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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Panel mulls strategies to export Japan culture, arts

Staff writer

Bolster government support for the booming arts of "manga" and "anime," or lay the groundwork for new cultural exports to emerge.

These were among options being weighed by the Cultural Affairs Agency's advisory panel on strategies for enhancing international appreciation of Japanese culture, which held its fifth meeting Monday.

Established in December, the panel is presided over by agency head Tamotsu Aoki, chaired by University of Tokyo professor Masayuki Yamauchi. Among its 15 other members are luminaries from the arts, including painter Ikuo Hirayama and "kyogen" (comic storytelling) performer Mansai Nomura.

With an interim report due in June and a final report expected next March, the panel Monday discussed proposals for the interim report.

Deliberations centered on which of the many ideas floated during the panel's first four meetings would be included in the report, which would make them eligible for inclusion in the agency's budget in 2009.

The ideas considered fell into three categories:

The first calls for more provision of cultural content to interested people and institutions overseas. Panel members have suggested using networks of former exchange students to Japan, for example, to expand interest in Japanese culture abroad.

The second calls for improving the way Japanese culture is presented to non-Japanese in Japan through better translations of government Web sites and books on culture, and for establishing a facility for collecting and preserving media arts, including anime and manga comic books.

The third category urges establishment of domestic organizations to aid in the dissemination of information internationally. It includes a recommendation for improved education programs about Japanese culture and support for bringing more international cultural festivals to Japan.

As discussion turned to the interim report, a number of committee members, including University of Tokyo professor Shinichi Kitaoka, a former ambassador to the U.N., stressed that the report must include concrete and clearly prioritized suggestions for it to be relevant.

Although several concrete ideas were raised anew Monday, including creating the first database of museums overseas holding Japanese cultural artifacts, no attempt was made to reach a consensus on whether to include these in the report.

Perhaps an even more important issue raised is the critical need for the agency to improve coordination with other government bodies, in particular the Japan Foundation.

The foundation, which falls under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry, has traditionally been charged with promoting Japanese culture abroad, meaning close collaboration among the two government bodies will be essential if any of the panel's proposals are to be achieved.

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