It’s official: Cultural Affairs Agency moving to Kyoto

Kyodo, JIJI

In a first, the Cultural Affairs Agency will be moving to Kyoto in a few years as part of a dual policy to revitalize regional economies and address the over-concentration of government offices in Tokyo.

In its decision Tuesday, the government also said it will determine by the end of August whether to send the Consumer Affairs Agency and the internal affairs ministry’s statistics bureau westward as well, and that relocation for the Tourism and three other agencies had been ruled out.

“This is a big step toward revitalizing local areas,” Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada said at a news conference about the decision.

The move signals that “Kyoto is recognized as the center of Japan’s cultural network,” Yamada said.

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed at a meeting Tuesday to use the policy to bring “great effects” to regions outside Tokyo, the toll after the relocation fanfare remains at one.

In what will be the first major relocation of a Tokyo-based government organization, the government is hoping that its initiative to spread out the bureaucracy will prompt businesses to move their headquarters out of crowded Tokyo, bringing jobs to areas with weaker economies.

But most ministries and agencies in Tokyo have refused to move, citing such reasons as preparation for Diet debates. In many cases, the Diet members’ replies are prepared by bureaucrats in advance, so it is more convenient for them to stay in the area.

Details of the program to move the Cultural Affairs Agency to the ancient capital will be hammered out by the end of this year, but some of its functions, such as those related to Diet affairs and diplomatic activities, will be retained in Tokyo.

The government “will try hard to produce benefits for both central and local governments and have a strong impact on regional revitalization efforts,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.

Separately, Regional Revitalization Minister Shigeru Ishiba said Tuesday’s decision isn’t the end of the government’s decentralization efforts.

The government called on 43 prefectures, excluding Tokyo and the nearby prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, to make proposals for government functions they would be interested in hosting. Eight have come forward with offers to host seven agencies.

The basic policy said the impact of the Cultural Affairs Agency’s relocation to Kyoto will be huge in view of the traditional cultural assets in the prefecture and the expected expansion of the agency’s operations, including tourism promotion.

The commissioner of the agency will move to Kyoto, with the number of deputy commissioners raised to two and stationed in Tokyo and Kyoto, respectively, officials said.

In the meantime, Tokushima Prefecture is eager to host the Consumer Affairs Agency, while Wakayama is interested in hosting the statistics arm of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Decisions on the two moves will be finalized after feasibility tests, including on teleconferencing and other communication systems.

Among other offices, the Tourism Agency, the Japan Patent Office, the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency and the Meteorological Agency have been removed from the relocation list because move them would “make policy planning difficult from a nationwide point of view.”

Apart from ministries and agencies, the government said 22 research institutions and training facilities that either belong to or are overseen by the state will be moved, but many will only see some of their functions transferred.

The National Institute of Health and Nutrition, which Osaka Prefecture hopes to receive, is the only one of the 22 that will be moved in its entirety.