Japan Press Weekly
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Can people today really enjoy art and culture?
Have you recently gone to concerts, theaters, cinemas, or museums? Great works of art capture peoplefs hearts.
Art and culture are essential to people if they are to live decent and humane lives. People have the right to create and enjoy artistic works, and the government is responsible to provide the necessary conditions to enable this.
People as well as artists have difficulty
A Cabinet Office survey on consumer trends published in October shows that only 7.6 percent of surveyed households said that they plan to spend more money for going to concerts, theaters, cinemas, and museums in Oct.-Dec., while 14.3 percent said they will have to cut spending for such activities. The negative difference of 6.7 percent is the worst ever in the last ten years.
In a Cabinet Office survey on culture in 2003, 48.8 percent of those surveyed said gNoh to the question asking if they have enjoyed artistic and cultural performances at halls during the past year. The fact is that a half of the people spend a year without visiting theaters and cinemas. Taking the latest consumption trends report into account, circumstances have become more severe.
What lies behind this is an increase in poverty and the widening social disparities caused by the gstructural reformh policy of the Liberal Democratic-Komei government that directly hits peoplefs living conditions with the loss of jobs and consecutive cutbacks in social services. The deepening recession accompanying the financial crisis is aggravating the situation. Thus, a majority of the people are alienated from and unable to enjoy art and culture.
Artists and their organizations are also experiencing seriously difficult conditions.
Prime Minister Aso Taro in Tokyofs Akihabara on October 26 said that Japan can take pride in its subculture of cartoons and animation films.
However, those who are actually drawing original picture sheets of animation films are working under extremely wretched conditions. It is said that 50 percent of would-be young animators leave the industry after 6 months, and 70 percent, after a year.
Incomes of performing artists continue to decline. Many theaters have been closed. Cultural activity is endangered at its material basis.
LDP policies continue to give a cold shoulder to artists and their organizations. The amount of budget allotted to the Agency for Cultural Affairs for FY 2008 is 101.8 billion yen, which is merely 40 percent of the gsympathy budgeth for the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan (250.1 billion yen). The agency budget includes only 39.6 billion yen for the promotion of art and culture. By contrast, Toyota Motor Corp. is given a tax cut of 77.9 billion yen just for its R&D, almost twice the culture expenditure.
According to the cultural agencyfs international comparison of the percentage of culture-related budgets in the total national budget, Japanfs figure is one-seventh that of France or South Korea. Cuts in cultural budgets at the local government are also serious. The urgent need is to drastically increase budgets for culture and the arts.
Defend freedom of cultural activity
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the statement declaring November 3 as Culture Day and a national holiday. The National Holidays Law states that the day should be for love of freedom and peace, and promotion of culture. The decision is based on self-criticism of the prewar days, during which the right to culture was suppressed, and cultures of other nations were denigrated.
Since the prewar period when Kobayashi Takiji wrote the book gFactory Ship,h the Japanese Communist Party has called for peace, democracy, and freedom of expression, sometimes at the risk of the lives of its members. Remembering this, the JCP will do its utmost to defend the freedom of cultural activities and to establish the rights of people to enjoy art and culture, now and in the future.
- Akahata editorial, November 3, 2008
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