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Municipalities across Japan have been offering a range of novel financial aid measures to help those engaged in cultural and artistic endeavors ride out the coronavirus pandemic.

While the sector is usually considered a low priority for public support, it has been particularly wounded by the social distancing steps aimed at thwarting the spread of the virus. Such measures are preventing performances and causing the loss of audiences and customers.

The city of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, has set aside part of its fiscal 2020 extra budget to support the training of geisha.

Other such programs in the country range from subsidizing online streaming events as alternatives to live performances to producing television programing that features local artists.

The Kanazawa Municipal Government has provided ¥240,000 ($2,240) each to support the training of 38 individual geisha. The municipality does not require them to submit receipts for their expenses.

Geisha in Kanazawa are "an important piece of our culture and an essential part of local tourism," a city official said. "We hope (the financial aid) will help them cultivate their art in this difficult time."

The city of Hakodate in Hokkaido is creating a special program for cable television that it is partly financing with ¥5.48 million it allocated in its fiscal 2020 supplementary budget.

Local artists as well as chefs who appear on the show will be paid by the municipality.

Even though the emergency declaration over the virus pandemic was fully lifted in late May, theaters and auditoriums are still being asked to keep empty seats between each audience member to prevent the spread of the virus. It is unclear when such facilities will be able to operate at full capacity.

The Diet enacted a measure earlier this month as part of a second extra budget for fiscal 2020 offering up to ¥25 million in subsidies for online streaming services for concerts and other performances held without on-site audiences.

Even before the central government's move, the Sapporo Municipal Goverment and the Akita Prefectural Government began financing such free online performances.

Osaka Prefecture and the city of Fukuoka have been subsidizing the installation of filming equipment and production costs for virtual shows at small music venues and theaters.

To support young artists, Aichi Prefecture announced a plan to increase the amount of funding allocated for buying works for the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art by ¥100 million over the next three years.

Also through donations, Aichi has decided to give financial aid of up to ¥200,000 each to individual artists.

Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture has been covering commission costs incurred when art or culture groups try to raise funds through crowdfunding efforts .

Kobe has also established a program in which the city will allow people donating money as part of the furusato nōzei (hometown tax donation) system to specify that it be used to support the art and culture sectors, with the city then matching the amount donated.

"We've received requests from donors born and raised in our city who want to support local art and culture," Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto said. The hometown tax system allows people to donate to a municipality of their choice in return for gifts and certain tax exemptions.

In the fiscal 2020 second extra budget, the central government earmarked a total of ¥55.9 billion to support the art and culture sectors.

Cash-strapped freelance musicians and artists are entitled to up to ¥200,000 each in aid while groups of artists with a maximum of 20 members can receive up to ¥1.5 million to purchase items necessary to continue their artistic endeavors.

The artists covered by the nationwide program include street performers, circus company members, disc jockeys, comedians, flower arrangers, photographers and players of the board game go, according to the Cultural Affairs Agency. "We'd like to target almost everyone involved in arts and culture," an agency official said.

The agency plans to begin accepting applications in early July, with applicants expected to receive payments within one to two weeks.

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