Professor Mayuko SANO

Cultural Policy Major

At Kyoto University, the professorship in Cultural Policy is part of the Graduate School of Education and Faculty of Education (Sociology of Education Chair). This important and visionary arrangement is based on the understanding that “cultural policy” is a large societal endeavor relating to all aspects that shape humans. This stands in contrast with how cultural policy is typically understood: as measures for promoting cultural activities in a narrow sense.

The cultural policy major was established when I arrived at Kyoto University in April 2018. With students interested in this new major, I am working to build on my past efforts and ultimately construct “broad cultural policy studies,” a concept I have been incubating for years.


My research and work experience have been centered on the intersection between international relations and culture.

Academic Background
BA (International Relations), The University of Tokyo (1992)
MPhil in International Relations, University of Cambridge (1999)
Ph.D., The University of Tokyo (2015)
Work History
1992–2002 The Japan Foundation
2002–2005 Cultural Heritage Division, Culture Sector, UNESCO Headquarters
2005–2008 Lecturer, Faculty of Cultural Policy and Management, Shizuoka University of Arts and Culture
2008–2010 Associate Professor, Faculty of Cultural Policy and Management, Shizuoka University of Arts and Culture
2010–2018 Associate Professor, Office of International Research Exchange, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
2017–2018 Professor, Faculty of Regional Design and Development, University of Nagasaki (Cross-appointment)
2018 to Present Professor, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University


Please refer to Kyoto University’s Activity Database on Education and Research ( for details regarding Sano's academic publications and presentations, societal activities, and more.

Broadly speaking, my research is currently centered around the four below areas. However, as can be seen by their descriptions, they are deeply connected and cannot be completely separated. This is particularly true of the fourth (“Broad Cultural Policy Studies”), which encompasses the first three and attempts to create a new mode of academic study.

1. Research on the History of Cultural Policy

Japan’s debut in international society, which started as it opened in the mid-nineteenth century, presented the country with the following question: how should it understand and articulate to the outside world its own culture? This became the starting point that led actors to think about what we would today call “cultural policy,” namely, how Japan should, as a modern state, approach, utilize, and orient its people’s culture—including everything from ordinary lifestyles to refined artistic endeavors. With an eye to continuity, I am working on grasping the history of Japanese cultural policy from then until today and uncovering issues from each era. I took an important step on this journey by writing about Japan for a cultural policy paper collection published in 2011 by the French Ministry of Culture’s History Committee (entitled Pour une histoire des politiques culturelles dans le monde/Toward a history of cultural policies in the world).

The history of cultural policy has entered a stage in which international cultural policies, primarily originating from UNESCO, have grown stronger. Japan and other countries’ cultural policies now—whether consciously or not—take on the role of sustaining individual parts of the world’s cultural diversity. I am particularly interested in critically examining this new direction.

 Research on the History of Cultural Exchange (the Cultural History of Diplomacy)

I attach great importance to research on the history of cultural exchange. This research focuses on the concrete aspects of different societies’ cultures changing as, with the above-described public policy developments in the background, they actually came into contact with and influenced each other. By extensively reading through all kinds of extant materials—not only public documents but also the likes of individuals’ journals and correspondence—such scholarship unearths the experiences of the people who lived as they embodied their eras’ cultures.

As someone who began my studies at the intersection of international relations and comparative cultural history, scholarship that in particular focuses on the mid-nineteenth century Western diplomatic representatives who faced an entirely new culture in an opening Japan, as well as the Tokugawa shogunate officials who had similar cultural experiences in dealing with them, still serves as my foundation. Histories of states are nothing other than accumulations of individuals’ acts and deeds inseparable from their lives. This perspective leads us to reconsider the history of diplomacy as the endeavors of humans. At the suggestion of my beloved former teacher, I refer to it as “the cultural history of diplomacy.”

3. Research on the History of Expos (Expo-logy)

The mid and late-nineteenth-century expos frequently held in Europe and the United States were the most prominent stage on which Japanese people came to think about their country’s culture with international society in the background. As a student, I began researching how Japan participated in nineteenth-century expos and then gradually developed an interest in the history of expos as a whole, including the people holding and running the expos and the new expos of today. In 2020, I published a diachronic expo history that I had written from a new perspective.

While this research area might appear to be different from the others listed here due to its focus on the concrete events of expos (the individual aspects of expo history research relate, of course, to areas 1 and 2 above), upon thorough probing, these official events of international society, which have continued for a century and a half while mobilizing a massive amount of resources, not only provide us with an infinite number of research topics but also serve as a highly-sensitive wide-angle lens through which we can view the people and worlds of each era. In this sense, expos occupy a unique, important position in my research.

This mode of expo research has been greatly shaped through many discussions in the on-going joint research projects that I have been continually organizing since 2010. These discussions have included researchers in diverse fields and specialists working on the ground in expo-related spheres.

The Society for Expo-logy (Formerly the “Expos and Human History” Research Team)
The Society for Expo-logy

A joint research endeavor, launched at the time of Expo 2010 Shanghai, developed into Japan’s expo research hub. It is now creating a network that extends worldwide. In 2020, we both presented the concept of “expo-logy” and changed our name. The society engages in research led by its thirty current members while offering a space for discussion that is open to all.

The Society for Expo-logy

4. Research for the Construction of “Broad Cultural Policy Studies”

“Broad cultural policy” refers to cultural policy in the most inclusive sense possible—expansive, permeating a multiplicity of spheres, and constitutive of the base layer of society as a whole. When taken together, the nation-building efforts during modern Japan’s formative years, when the concept of “cultural policy” did not exist, were nothing other than contemplating Japanese culture’s future. However, subsequently the sphere of “cultural policy” appeared and, with increased specialization, such undertakings contracted in scope. They turned into measures for promoting cultural activities in a narrow sense and discussions of the amount of funding for them. “Broad cultural policy” shifts this stunted perception and reframes cultural policy as something that relates to all human endeavors. In terms of Japan’s compartmentalized government administration, for example, it not only refers to the jurisdiction sphere of the Agency for Cultural Affairs but also sets its sights on all other policy areas.

Therefore, the “study” of such “broad cultural policy” both enables and requires the involvement of practically all kinds of academic fields. I want to create this truly-comprehensive new field as Kyoto University’s cultural policy major. We could describe it as an interface on which wide-ranging humanities knowledge attempts to involve itself with society. This is both one of my research areas and a long-term challenge that incorporates the above research areas and my own work experience.

As part of this endeavor, I have launched the below project. Therein, scholars and practitioners with knowledge of various academic and real-world fields explore, without preconceptions, the potential of this new concept and engage in discussions regarding related issues.

New Cultural Policy Project
New Cultural Policy Project

This is an undertaking, launched in 2019 with the support of the Cross-sectoral Research Platform Development Program run by Kyoto University’s Center for the Promotion of Interdisciplinary Education and Research, that serves as an important foundation for the development of “broad cultural policy studies.”

New Cultural Policy Project

Selected Courses

My below courses comprise the core program of study for students interested in cultural policy studies.

Course information is primarily based on 2021 academic year syllabi. Information may vary from year to year. When planning a course of study, students should check the most up-to-date syllabi for class plans and other details.
Intended for Sophomores

Introduction to Cultural Policy

This lecture-based course understands cultural policy broadly, seeing it as thinking about nation and society-building from a cultural perspective, as well as, by extension, envisioning the future of a country’s culture and choosing people’s ways of life in a society. Modern Japan’s nation-building project, which took place as the country was pressed to choose how to survive in international society, was in this sense “cultural policy” itself.

Adopting this perspective, this course will have students re-learn Japan’s modern and contemporary history as cultural policy history. Within that context, it also deals with cultural policy in a narrow sense, in other words, the histories and current states of the protection of cultural properties, the development of the arts, the enhancement of cultural exchange, and so forth. However, rather than concrete knowledge regarding these institutions and the like, an emphasis will be placed on acquiring an inquisitive mindset that always asks “for what” and “for whom” about policy-making and outcomes, thereby investigating the meaning and problems of cultural policy for individual humans.

Intended for Sophomores

Basic Seminar on Interdisciplinary Studies of Educational Systems (Taught by Sano)

What is culture as an object of policy? What is it to make culture an object of policy?

Consider the preservation of traditional culture, the recognition of cultural heritage, and the promotion of cultural diversity. Such actions and ways of thinking are generally seen as good and praiseworthy. However, when culture ceases to be naturally and unconsciously passed down amongst people and becomes the object of conscious maintenance/promotion and public policy, many issues arise that require careful examination.

To consider such issues, this course’s major theme will be the following: who is entitled to deliberately “protect” and “promote” a certain aspect of culture—in other words, to whom does culture belong? Students are expected to keep this theme in mind, and develop their own questions around it. At the same time, the entire course will serve as a preparatory process for writing a short paper. Students will thoroughly practice methods for constructing appropriately-structured and outstanding short papers.

Intended for Juniors and Seniors

Seminar on Cultural Policy

Intended for Master’s Students

Practice in Cultural Policy Studies

This seminar is for students aspiring to specialize in cultural policy studies, broadly conceived. We will read and discuss basic literature related to Japan’s culture-related struggles from the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century (the bakumatsu to Meiji period). By doing so, students will deepen their understandings regarding the formation of modern Japanese society from a cultural perspective, as well as the origins of cultural policy’s present-day issues.

At the same time, by having students read texts and engage in discussions, the course also aims to cultivate, in accordance with their interests, the ability to conceive research projects from both historical and practice-oriented perspectives. Based on the knowledge acquired in class, students will work on seminar papers due at the end of each semester. To do so, they will come up with a paper topic, collect materials, and engage in analysis.

Depending on students’ research stages, the above process may also incorporate guidance regarding graduation or master’s theses.

Intended for Graduate Students

Studies on Cultural Policy

Through the reading of texts, visits to sites of cultural policy practice, and other opportunities, this course examines important issues in the past and present regarding the wide-ranging sphere of cultural policy (including cultural diplomacy). It aims to through discussions unflaggingly innovate in cultural policy studies and deepen its research methods.

Course details, including texts read, will be decided in consultation with participants. In addition to reading texts, the course may also include jointly analyzing various materials and engaging in field surveys.

The course is planned to be carried out in coordination with Professor Sano’s New Cultural Policy Project, whose members include individuals from both inside and outside of Kyoto University. There are plans to provide participants with many opportunities to learn from this project.


  • The course “Advanced Studies: Cultural Policy” provides discussion opportunities for all students—including both undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of major—who are working to excavate a wide range of society’s aspects. It aims to have them hone their awareness of culture as the foundation of these aspects, as well as become able to realize hidden issues therein.
  • I also teach “Japan’s Early Diplomacy During the Last Decade of the Tokugawa Shogunate,” a bakumatsu period diplomatic history course (English-language Course “Research 1–3: Seminar (SEG) (Lecture)”), in the Graduate School of Letters’ Joint Degree Master of Arts Program in Transcultural Studies. Students are welcome to take the course as “Advanced Reading in Lifelong Education and Cultural Information” (Graduate School of Education students) or “Reading in Interdisciplinary Studies of Education System” (Faculty of Education students).