Cultural agency head: Tokyo must fix ‘inconsistencies’ on shutdown requests

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cultural Affairs Agency Commissioner Shunichi Tokura

Cultural Affairs Agency Commissioner Shunichi Tokura on Thursday criticized the Tokyo metropolitan government for creating contradictions over the extension of shutdown requests applying to national cultural facilities but not public amusement parks.

“Not only museums, but artists and movie theaters also have expressed dissatisfaction,” Tokura said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun. “Tokyo must take accountability for the inconsistencies.”

Following the extension of a COVID-19 state of emergency until the end of May, the agency was set to reopen the Tokyo National Museum and four other national facilities on Wednesday in response to the central government’s shutdown requests being eased. However, the agency on Tuesday changed its plan in accordance with Tokyo’s request and decided to keep the facilities closed.

Tokura pointed out inconsistencies in which the metropolitan government is requesting or seeking cooperation with art and natural history museums, theaters and other cultural facilities, while allowing amusement parks and other entertainment business nearby to operate.

“What’s really going on when we’re trying to limit people’s movements? [Tokyo’s policy] has lots of inconsistencies,” Tokura said.

Asked about the reason for still accepting Tokyo’s request, Tokura said, “We cooperate with the metropolitan government’s stance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

As for controls against COVID-19 in cultural facilities including theaters, he said, “We want the metropolitan government to realize that operators are making tearful efforts to preserve a place for performers to express themselves, by providing perfect ventilation and asking spectators who sit right from of the stage to wear face shields, even at small theaters.”

Tokura also expressed his understanding to artists and performers who are facing difficulties amid the pandemic.

“They still have to perform even if it is not profitable, otherwise it’ll be suffocating for them to lose places for expression,” he said.