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

Integration Not the Way for the Japan Foundation and Japan National Tourism Organization
CHINO Keiko / Journalist

September 26, 2012
For nearly half a year, discussions had been underway for integrating two independent administrative institutions, the Japan Foundation (JF) and the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). The aim was to efficiently manage operations and to eliminate waste. Yet, the discussions ended recently by concluding that these two institutions should remain separate.

As an organ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, JF engages in diplomacy in the broad sense of the word through culture, while JNTO, under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, is focused on the tourism business. Integration was an impossible undertaking to begin with, and many felt more time was being wasted entertaining such an idea. It had only come to pass because the overriding imperative was to reduce the number of corporations by reviewing the independent administrative institutions.

The decisive factor against integration was that the demerits outnumbered the merits. In particular, JF’s overseas offices that serve as bases for its operations are bound by agreements and understandings with each country. Japan could not simply use them to promote tourism at its convenience. That would not only create frictions with the other country but may also result in a loss of legal status for the office and its staff, thereby disabling JF from continuing its activities.

Such an outcome would defeat the intended purpose of integration altogether. The government’s budget screening process, which was initially televised nationwide to an enthusiastic audience, has turned out to be nothing but a political performance and now attracts little attention. Recent discussions also revealed the introverted and self-serving nature of the whole screening process.

Although cost cuts and elimination of waste are absolute necessities if we are to address the fiscal situation, our primary focus should be on the content. As an alternative to integration, the panel recommended enhanced collaboration between the two institutions. Considering that both international exchange and international tourism involve other countries, such collaboration and enhancement should be aimed at making these operations more open to the outside world.

Incidentally, this year marks a milestone for the Japan Foundation as its 40th anniversary. A year before its founding, Japan had suffered a diplomatic defeat caused by the two Nixon Shocks – the announcement of the U.S. President’s surprise visit to China and the end of the dollar-gold standard. It was amid efforts for diplomatic reconstruction that the JF was established.

That was four decades ago. Overseas opinions received in the course of the integration debate included many valuable ideas for the future development of the two institutions.

Let me offer an example. This spring, a festival was held in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the centenary of Japan’s gift of cherry blossom trees to the United States. To coincide with this event, three exhibitions of famous Japanese artists including Katsushika Hokusai and Kano Kazunobu were held at national galleries in the U.S. capital.

A museum insider described it as the “perfect example of how the deep spirit of inquiry cultivated by the Foundation’s consistent support contributed to enriching a tourism event,” adding that a dual approach was needed rather than integration.

Today, Japan faces far more difficulties in its foreign relations than when the JF was founded. Furthermore, Japan’s economic might and international standing are not what they were in the past.

Yet, that is all the more reason why diplomacy has a greater role to play, which requires broad and flexible capabilities that transcend the conventional narrow definition of diplomacy and incorporates institutions such as the JF.

One American expert has appraised the JF as a “diplomatic organization with the expertise capable of supporting the Japan-U.S. relationship in all its subtlety and complexity, and maintaining an intellectual dialogue between the two countries. Whether it can live up to this assessment as a genuinely professional institution offering high expertise – that is precisely what the JF needs to prove to ensure its future.

CHINO Keiko is contributing editor at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2012年 9月 26日












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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Integration Not the Way for the Japan Foundation and Japan National Tourism Organization