Commissioner's Message on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of March 11 Disaster

March 11, 2012
Seiichi Kondo
Commissioner for Cultural Affairs

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the March 11 disaster, I renew my deepest condolences to those who have lost their lives. I also express from the bottom of my heart my strong sympathy with the affected people who are still living in extreme difficulties. I add my admiration for the strenuous efforts they are making for the restoration of their regions.

Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to those who have given donations for the rehabilitation and restoration of the cultural and artistic properties and activities, to the artists who have extended warm assistance, both in material and spirit, to the affected people by means of charity concerts and charity auctions, not only in Japan including the stricken areas, but also all over the world. I was reminded that Japan has many friends in the world, and the arts have enormous power to connect people's hearts across national borders and cultures.

My gratitude goes also to the people of research institutes and universities who have dispatched their experts to participate in and contribute to the cultural property restoration activities organized by this Agency, and to the cultural and artistic organizations who have closely co-operated with us in our efforts to establish a mechanism to promote cultural and artistic activities in the stricken regions.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs has engaged itself with various activities, while receiving all kinds of help and contributions from many individuals and organizations. I am pleased to summarize them in the following categories.

  1. (a) Gathering information and making preliminary investigation of the damages inflicted upon cultural properties and cultural facilities as well as the negative impact on the cultural and artistic performances.
  2. (b)Rehabilitation and restoration of the damaged cultural properties and facilities.
  3. (c)Appropriation of the necessary budget and the appeal for donations for the activities mentioned above.
  4. (d)Encouragement of the children in schools and shelters of the regions by providing opportunities to experience and enjoy culture and the arts.
  5. (e)Establishment of a new mechanism to effectively connect the affected regions with the artists and cultural organizations that are ready to contribute to the rehabilitation activities in the areas of culture and the arts.
  6. (f)Dissemination of messages and invitation of Tokyo-based diplomats to the cultural and artistic events in order to alleviate the various damages caused by excessively negative reaction by some foreign artists and media.
  7. (g)An appeal to refrain from excessive self-restraint in the cultural and artistic performances and other activities.

While encouraging you to refer to the following links below for the further details of these activities, let me note a few points that deserve attention.

  1. The number of the damaged cultural properties designated by the State amounts to 744, the location of which extends to Tokyo and 18 prefectures. This is far bigger a number than 173 on the occasion of Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. However, fortunately, the damages caused to National Treasures were limited to only five items.
  2. Lessons learned from the 1995 earthquake were fully applied: The “Cultural Property Rescue Programme” designed to take emergency measures to save mobile objects such as fine arts and craftworks damaged by the disaster was launched at significantly early stage. A new project named “Doctor Dispatch Program” was initiated to take preliminary measures to take care of damaged immobile objects such as temples and historical houses. These programmes covered a wider range of properties than those designated by the State.
  3. The significant amount of funds necessary for the rehabilitation and restoration was secured principally by supplementary budgets, and more than \ 200,000,000 was donated from the private sector. The account for the donation was, for the first time, opened to the overseas donors.
  4. 290 cultural halls and theatres were damaged which posed serious problems in re-opening cultural and artistic activities that the affected people wanted.
  5. A significant amount of additional burden was inflicted upon cultural organizations caused by the cancellation and postponement of many cultural performances and other activities due to widespread self-restraint movements. Last minute cancellations of artists' visits from abroad and of the lending of fine art objects also caused similar damages.
  6. The power and significance of culture and the arts in daily life was re-affirmed by the voices that were expressed, directly or indirectly through media, by the affected people who, at an early stage, wanted spiritual encouragement through culture and the arts and the restoration of traditional performing arts that were lost by the disaster. These voices were expressed at an earlier stage than the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.
  7. One of the greatest challenges since the very beginning of the restoration process was how to effectively match the needs of the affected people with the offers by artists in order to use the power of culture and the arts for their mental health and the restoration of local communities. A new programme was finally started last September to dispatch artists to schools and shelters in order to provide the children with opportunities of appreciating cultural and artistic performances (see (d) above). Work has been nearly completed to establish in April a new mechanism to connect stricken areas with artists (see (e) above).

The aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in the field of culture and the arts

The measure of the Agency for Cultural Affairs towards restoration and revival of culture and the arts field