Min-On offers a wide range of musical, cultural and educational programs for the general public with the following aims:
- To develop a multifaceted music and cultural movement that is firmly rooted among ordinary people in order to share with an ever-greater audience the pleasure and inspiration that come from enjoying music and the performing arts.
- To deepen mutual understanding and friendship among all countries by promoting music and cultural exchanges that transcend differences of nationality, race and language.
- To contribute to a flourishing of music and art by developing musical programs designed to cultivate the artistic sentiments of children and young people.
Music and the performing arts are for everyone; they are not the exclusive preserve of the privileged or wealthy. When Min-On was founded in the 1960s, the average person in Japan listened to popular music. They were less familiar with classical music and opera, and tickets to such concerts were expensive, which made them inaccessible to a large portion of the population.
One of Min-On's core objectives was to make the finest music and performing arts from around the world readily accessible to ordinary citizens at affordable prices. At the same time, in order to develop a multifaceted music and cultural movement, Min-On stages concerts across the spectrum of musical genres, from classical music performed by superb symphony orchestras to contemporary jazz played by world-renowned musicians; from magnificent operas to independent productions such as Broadway-style musicals; from elegant ballet productions to energetic folk dance performances; from the exotic rhythms of Latin and Tango to the quiet beauty of Japanese performing arts; from traditional choral music to modern popular songs.
Min-On thus aims to share with an ever-greater audience the pleasure and inspiration that come from enjoying music and the performing arts by organizing more than a thousand performances every year covering a broad range of styles and genres.
Music and the performing arts know no boundaries. Although shaped by national and ethnic tastes, they have the power to move the hearts of people the world over. Music and cultural exchanges bring people together, like the string of a lute creating harmonious vibrations in the hearts of all.
Min-On strongly believes that the basis of genuine world peace can be realized only by fostering mutual understanding and friendship among the people of different countries through grassroots exchanges that transcend distinctions of race, nation and ideology. To date, Min-On has initiated exchange programs with a total of 104 countries and regions around the world.
In 1965, soon after its founding, Min-On invited an Israeli pianist to Japan, and in the following year, the Soviet National Academy Novosibirsk Ballet. During its first five years, in addition to Israel and the (then) Soviet Union, Min-On organized cultural exchanges with the United States, France, Belgium and Hong Kong. Later it sponsored Japan tours of world-renowned companies from Europe, such as the Vienna State Opera and the Scala Theater of Milan. It also sent many Japanese musicians and dance troupes overseas.
Amid the cultural exchanges realized during the 1980s and 1990s, Min-On launched several performance series, each with a different theme, including “A Musical Voyage Along the Silk Road,” “A Musical Voyage Along the Marine Road” and “A Musical Voyage Across Africa.” Min-On also established a tradition of Annual Series of exchange concerts with countries including Argentina and China, a tradition that has continued now for more than forty years. The latest series, launched in 2009, is entitled “The Caribbean Musical Cruise,” and introduces the rich variety of musical cultures unique to the Caribbean nations, each of which has its own distinctive ethnic and historical background. In 2011, Jamaica became the 104th country to take part in Min-On's 48-year history of cultural exchange programs.
Min-On was founded as a nonprofit concert association in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, it was legally recognized as an incorporated foundation whose purpose was to contribute outreach programs oriented toward a variety of public service projects. Its aim was to foster “a flourishing of music and art” and cultivate “the artistic sentiments of children and young people.”
Min-On’s first public activity was a series of admission-free town concerts held in public parks in the metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka, Sendai, Sapporo and Nagoya in 1964 and 1965. It sponsored a music master class for young musicians that was held for the first time in January 1965 at the Toranomon Hall and was taught by internationally acclaimed jazz drummer Art Blakely. Min-On also sponsors musical competitions—for vocalists, conductors and contemporary composers, as well as chamber ensembles and choreographers—to encourage the development of new artistic talent. The latest competition was the Tokyo International Music Competition in Conducting held in 2009, with 117 young talented contestants from 33 countries and regions.
Public service projects continue to include school concerts, free concerts, various music-related workshops and symposia, as well as children’s theater and music master classes. The Foreign Students Music Festival in Kyoto is another example of Min-On's efforts to strengthen bonds between people through music. The Min-On Culture Center in Tokyo houses the Min-On Music Museum and Music Library, where rare collections of antique harpsichords and classical pianos, various music boxes and gramophones, as well as a variety of ethnic instruments are displayed. A large collection of vinyl records, CDs and DVDs, musical scores and reference books are freely available to the public. Entrance to the museum is free of charge as a part of its public service activities.