo, moves in the reverse direction are far less common.

Such self-flagellation, however, is a bad habit characteristic of not only the Kansai region, but of Japan in general. These days, national strength can no longer be judged solely on military and economic power. If we are to go by the growing global tendency to value cultural power, then this could be Kansai's chance to shine.

According to Dr Hayao Kawai, the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, 30% of living national treasures reside in Kansai, and the region houses a staggering 60% of all tangible cultural properties that are national treasures. The list of UNESCO-designated World Heritage as exemplified by the Heritage Sites such as Horyu-ji, Ancient Kyoto, Himeji-jo, and Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, further serve to illustrate western cultural richness over the east. Bunraku, designated as intangible heritage, also traces its origins back to Osaka.

All this leads to the following proposal: Why not, under the circumstances, relocate the Agency for Cultural Affairs to Kansai, the treasure trove of cultural assets? Why not make Kansai the epicentre of Japanese culture?

Luck would have it that the Agency is temporarily camped out in Marunouchi. It is to return to its original Kasumigaseki address after four years, but it could, instead, come to Kansai. If the Agency in its entirety is difficult, perhaps we could consider a solo relocation for the Cultural Properties Division, whose ties to Kansai are the strongest.

The move would eliminate the need for travel to and from Tokyo in cases of excavation and properties restoration. Most importantly, the sheer impact of being in contact with the likes of national treasures and cultural assets on a daily basis cannot be underestimated. This would indeed be the first step to a rich cultural properties administration. It might also help supply the local governments and
residents with an environment conducive to renewed importance of and pride in culture and tradition.

Commissioner Kawai has called for a bid to 'Enliven (make genki) the Japanese Society Through Culture.' Since last summer, this in turn has set in motion the 'Kansai Genki Bunkaken (Cultural Bloc)—Follow Kansai's Lead in Becoming Genki Through "Culture".' Cultural activities of the Kansai area have indeed been vitalized due to this development.

There is now even an office for Commissioner Kawai at the Kyoto National Museum, which has been well-received by the Agency who claim a smoother exchange of ideas with Kansai.

Neither the succession of one-off events nor a mere additional office, however, is not enough for the national ripple effect that is truly expected of the 'Kansai Genki Bunkaken.' We would well appreciate more dynamic concepts.

The Agency relocation anticipates some setbacks: The difficulty in communication with the associated ministries such as Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Ministry of Finance, or delayed response from the Parliament. But these do not seem to be fundamental problems. What may be more of an issue is whether or not Kansai can keep pace.

Foreign residents in the Kansai region all emphasize the following in unison: 'Kansai is the true roots of Japan. One cannot have a profound understanding of Japan without knowing Kamigata (the Kyoto-Osaka area.)' They also say that 'It is a misapprehension to presume an understanding of Japan only through Tokyo,' that 'Negligence in the study of Kamigata would put the very study of Japan in a tight spot.'

This is because the sort of 'townsmen' culture that characterize Kamigata is precisely what has created the lifestyles of ordinary Japanese. Foreigners are better-read in the verses of Kansai's importance. Their admiration is well appreciated, but the situation is, after all, wrong side up.

The writer is editorial writer of Sankei Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2004年 4月 12日










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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Dear Agency for Cultural Affairs: An Invitation from Kansai to Relocate