Presentation from Kinichi Fukumoto
Toward the Reorientation of the Arts Advocacy in Japan
Professor of Art Education,
Hyogo University of Teacher Education/ Japan
The Japanese “Agency for Cultural Affairs” have promoted creative artistic activities in
accordance with the “Creative Plan of Culture and the Arts” which was enacted in 2002, The
programs are provided by the agency to enhance the range and quality of creative artistic
activities, initiate focused support for performing arts, and training artists and artistic groups
that meet world-class standards of excellence.
At the same time, the NPOs in the field of arts have flourished in the last decade to encourage
local residents to participate in the regional cultural activities in support with local museums
and local governments. The programs vary from the museum workshop to the arts festival
according to the local needs. “ASIAS”(Artist's Studio In A School）programs are spreading over
the countries CANVAS in Tokyo or Meeting with Artists with Kids in Kyoto are the exemplary
NPO activities. They dispatch the contemporary artists to the schools and they collaborate to
develop unique arts lesson plans with teachers.
Arts education in the school curriculum, however, has been weakened by the revisions of the
National Curriculum Standards. The overall reorientation of the advocacy is needed to change
the status-quo of arts education in Japan.
From a global perspective, there have been growing moves to place arts education at the
heart of school education in the 21st century. At the UNESCO General Conference in
1999, an "appeal for the promotion of arts education and creativity at schools" was
launched, which proposed to make arts education that includes poetry, visual art, music,
drama, dance and cinema mandatory in school education. In 2006, the Joint Declaration
on Arts Education was compiled by the International Drama/Theatre and Education
Association (IDEA), the International Society for Music Education(ISME), and InSEA.
In line with such moves, many countries are working to implement educational reform
with the recognition that arts education is essential for fostering creativity.
In Japan, in response to the enactment of the basic law to promote culture and arts in
2001, the Agency of Cultural Affairs formulated the new Arts Plan 21 and materialized
programs including a program to promote children to have in cultural and artistic
experiences to nurture sensitivity through such activities (called cultural and artistic
creation plan.) The agency is working to provide children with opportunities not only
to observe visual arts but also to see authentic performing
arts, dispatch local artists and traditional performing
artists for them, and hold workshop to actually observe
and feel cultural assets for them.
The arts-related environment surrounding children has
been extremely diversified and has become increasingly
borderless. Combined sensuous media arts have also
become commonplace. In consideration of education
for children who are exposed to such visual culture, will
we be able to deal with the situation only by providing
traditional curriculum for the visual arts? Arts education
may be reviewed, bringing comprehensive media arts
including screen image and drama and physical arts into
the main stream. Some point out that the idea of music
education or education of art itself is a thing of the past.
We need to think about the possibility of widening the
concept of arts education that centers on creativity and
It is important to respect artistic values and deepen
understanding in arts and culture by expressing oneself
and actually see and feel a wide variety of arts and
culture also in the sense of the creation of children's own
arts and culture. We need to reconsider the significant
effects of children's imagination on the development of
their cognitive abilities and redesign the learning Fig.1
environment that is more flexible and full of creativity.
However, in reality, as more importance has been placed on basic learning ability in
recent years, it has become difficult to guarantee the opportunity of arts education. We
wonder whether it is proper to deprive children of their opportunities to see and feel arts.
Although the expectation for the role of arts education or the significance of the subjects
have not lessened, it is true that there has been a concern over the effective aspect of the
Here, we present pictures drawn by Japanese children in 1982 and 1999 (Fig. 1.) In
comparison with the picture drawn in 1982, people in the picture drawn in 1999 are
depicted with more symbols and the scenery around the house was depicted poorly and
explanatorily. We have an impression that children’s ability to communicate their
feelings and recognition of objects seems to have been deteriorated.
Even though the Course of Study is a binding national curriculum guidelines provided
by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport (MEXT) in Japan, art teachers have
much flexibility to develop their own curriculum and lesson plans beyond the guidelines
in many cases. However, the back to the basics movement is now in the main stage of
schooling. Opportunities of facilitating imagination have been deprived of by focusing
on 3R’s and research type of problem solving skills. Actually, the credit hours allotted
for the art subject have decreased as is shown in Table 1.
Due to the reduction in class hours, the number of art specialists in elementary schools
and art teachers in junior high schools has been reduced, so that it is not overstating the
fact to say that arts education in the school curriculum is facing a critical situation.
Under these circumstances, there have been cases around Japan in which artists have
been conducting unique classes in schools. This movement is closely related to the
outreach activities of cultural facilities and arts organizations that became popular from
the latter half of the 1990s. These activities allow students to look at the arts with a
positive attitude that differs from that in regular classes, and the various new
possibilities in the arts have been proven.
Compared with conventional arts education in which music and art are taught, Arts in
Education (AIE) is trying to expand the possibilities of the arts in education. Activities
based on this concept are gradually being implemented. As Table 1 shows, the
organizations that are promoting this movement in Japan are the various art NPOs
throughout the country.
1 2 3 4 5 6
Elementary School 68(68) 70(70) 60(70) 60(71) 50(70) 50(70)
Junior High School 45(70) 35(35-70) 35(35)
Table 1 Annual time allotment for arts subjects (1 hour =45(50) min.)
(location, date of Outline of activities
S-AIR Utilizing the experience of "Sapporo Artists in Residence" that was started in 1999 and its
(Sapporo, 1999) network, S-AIR started its "Artists in School" project in 2003. This is a program in which
artists use unused classrooms as their studios for long periods, and they conduct creative
activities with children during recesses and after school. S-AIR is making preparations to
start independent operation from 2008.
Artists and Children This NPO was established to create a place where children and artists could come into
(Tokyo, 1999) contact. It is conducting such activities as "ASIAS" in which artists visit schools and
cooperate with teachers in holding workshop-type classes, and the art project "ACTION!" in
which local residents, mainly children, participate at the cultural facility "Nishisugamo
Sozosha" which uses a closed school building. (See the main contents for a more detailed
CANVAS This organization was established with the support of the government and Multimedia
(Tokyo, 2002) Promotion Center as an "NPO that promotes the nationwide growth and international
exchange of participatory creative and expression activities for children." CANVAS holds
workshops in various locations that foster children's creativity and power of expression by
using leading-edge digital technology, such as movies, animation, robots, the Internet, etc.
ST Spot Yokohama This NPO started in 1987 as the managing body for the small theater "ST Spot." In 2004 it
(Yokohama, 1987) created its Arts Education Department and started the "Project for Establishing New
Education Activities Utilizing the Arts" as a joint project with Kanagawa Prefecture. . (See
the main contents for a more detailed description.)
Encounters between With the goal of creating a rich educational environment through the arts, this NPO sends
Children and Artists artists to elementary schools, junior high schools and children's centers to hold workshops.
Art Support Fukuoka This organization sends artists to schools and local neighborhoods and coordinates art
(Fukuoka, 2002) experiencing workshops for children. It also issues an "Artists Catalogue" that lists artists
and art organizations in Fukuoka that can hold art experiencing workshops for children.
The NPO activities to bring together schools and various arts are supported by corporate
philanthropy and private foundations. Since 2003, Toyota Motor Corporation has
cooperated with the NPOs Artists and Children and Encounters between Children and
Artists, and nationwide executive committees to hold the "Toyota Encounters between
Children and Artists" to foster diversified senses of values and sensitivities by having
children meet artists.
NPOs can conduct such detailed and thoughtful activities because they are thinking
seriously together with artists and teachers about what is needed. Instead of simple
outreach projects that send artists to schools to conduct workshops, they think about the
various problems in schools and the needs of schools, and consider the role that the arts
can play for the healthy growth of education and children. The artists that are sent to
schools are not teaching the children about music, drama, dancing, art and the like.
The artists are trying to foster the "strength to live" in children by bringing out the
children's imagination and creativity by using the characteristics of the arts and their
own abilities and in ways not possible through other classes.
However, these movements may also make arts education in school education even
more fragile. There are worries that these activities will be considered a part of social
education, and that art classes will become an extracurricular activity. The basic
reason for this is that because the meaning of having children participate in the arts and
creative activities and their educational effects are not sufficiently understood, the arts
are not expected to play a role in building scholastic ability.
Music and art are positioned as mandatory subjects within the framework of Japanese
school education, and it is necessary to assert the importance of these classes to the
bureaucracy and society with a long-range view and strategy. In that sense, the
advocacy of arts education is needed for the establishment of acountability in Japanese
Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, Thinking Education from the View of Art, Report II, NLI
Research Institute, July 2007, pp.10-17