Use Relocation to Promote Kyoto’s Charms to International Community

The Cultural Affairs Agency has relocated to Kyoto City. The question is whether the agency will be able to take advantage of Kyoto’s name recognition to strengthen its ability to disseminate information and enhance its functions, without reducing the efficiency of its operations.

Commissioner Shunichi Tokura and his team began work at the agency building near the Kyoto Imperial Palace on Monday. “I hope you will unearth the latent strength of Japanese culture and arts and create new power,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said to agency officials during a videoconference.

The relocation of the agency was decided in 2016, during the second administration of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as a centerpiece of the government’s efforts to correct the concentration of population and government functions in Tokyo and to promote regional development. This is the first time since the Meiji era (1868-1912) that a central government agency has moved to a regional location.

Five of the agency’s nine divisions, including those related to cultural properties, were transferred to Kyoto, and 70% of its officials will work in that city. The Religious Affairs Division will reportedly remain in Tokyo until the completion of the investigation into the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as the Unification Church.

The relocation will be completed in May after the Golden Week holiday season. It is hoped that relocation efforts will proceed steadily.

The Kansai region is home to 50% of Japan’s national treasures and 40% of its important cultural properties. Kyoto, in particular, has a high concentration of traditional culture, including temples and shrines as well as Nishijin textiles, and is very popular among visitors to Japan. There are high expectations for cultural promotion utilizing the “Kyoto brand name.”

The Osaka-Kansai Expo will be held in 2025. The agency plans to establish headquarters for the promotion of cuisine, culture and tourism in Kyoto to strengthen the dissemination of information on those matters domestically and internationally. It will also establish a new facility for the restoration of cultural assets.

The agency must maximize the effects of the relocation by utilizing the cultural resources rooted in Kyoto and the Kansai region.

The agency is responsible not only for the protection and utilization of cultural properties, but also for the promotion of movies, animation and performing arts. It needs to uncover the appeal of such cultural fields by paying attention to their situation and the circumstances in each regional area.

The relocation of central ministries and agencies has been discussed many times as a measure to revitalize local regions, and some local governments have tried to lure the Japan Tourism Agency and the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency to their areas.

However, the idea has repeatedly failed due to resistance on the part of ministries and agencies that do not want to see their authority reduced or their presence diminished. The Cultural Affairs Agency is the only agency that has successfully relocated its main office.

Some within the agency are concerned that the relocation will hinder the agency’s interactions with the Diet and discussions with other ministries and agencies. If the agency’s officials have to frequently travel to Tokyo to perform their duties, the relocation will have a negative impact.

The agency must gain the understanding of other ministries and agencies as well as Diet members to actively utilize online meetings.

The government plans to examine the effects of the relocation and the issues involved. The relocation must serve as an opportunity to reexamine the relationship between the central government and local governments, as well as to have a renewed discussion on measures to revitalize local regions with declining populations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 28, 2023)