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

“The Agency for Cultural Affairs is coming to Kyoto at long last!”
SANO Mayuko  / Professor, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University (Cultural Policy)

October 6, 2022
These days, posters with words in bold prints like the title of this essay have become more and more visible in the streets of Kyoto. The move of the Agency for Cultural Affairs from Tokyo to Kyoto was decided by the government in March 2016. In April 2017, the office of the newly established Headquarters for Vitalizing Regional Cultures of the Agency was set in Kyoto, touting "advance relocation". The relocation of the core portion of the project has been postponed multiple times, and at this point, it is expected to be completed by March 2023. Hence the message of the poster.

The second Abe administration (2012-20) hoisted "regional revitalization" as one of its banners. In 2014, the post of "Regional Revitalisation Minister" was newly created in the cabinet, and the "Headquarters for Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan", to be led by the Prime Minister himself, was established within the Cabinet Secretariat, in order to demonstrate the commitment to promoting strategies to stimulate regional revitalization across bureaucratic boundaries. This is of course not the first time that the revitalization of the rural areas became a political agenda in Japan, where things have been solidly overconcentrated in Tokyo since the Meiji Restoration. However, this latest phase of "regional revitalization", which continues to this day, needs to cope with the new reality of a declining birth rate, aging population, and rapid population decline, especially in rural areas. "Creating a new flow of people to rural areas" has been identified as the key to making life in Japanese society sustainable.

One of the key measures that emerged from this was the relocation of Tokyo-based government agencies (including central ministries and agencies as well as research institutes) to regions outside Tokyo. In 2015, 42 prefectures, excluding the Tokyo metropolitan area, were invited to submit proposals to bid on the project, and 69 proposals were reportedly received. It is not the purpose of this essay to delve into its contents, but the relocation of the Agency for Cultural Affairs to Kyoto was the only case in this process in which the complete relocation of a central government agency was decided. (In reality, however, it has already been known that many functions of the Agency would remain in Tokyo).

Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs was established in 1968. Its direct predecessor was the Cultural Bureau, which was set up as one department within the Ministry of Education in 1966. In the period just before and during World War II, the "cultural policy" had become almost synonymous with so-called thought control (while it is necessary to refrain from simplification, we could assume that it was mainly implemented by the former Home Ministry); it was scrapped by the GHQ/SCAP (General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) immediately after the defeat in war. During the same period, the Japanese political leaders advocated building "a cultured nation" as a slogan for rebuilding the country. Although several major national cultural institutions were symbolically opened in the 1950’s, the administration was reluctant to get embroiled in "culture". The 1960’s could be regarded as an era when that yoke was lifted against the backdrop of a booming economy. Under the banner of the Cultural Bureau, the operations related to the national language, religion, arts, and copyrights were assigned, and two years later, the bureau was merged with the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Properties which had been separately established under the Ministry of Education, thus the Agency for Cultural Affairs came into being.

Impressive as it may have seemed at first glance, the Agency has remained ever since an extra-ministerial bureau of the Ministry of Education (since 2001, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) whose mainstream responsibility is school education administration. That means, the budget request for the Agency to the financial authorities is only made through the Ministry (the 2022 budget was 107.3 billion yen, which was 2.0% of the budget for the Ministry and 0.1% of the national budget), and its personnel, apart from a few senior specialists, also belongs to the rotation system within the Ministry. In other words, at the national level, there are no administrative officials in Japan who truly specialize in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and engage in these activities for any extended period of time.

As someone who lives and works in Kyoto, it has been an interesting experience to have the opportunity to observe the process of the Agency’s relocation to Kyoto from "the local’s perspective". For ordinary citizens, a government office with around merely 300 employees moving into town would have hardly any significant impact on our daily life and we should all just take it in stride, but apparently, that is not the case for the municipality that invited the office. After the decision was made, a number of publicity articles and official events appeared to heighten the celebratory mood, and even I, as a cultural policy researcher, was asked to participate in some of the events.

My own sense of uneasiness, which grew in the midst of all this, had two aspects. One, I detected, among those relatively motivated citizens who come to such events, the highly misguided expectation that the Agency was relocating to Kyoto to promote Kyoto’s culture. My other concern is that Kyoto’s (especially Kyoto city’s) cultural policies - above all, a policy stance that could be called "culture-first" -, which have traditionally been advanced, more so than the national government’s policies, might be compromised. As a national institute is coming into close proximity, Kyoto looks like starting to seek more instructions from that central authority; an atmosphere of putting the Agency on a pedestal and bowing to it is being created.

One can say that Kyoto's success in attracting the Agency for Cultural Affairs and becoming its domicile will certainly have the effect of giving a stamp of approval to Kyoto as Japan's "cultural capital". There is nothing wrong with being happy about it. But as far as I know, without being so coarse as to openly put into words that Kyoto is the "cultural capital", there are so many people here who are almost excessively conscious of it. Furthermore, the cultural personalities with strong local roots, including those who have supported traditional industries, are connected to the world stage as a matter of fact without having to obtain a national flag first. As a Tokyo native who came to Kyoto 12 years ago, I have experienced many occasions that made me realize that Kyoto is a city marked directly on the world map in its own right regardless of Tokyo’s existence. I fear that the slogan "aiming to become the world’s capital of culture: Kyoto" upheld by the Committee for Preparation of the Relocation of the Agency for Cultural Affairs to Kyoto, which consists of Kyoto prefecture, Kyoto city and Kyoto Chambers of Commerce and Industry, might, in fact, be a step backward.

The relocation of the central ministries and agencies to areas outside Tokyo, as the centerpiece of "regional revitalization", may achieve some measure of success in "creating a new flow of people to the rural areas". But what if this resulted in bringing the concept of "nation" to places where people were hardly conscious of the "nation"? What if this resulted in the expansion of the "Tokyo-like" hierarchical structure beyond the metropolis to other areas throughout Japan? ......
Would it not mean that the policy to correct the excessive concentration in Tokyo might end up having an unanticipated opposite effect?

I would rather hope that the Agency for Cultural Affairs, "coming to Kyoto at long last", will gain maximum positive influence from Kyoto’s soil. At the same time, taking advantage of the physical distance from Tokyo and also of this opportunity of an increasing number of employees who may come on loan from local governments including those outside of Kyoto, I hope the Agency enhances its substantial independence from the Ministry of Education and Science and fleshes out its vision as an agency in charge of cultural policy. This would naturally contribute to Japan's cultural policy, not just for Kyoto. I would first like to keep a close watch on the progress of the relocation project that is yet to be completed.

Mayuko Sano is Professor, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University (Cultural Policy).
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

「文化庁が いよいよ京都へ やってきます。」
佐野 真由子 / 京都大学大学院教育学研究科教授(文化政策学)

2022年 10月 6日


そこから生まれた目玉施策の一つが、東京に所在する政府関係機関(中央省庁のほか、研究機関等を含む)の地方移転であった。2015年、首都圏を除く42道府県から誘致の提案を募り、69の提案があったという。その内容に分け入ることは本稿の役割ではないが 、文化庁の京都移転は、このプロセスから「中央省庁の全面的移転」が決まった、ただ一つの事例である(ただし現実には、文化庁の多くの機能が東京に残ることがすでに公表されている)。


そのように述べれば一見華々しいが、日本の文化庁はその時点から今日に至るまで、学校教育行政を主流とする文部省(2001年より文部科学省)の外局にとどまっている。そのことが意味するのは、財務当局への文化庁予算の要求はあくまで同省を通じて行われ(2022 年度の予算は1,073 億円=文科省予算の 2.0 % 、国家予算の0.1 % )、またその人事も、一部の専門官を除いて同省内のローテーションに属するということである。つまり、国のレベルで、文化庁の所掌領域を真に専門として長く従事する行政官は、日本に存在しない。






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 Agency for Cultural Affairs is coming to Kyoto at long last!”