Reforms free museum to make cash

The Tokyo National Museum, which used to be run by the government but was turned into an independent administrative entity under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reforms, is earning money through unique undertakings.

The museum, located next to Ueno Zoo, is inviting business enterprises to hold events within its compound with the catch phrase “Why don’t you improve your image surrounded by the world’s works of art?”

The Main Hall, which is used for such events, is designated as an important cultural assets. Built in 1938, its special exhibition room on the first floor has displayed many famous works of art.

The special room can be used for eating and drinking, musical performances and exhibitions of commercial goods. A nearby room displays ukiyo-e prints by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1808) and other famous artists.

There are only two conditions for using the room — the museum’s collection must be displayed and sales are not permitted.

“Hotels can never cope with (the room) because it itself has stage effects,” said a representative of a major advertising agency.

The museum made itself available for corporate-sponsored events in autumn 2001, right after it was transformed into an independent administrative entity.

A famous fashion house asked the museum if it could provide a venue for a fashion show.

“At that time, we were exploring the possibility of engaging in activities different from those in the past,” and finally approved the fashion show, said Keiji Suginaga, director of general affairs at the museum.

Since then, major credit companies, famous brand-goods manufacturers and auto companies have also held events at the museum.

In fiscal 2002, the museum earned about 21 million yen from these events, or 7.2 percent of its revenue target for the year.

This spring, the museum created a public relations section to lure more clients.

“Previously, our revenues just went to the government, and we were only told by the Finance Ministry that we had done well. But now, the more we do, the more we earn,” Suginaga said, stressing the positive effects of the administrative reforms.

But the national museum is a rare example of successful reforms. The National Research Institute of Brewing in Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture, has started charging fees for assessing new types of sake, but what they earn must be used to pay screeners.

“We cannot carry out research without management subsidies from the government,” a researcher said. “We are envious of the Tokyo National Museum.”