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We should overcome the pandemic through such new paradigm shifts, and moreover promote regional regeneration and address the issue of population and fertility decline.

Member of the House of Representatives Hon. Shintaro Ito https://www.ito-sintaro.jp

Many industries are in dire straits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly hard hit is the world of art and culture. Several thousand performances were cancelled, income stopped coming in, and artists as well as arts and cultural organizations are struggling to continue their activities.

From a pressing sense of crisis about the prospect of extinguishing the light of arts and culture in Japan, I repeatedly requested for assistance for arts and cultural activities, prepared an urgent call for action, talked with related ministers and other persons concerned, and secured a budget for the Agency for Cultural Affairs to implement measures for assistance.

I had thought that the assistance should be in the form of grants, but it took the form of subsidies. With the application process being cumbersome and not adapted to the actual circumstances, it has not reached the people who need it. I hope to improve the way the assistance is provided so that it can be put to effective use. I also hope to create a system through which the government can protect arts and culture.

Japan has fostered cultural diversity with the spirit of “harmony” and renewed itself by melding new cultures with a foundation that Japan originally had. This can be seen in the convergence of Shinto and Buddhism, the acceptance of Confucianism and Taoism, and the introduction of the civil law from France and Germany after the Meiji Restoration and the common law after World War II. Japan has overcome difficulties through this “wisdom”.

Particularly because we face a difficult situation under the pandemic, we should think about the future of our society and change existing norms that we took for granted.

For example, for many years I have proposed promoting digitization in education, but little progress was made. Some of the important aspects of face-to-face classes should obviously be retained, but I think by strengthening our ability to use digital technology and leveraging its advantages, we can change our education for the better, including by way of offering instructions in multiple languages and providing a better learning environment for students with visual or hearing impairment.

As for our working styles, the post-war industrial policy promoted efficiency by concentrating resources in urban areas. The pandemic has prompted diversification in our lifestyles. Remote work has enabled workers to move to rural areas where it is less demanding to raise children. There are also options for people to become loosely associated with other local communities, or to go on a “workation”.

We should overcome the pandemic through such new paradigm shifts, and, moreover, promote regional regeneration and address the issue of population and fertility decline.

Interviewed in November 2020

※The titles shown are those held at the time of interview.

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