The Akira Kurosawa Memorial Museum Memorial

Some may recall that an Akira Kurosawa Memorial Museum was being planned for the city of Imari in Saga Prefecture. Kurosawa himself had picked the location after visiting it during the production of Ran.

Well, the last straw has fallen and the Museum plan has gone kaput. The news services report that the city has demanded return of the money it paid to the Akira Kurosawa Foundation--the foundation in charge of creating the museum which is run by Kurosawa Hisao, Akira's son--for the initial rights to host the museum and use Kurosawa's memorabilia.

This is the result of many months of problems with the Foundation, which has been accused of serious mishandling of money. The Foundation had been collecting donations to build the Museum, which was estimated to cost about 1.4 billion yen. It submitted some reports saying it had collected about 380 million yen, but when forced to submit official accounting it then became apparent it only had about 1.4 million yen in cash on hand: whatever money had been donated had been diverted into running a prefab "satellite studio" in Imari or to other purposes, but that had not been properly reported to the city or the prefecture. Other problems soon came to light: the Foundation had, contrary to law, not held a meeting of its board of directors for 5 years, and thus had not created proper yearly accounting statements; the Foundation publicized that Spielberg, Lukas and Scorsese were official members of the board when they only agreed to be honorary members; etc. There are some related articles in Japanese here and here and here.

In May, the Foundation announced that it was impossible to build the Museum as planned and suggested using the satellite studio as an alternative. The city, having by this time lost all trust in the Foundation, essentially rejected the suggestion and, by asking for the money back, is now basically washing its hands of the whole affair. 

Some may remember back in May 2006 that a plan to start a Kurosawa Film School in Japan was abruptly scrapped when some less-than-kosher money issues surfaced. One wonders if this is not endemic to Kurosawa-related projects. 

This year, by the way, is the centennial of Kurosawa's birth. This is not the best way to celebrate it.

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