The History of the Japan Arts Council

The Japan Arts Council, an independent administrative agency, was initially founded as National Theatre, a special public corporation, in July 1966; in accordance with the National Theatre Law, for the purpose of preserving and promoting Japan’s traditional performing arts.

In November of the same year, the National Theatre was formally inaugurated, presenting traditional performing arts from Kabuki and Bunraku to traditional Japanese dance, music, folk performances, Shomyo (Japanese Buddhist chant), Gagaku (Japanese court music), and so on. Then, in March 1979 the National Engei Museum (National Engei Hall)—introducing popular entertainment such as Rakugo, Kodan (storytelling) and other Engei performances—opened its doors. In September 1983, the National Noh Theatre specializing in Noh performances (Noh and Kyogen), and in March of the following year, National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka, which shows not only Bunraku, but various performing arts that originated from Kyoto-Osaka district, were established. Finally in January 2004, National Theatre Okinawa—presenting Okinawa’s traditional performing arts including Kumiodori—was opened.

Meanwhile, the National Theatre Law was revised in April 1989, adding a new section of contemporary performing arts; consequently, the New National Theatre Tokyo—staging opera, ballet, dance and drama—was established in October 1997. The Law was partially amended in March 1990, setting the endowment of Japan Arts Fund to the Theatre to further support cultural and artistic activities. After the modification, the Theatre was renamed Japan Arts Council Special Public Corporation. In December 2002, the Act on the Japan Arts Council, Independent Administrative Agency was promulgated, and led the Council to become an independent administrative agency in October 2003.

Throughout the history, the Japan Arts Council has been the central facility of performing arts and one of the leading public support providers for cultural and artistic activities along with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, thus contributing to the enhancement of arts and other modes of culture in Japan.


1966Jun.27 National Theatre Law promulgated
Jul.1 National Theatre Special Public Corporation founded
Nov.1 National Theatre opens (Hayabusa-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
1979 Mar.22 National Engei Hall opens (Hayabusa-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
1983 Sep.15 National Noh Theatre opens (Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
1984 Mar.20 National Bunraku Theatre opens (Nippombashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka)
1989 Apr.1 Partial amendment of the National Theatre Law goes into effect (add modern performing arts to duties)
1990 Mar.30 Partial amendment of the National Theatre Law goes into effect (assistance to cultural and artistic activities added to duties, Japan Arts Fund established, National Theatre redesignated as Japan Arts Council, a special public corporation)
1997 Oct.10 New National Theatre, Tokyo, opens (Honmachi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
Nov.1 Stage Set and Design Centre opens (Toyosatodai, Choshi-shi, Chiba Prefecture)
2002 Dec.13 Japan Arts Council Law promulgated
2003 Mar.19 Traditional Performing Arts Information Centre opens (on the grounds of the National Theatre)
Oct.1 Organization redesignated an independent administrative institution
1st Mid-Term Objective Period (Odtober 2003-March 2008) starts
2004 Jan.18 National Theatre Okinawa opens (Jitchaku, Urasoe-shi, Okinawa)
2008 Apr.1 2nd Mid-Term Objective Period (April 2008-March 2013) starts
2009 Apr.1 Among projects run on Grants for Culuture and Arts Promotion from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, those related to arts groups were placed under the Japan Arts Council
2013 Apr.1 3rd Mid-Term Objective Period (April 2013-March 2018) starts
2018 Apr.1 4th Mid-Term Objective Period (April 2018-March 2023) starts)
Among projects run on Grants for Culture and Arts Promotion from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, those related to theatres and concert halls etc. were placed under the Japan Arts Council
2019 Apr.1 Establishment of the Japan Cultural Expo Secretariat