Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency in Kyoto faces remote work challenges

The relocation of Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency from Tokyo to Kyoto could bring challenges to the agency's ability to effectively communicate with members of the Diet in the capital, according to trial runs.

The commissioner for cultural affairs and many of the agency's employees started full-fledged operations at their relocated offices on Monday.

The agency conducted a trial run for two weeks during an ordinary Diet session in February last year, asking all employees who would be moving to Kyoto to work at a rented office in Shinagawa, Tokyo, some distance away from the Diet and government buildings.

NHK obtained a record of the trial through an information disclosure request.

The record of the trial and interviews of people concerned show that there were 17 occasions in which agency officials took part in explanations to lawmakers and political party meetings. But in each of these cases, talks were conducted face-to-face rather than remotely.

In the record, officials pointed to a lack of understanding about working online as well as difficulty for the agency to take part in meetings remotely when all other ministries and agencies were attending in person.

In previous trials in 2019 and 2020, cultural agency officials only succeeded in communicating remotely with lawmakers on eight out of 212 occasions.

The agency has budgeted about 43 million yen, or around 317,000 dollars, in fiscal 2023 for an estimated 1,400 business trips between Kyoto and the capital.

The agency says that as full-fledged operations start in Kyoto, its officials will be asking lawmakers and other government officials in Tokyo to communicate with them online daily. It says it will continue to seek their understanding.