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2018 July 25 - 31 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Logic 'defer to state if subsidized by state' will kill culture

July 27, 2018

Attacks on the rights to freedom of culture and academic research have become widespread in Japan, claiming that any research or cultural products receiving grants from the government should defer to authorities.

In May, at the Cannes Film Festival, film director Koreeda Hirokazu won the Palme d'Or for the film "Shoplifters". He used government grants to make this film. After winning the prize, however, he refused to be honored by the government. He explained in his blog dated June 7 why he declined the government's invitation: "Reflecting upon the past where films were integral with 'national interest' and 'national policy' and which led to large misfortunes", he wanted to distance himself from state authorities.

To criticize this stance, opinions such as "he never refuses government funding but refuses to accept government's congratulations" have been spreading mainly in social media.

Koreeda in an interview with Asahi Shinbum dated June 25 said, "The tendency to regard state subsidies for arts as 'state charity' is not just for films. State grants are originally the rights of the people." He also said, "If the logic 'defer to state if subsidized by state' prevails, culture will die."

Film producer Katsura Sozaburo told Akahata that the principle of subsidies is "give money but not interfere", stating that he sees no problem in using a government grant and making a film with some critical views expressed against the government. Katsura warned that diverse and free expression cannot be guaranteed if state subsidies are given only to productions which meet government wishes.

As for scientific research funds, several conservatives have been attacking researchers studying the history of prewar and wartime Japan, for example the Japanese military's sex slavery system.

Sugita Mio, a Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House, one day demanded in the Diet that requirements for state grants be tightened by claiming that some researchers are using scientific research funds to carry out anti-Japan propaganda." A man the other day, outside the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science building, shouted "Don't use taxpayer money for anti-Japanese academics!" A famous female right-wing critic in the May 3 and May 10 issues of the weekly magazine "Shukan Shincho" called for stricter criteria for the awarding of state grants. Sankei Shinbum dated June 4 insisted that certain restrictions on research content should be imposed if the research uses government funding.

In contrast, Japanese Communist Party members of the Upper House Tamura Tomoko and Kira Yoshiko took up this issue in the Diet, respectively, demanding that the state authorities hold back from putting its nose into academic studies and abide by Article 23 of the Constitution which stipulates, "Academic freedom is guaranteed."

From academic circles, President of Hosei University Tanaka Yuko published a paper calling for unrestricted speech and expression and criticized rightist pressures and intimidation for trying to weaken researchers' right to free speech and expression. The president and ten deans of Meiji University criticized the attacks by conservatives for openly denying the freedom of academy, the freedom of speech and expression, and democratic morals.

Professor at Kanagawa University Komorida Akio said to Akahata that any research logically leads to conclusions based on selected facts and sometimes turn out to be critical of the current state of the country. Only a society which freely accepts a wide variety of views can make for a better society. In this sense, a society which accepts the argument "researchers who study at government expense should abide by government interest" will undermine not only social diversity but also society's intellectual foundation.
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