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Founded in 1880 as the Kyoto Prefectural School of Painting, the first public painting specialist school in Japan, Kyoto City University of Arts is the oldest art university in Japan. With a history of over 130 years, and with the rich beauty of the cultural capital Kyoto as its background, the art and music school has contributed to the the Japanese and international art and industrial worlds by producing great numbers of highly talented individuals.

In 1883, the founding principle of the Kyoto Prefectural School of Painting was “to add to culture as is beneficial for the public good in order to correct the foundations of the industrial arts and the expansion of the arts in general”. As can be felt in this founding motivation, the basic principle of the school remains until this day to contribute to society and culture through creative spirit and skill.

In 1889, the control of the Kyoto Prefectural School of Painting was transferred to the city and it became known first as the Kyoto City Technical School of Painting, then the Kyoto City Technical School of Art, and finally, in 1950, as the Kyoto City University of Arts. Around the same time, in 1952, the first public university of music, Kyoto City Junior College of Music was established. The school was founded in answer to “the fevered musical condition of the citizens of Kyoto, and to produce musicians and people of culture that are suitable for such an international city of culture”.

The master’s courses in the Graduate School of Arts and the Graduate School of Music were established in 1980 and 1986, respectively, and in 1999 the Department of General Science of Art was formed in the Faculty of Fine Art, followed by the Department of Musicology in the Faculty of Music in 2002. Additionally, in 2000, the Graduate School of Arts – Doctoral Course was established and the Department of Conservation was added to the master’s course. The Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music was opened in 2000 as a research institution suitable for the historic cultural city of Kyoto, and, in 2003, the Graduate School of Music – Doctoral Course was created.

In order to return the educational opportunities of exhibitions and concerts back to the people of Kyoto, and to support lifelong study, Kyoto City University of Art’s Gallery @KCUA was opened on Horikawa-oike in 2010. Also, in order to realise the further development of Kyoto as a symbol of the cultural arts, and to enhance education and research, the management of the school was transferred to the Public University Corporation, allowing for more autonomous control of general managerial decisions.

In this way, the university has established itself as a comprehensive and advanced art research and educational institution that is committed to the further development of free and creative spirit and takes a responsibility for forming the future generations of civilized international society, discoveries and contributions to research, education and the diverse values of art.