Interviewee: Mr. Shuji Sota Professor, Atomi Gakuen University (Date: December 21, 2006; Place: Hotel Metropolitan@Ikabukuro; Interviewer/Writer: Takahiro Miyao)
Summary of Mr. Shuji Sota’s Interview
I got interested in traditional performing arts, especially Kabuki, when I was a Tokyo University student majoring in Japanese literature. I wanted to work for some kind of performing arts after graduation, so I applied to Toho and got a job in the PR section of its drama department, where one of my main tasks was to publicize Mr. Yukio Ninagawa’s performances, especially overseas. Later I was assigned to a position of promoting performing arts in general as a director of PARC (Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication) in partnership with the Japan Foundation. As a part of my work at PARC, I organized the World Arts Festival Summit in 1993, when more than 10 out of 30 some foreign participants were from Quebec. So, I wanted to know more about Quebec, and visited Montreal in 1994 to attend CINARS (International Exchange for the Performing Arts: http://www.cinars.org/) for the first time. Since then, I have attended almost all CINARS events, which are held once every two years. Prof. Shuji Sota’s CV: http://www.atomi.ac.jp/daigaku/educate/faculty/1108.html
Quebec’s arts, particularly performing arts, are attracting world-wide attention, because of its unique development in blending artistic expressions and sharp physical movements, represented by physical dance and circus such as La la la Human Steps and Cirque du Soleil. One of the reasons for such a unique development is that Quebec’s arts are based on the French language culture, surrounded by the English language environment in North America, and such heterogeneity in terms of languages, values, and social systems may have contributed to the originality and uniqueness of Quebec’s arts, which fortunately possess a certain scale beyond the critical mass to create something significant culturally and economically. Furthermore, the language barrier has led to expressions in non-verbal art forms such as physical dance, circus and other “performing” arts. This is also an important reason for the popularity of Quebec’s arts not only in North America, but also in Europe and Asia including Japan. Regarding cultural policy in Quebec, there exists active public-private cooperation, in which performing arts are financially supported by the federal and provincial governments in accordance with their “cultural trade policy” and also by city governments (ex., in Montreal there are so many publicly supported theaters for performing arts), and at the same time, artistic activities are commercially stimulated by the huge market in the U.S., leading to the global competitiveness of Quebec’s performing arts. All this has created a kind of artistic “infrastructure” for business and trade, attracting excellent human resources and, in turn, facilitating favorable policies for arts.
One of the lessons for Japan from the Quebec experience is that at the national level the government should reconsider its cultural policy and adopt a “cultural strategy” in order to connect the domestic market more directly with overseas markets in the field of arts. In this respect, it is important to present a total picture of “Japanese culture and arts” including both traditional and contemporary arts (or pop culture), instead of the current practice of separating those two kinds of arts with special emphasis on traditional arts in Japan. For that to happen, the Japanese public should be engaged in cultural and artistic activities more often, and show their appreciation for arts by contributing more time and money to raise the quality and competitiveness of Japanese arts from the global point of view. Quebec has adopted a clear strategy for arts to export to the global market from the start, primarily because its domestic market is so small with only 7 million people in Quebec, which is comparable to Kanagawa or Saitama prefecture in terms of population. In that case, an outward-looking project management approach is needed for art production as well as human resource development. If such an approach is adopted for Japanese arts, which tend to be inward-looking due to the large domestic market, Japan’s huge artistic potential can be unleashed and strong “soft power” may be created in the global context. In reality, a recent trend is that local governments in various cities and regions are beginning to adopt cultural policies as a stimulant to their cultural exchange with their counterparts overseas. Such cities and regions as Yokohama, Fukuoka, Kita-Kyushu, Yamaguchi, Kochi and Osaka have established art centers to hold various events and projects and to facilitate artist exchange programs. While the national government tends to emphasize the nation’s traditional arts, it is easier for local governments to present a total picture of artistic activities for the average citizen. The national government might support local art centers and artist exchange programs, where local artists can be encouraged to interact with foreign artists, such as those from Quebec, in order to stimulate artistic activities from different angles.
Postscript: Professor Sota gave a lecture on “art management in Quebec” in the “Contemporary Quebec” course in the Department of Political Science and Economics at Meiji University on December 11, 2006. A summary of his lecture is posted on his blog (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/sotashuji/): December 11: “Quebec course at Meiji University” http://blog.goo.ne.jp/sotashuji/d/20061221