Team Research Group “Cultural Creativity in a Shrinking Society: Individuals, Networks, Capital, and Systems”

YAMADA Shōji (Professor)
January 14, 2021

Since FY2019 I have been moderating the three-year term Team Research Group “Cultural Creativity in a Shrinking Society: Individuals, Networks, Capital, and Systems.” The incentive behind this project is the speed—unprecedented in any other developed nation—at which Japan’s population is expected to age and decrease, as shown in the accompanying graph. Research has been promoted in various fields and numerous countermeasures taken to address the impact arising from these trends, but there has been little discussion thus far as to how the decrease and aging of the population would affect cultural and creative activity.

[Early in 2020], the novel coronavirus pandemic unexpectedly struck, forcing the unavoidable rollback of social, economic, educational, and cultural endeavors around the world. During a certain period, we experienced a greatly contracted, becalmed society from which all sorts of daily activity had vanished.

Cultural events were the first to be canceled, and without any compensation, which shows how rooted within Japanese society is the perception that such events are non-essential and non-urgent. There is much talk about “keeping the economy going,” but few, other than those in the cultural realm, speak of the need to sustain cultural activities. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech that support for the arts is at the top of her priority list and kept that promise with swift and generous financial aid for individual artists. That kind of news makes me aware of the institutional weakness of culture in Japan.

Various efforts are underway, particularly over the Internet, to put cultural activities back into action. As anyone can imagine, whether while the pandemic continues or after it is over, we cannot completely undo the transformation we have experienced. The changes that took place over only a few months are likely to provide a model for cultural activities in the “restrained and becalmed society” that is to come.



Figure 1. Population Trends in Japan. Key: pink: 14 yrs. and under; green: 15-64 yrs.; blue: 65 yrs. and older; dotted line: age increase rate; values after 2020 are estimates. From the 2016 White Paper on Information and Communications in Japan