Cultural Affairs Agency edges closer to Kyoto transfer

JIJI

There is a high probability the Cultural Affairs Agency will be green-lighted to relocate to Kyoto this year as part of an initiative to lessen the concentration of central government bodies in Tokyo, according to officials.

The government will finalize its relocation policy in March. The shortlist of candidates includes seven agencies, including those overseeing consumer affairs and small and midsize enterprises.

Of those options, moving the Cultural Affairs Agency to Kyoto looks “promising,” one bureaucrat said.

Government officials said the key will be whether the benefits of relocation will be clear to the people.

The Kyoto prefectural and municipal governments appear confident. The prefecture is home to about half of the Japan’s national treasures and 40 percent of its designated important cultural assets, local officials said.

Moving the Cultural Affairs Agency would bolster the prefecture’s status as a center of Japanese culture, they said.

“We are holding discussions at the working level on how many of its functions can be relocated,” said a Cabinet Office executive.

Failure will not be tolerated, the executive said, anticipating a political decision to move things forward.

But the agencies look poised to resist the initiative.

“Cultural Affairs Agency operations routinely require cooperation with other government agencies and exchanges of opinions with lawmakers and others,” an education and science ministry official said.

Regarding the Japan Tourism Agency, another candidate, land minister Keiichi Ishii claimed: “It would be very difficult to maintain our current functions if the agency is relocated.”

Local economy revitalization minister Shigeru Ishiba has not made a concrete proposal yet.

At a meeting of central and local government officials on decentralization last month, Ishiba would only say, “The relocation of central government bodies should also benefit the state.”

Ishiba clearly “has in mind the Cultural Affairs Agency,” a participant in the meeting said. “But I don’t know whether the agency will be relocated or not.”

At a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party in December, Ishiba declared, “We politicians will take responsibility” for the final decision on relocation.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada is pinning his hopes on Ishiba. Relocating these entities “will represent a strong message on the future of Japan” by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he has said.

The central government has narrowed the number of candidates to 34 from the 69 proposed by 42 prefectures. These include the seven already mentioned, the Japan Patent Office, the Meteorological Agency and the Statistics Bureau, part of the internal affairs ministry.