Aid For Concert Halls

In the 1980s, dozens of local governments throughout Japan built concert halls, many of them state-of-the-art, as a means of attracting public works grants from the central government and boosting their cultural cachet.

Until the turn of the millennium, many became stops on tours of classical and popular artists, both domestic and foreign.

But in the past decade, as the economy fell deeper into recession and local governments scrambled for revenue, these halls have fallen into disuse.

Last week the country’s Cultural Agency announced it would give a total of 1.6 billion yen ($16.8 million) to 80 local governments to help with “production costs” for inviting artists and putting these auditoriums to use.

However, according to an article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, most of these local governments no longer have staff to carry out such activities, because they were let go when finances became tight. Some say it would take up to five years to find and train the proper personnel.

Japan has no organization like Britain’s Arts Council to assist in such matters. In the past local governments dealt directly with promoters.

Another problem is that there may not be an audience in many regional areas.

Most likely, the local governments will invite Japanese classical musicians and orchestras, but with the population aging so rapidly, especially in rural areas, it becomes more difficult to assure ticket sales.

In the 1980s, Japanese people, even those living in the country, asserted their economic power by embracing cultural activities but that momentum seems to have been lost.