The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist aAn Ovewview.
Jun. 9, 2010
National Policy on Promoting International Exchange in the Performing Arts  
National Policy on Promoting International Exchange in the Performing Arts  

Since 1990 there have been wide-reaching changes in Japan’s policy on international exchange in the performing arts. Since the foundation of the Japan Arts Fund in 1990, support for the performing arts, especially by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, has been greatly expanded. The New National Theatre, Tokyo, opened in 1997, and the government have actively worked to develop production and performance projects in the contemporary performing arts. The 2001 Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts set forth eight principles covering such matters as respect for the independence and creativity of artists and developing an environment in which Japanese citizens can appreciate, participate in, and create art. It also clarified the duties and responsibilities of the national and regional governments. In February 2007, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet established their “Basic Policy on the Promotion of Culture and the Arts” based on this Fundamental Law.

Further administrative and financial reforms led to the National Museum of Art and the National Museum, formerly managed by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, being restructured as independent institutions in April 2001. The Japan Arts Council and The Japan Foundation were also made into independent organizations in October 2003.

As a part of the drive to reduce the role of government, the 2003 changes in the Local Autonomy Law introduced the Designated Manager System. This meant that regional public facilities could be turned over to the private sector for management. This has resulted in the need for increased efficiency and transparency. Cultural policy and accountability are also emphasized.

Meanwhile the activities of art NPOs have begun to attract attention. 2,014 NPOs have been set up in the ten years since the NPO law was enacted in 1998 (as of September 2007, according to a survey by Arts NPO Link). These include intermediate-support NPOs that play an important role in supporting artistic cultural enterprises. In 2006, the National Diet passed three NPO Reform bills, making it much easier to establish a foundation or corporate entity, and the Diet is currently considering tax breaks. There are high expectations for private nonprofit and public organizations to play a major role in supporting performing arts in Japan.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Budget for Creative Activities

Ever since it was founded in 1968, the Agency for Cultural Affairs has performed a central role in deciding governmental cultural policy. The Agency’s policies are divided into two categories: preservation of cultural properties (preservation and use of historic ruins, protection of cultural properties, promotion of traditional performing arts, equipping and operating national cultural asset organizations); and the promotion of art and culture (Creative Plan of Culture and the Arts, promoting the performing arts, and operating national art museums, and so forth). For many years most of the budget was allocated to the preservation of cultural properties. However, since the Japan Arts Council was founded in 1990, the percentage of the overall budget allocated to the promotion of art and culture has steadily increased, and national governmental support for the performing arts has been improving.

Arts Plan 21, formulated in 1996, was the result of a radical reassessment of national support programs for the arts in terms of both budget and content. Approximately 2.2 billion yen has been earmarked for revitalizing creativity in the arts allocated primarily to Japan’s major arts organizations, participation in festivals and performances overseas, and sponsorship of international festivals in Japan.

Previous governmental support for the performing arts had been limited to filling in gaps in the budgets for individual public performances. Since a wide variety of institutions was eligible for funding, this approach was criticized for a lack of focus. Arts Plan 21 aimed to raise the standard of performing arts by identifying theater companies that served as driving forces in each field and supporting up to one-third of their annual performance expenses. In the first fiscal year, 15 companies received subsidies of up to 100 million yen each.

In FY2002, following the Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts enacted the previous year, Arts Plan 21 was revised into the Creative Plan of Culture and the Arts. This included a greatly increased budget of 12 billion yen, double that of the previous year. The new plan emphasized support for Japan’s leading art centers. Cultural centers and theaters that served as artistic bases for their region received funding covering up to one-third of their own productions and programs, with support to continue for three years.

In 2003, the budget of the Agency of Cultural Affairs exceeded 100 billion yen for the first time, but there has been little change since then in the level of support for the arts. While the priority is still on support for arts organizations and cultural facilities, the three-year support system ended in 2005. Support system shifted, with funds once more channeled into individual performances or projects rather than into organizations or facilities, the field of eligibility broadened, and the size of individual grants was reduced.

The current programs under the Creative Plan of Culture and the Arts are summarized in the table below.
Table: Support for the Performing Arts under the Cultural Arts Creativity Plan (FY2007)

The New National Theatre, Tokyo, opened in 1997, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this season (2007/2008). Events include productions by artistic directors Wakasugi Hiroshi (opera), Maki Asami (dance), and Uyama Hitoshi (drama). Ten operas are being produced (for a total of 49 performances), five ballets (26 performances), five contemporary dance programs (21 performances), and eight dramatic productions (117 performances). With their institutes to train young artists established in opera (1998), ballet (2001) and drama (2005), the New National Theatre, Tokyo is playing an important role in nurturing new talent in the performing arts.
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