Joyce Zemans, Archie Kleingartner, eds. Comparing Cultural Policy: A Study of Japan & The United States. California: Altamira Press, 1999. 295 pp. $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7619-8938-7.
Reviewed by Anthony C. Torbert (Faculty of Economics, Kobe Gakuin University)
Published on H-US-Japan (January, 2000)
Japan versus America: Who is more cultured?
For researchers and people interested in the arts and the economics of funding, this book provides an interesting comparison of how government and the private sector support cultural activities in Japan and the United States. The book is product of the Comparitive Cultural Policy Project, a joint effort between academics (from UCLA and Showa University) and cultural affairs organizations. The main focus book was to examine cultural policy history in both countries and give perspective to each other's progress.
Beginning with an overview, the Japanese situation is defined as one of change, evolving from a Meiji-era push to westernize to a prewar rejection of this by the nationalist government to its post-war constitution guaranteeing a "healthy and culture-rich life" allowing both traditional and Western culture to flourish. Watanabe describes the Japanese government's efforts to "modernize" during the Meiji period and the creation of fine arts institutions. Later, in the beginning of the twentieth century, historic preservation became an important part of the Education Ministry's goals (pp. 24). However the military regimes discouraged a reliance on western art and "interrupted institutions such as opera companies, orchestras and dance companies". The U.S. discouraged a cultural policy in the postwar era, but the Ministry of Education did support various activities beginning in the 1950s. Interestingly, Wyszomirski finds similarity in explaining the artists' postwar distrust of government both in Japan (because of prewar policies) and in the U.S. (because of blacklisting in the 1950s)(pp.28). Finally, in the late 1960s, using the newly created model of the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), created the Japanese version in the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA). But although similar to the NEA, the ACA was more involved in historic preservation, including religious artifacts and properties-something the U.S. organization shys away from for constitutional reasons.
U.S. cultural policy has been less defined than that of Japan. Although the establishment of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the NEA are obvious institutions, much of the federal support for the arts has been indirect in the form of generous tax policies. Although Japan allows for non-profit organizations, the process of qualifying as such is more onerous than in the U.S.
Many other interesting comparisons are brought out within chapters two (on Japan) and three (on the U.S.). By studying the authors explanation of cultural policy one can see how the level of general government responsibility and political culture differs in the two countries; the Japanese semi-socialist state versus the more capitalist U.S. state. In the U.S., the people directly interested in a specific group or art form must usually find financial support from outside the national government (from corporate sponsors, private donations, foundations etc). On the other hand, Japan's central government has taken a paternal role in developing different types of both high art and reviving traditional and folk art, as well as pushing for a country-wide dispersal of funds in order to allow easier access to all citizens. Another example of differences is the Japanese public television system (NHK) which receives much of its funding through a TV usage tax, and the U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcast (a private nonprofit organization) which must raise funds locally or through corporate sponsorship in order to maintain its quality programming. In a more competitive arena, the Japanese film industry has gradually been shrinking over the past few decades as commercially successful Hollywood floods the world with high-budget blockbusters, which no other country can afford to create. While noted for its famous director, the late Akira Kurosawa, and at present for the export of "anime" pictures, the reality is the in Japan, "half the viewers saw foreign films [and] seventy percent of the Japanese films were pornographic movies produced for adult audiences" (pp. 84).
The last two chapters deal with actual case studies involving opera and presenting organizations. The goals of the opera organizations were similar in both countries, however the sources of support differed. The two greatest differences were the reliance on government/corporate support by the Japan Opera Foundation for twenty percent of its revenue (versus ten percent for the L.A. Opera), and in the U.S. the heavier reliance on individual giving for 23 percent of the L.A. Opera's revenue (versus only eleven percent in Japan). Regarding the presenting organizations, a major difference was found in distribution of halls, theaters etc. In Japan, federal planning allowed for a fairly even distribution by prefecture, however in the U.S. the reliance on private support meant less populated or perhaps poorer areas had fewer facilities (page 236). One item missing >from the statistics was the involvement of Japanese universities. The authors note on page 235 that Japanese universities do not act as presenters, but I know this is untrue, as my own university brings in internationally renowned performers on a monthly basis for free concerts open to the public.
A final postscript by Zemans and Kleingartner includes an update, allowing for events up through 1998 to be reflected on. They discuss Wyszomirski's concern that the atmosphere in the U.S. toward less government support in the 1990s (as funding is down forty percent) has created a state of flux. In Japan, they write that Watanabe is concerned with change but for the opposite reason-that as direct funding increases (the ACA's 1998 budget is double that of 1992), a "European statism" will affect the current balance between the local and national governments (pp. 262).
Comparing Cultural Policy is quite detailed and covers an immense area including history, government policy, economics and art. Of course it cannot go into all areas with equal depth, but as a general discussion on comparative cultural policy I think it has strong educational value. There is, however, a significant imbalance between the U.S. and Japanese background studies, with twice as many pages being devoted to the U.S. side. Still, I would recommend this book as one of value to anyone studying cultural management.
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Anthony C. Torbert. Review of Zemans, Joyce; Kleingartner, Archie, eds., Comparing Cultural Policy: A Study of Japan & The United States.
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