Bad timing, some might say, to have a Japanese Cultural Festival at the time that Japan is the target of such nationalistic aggression in Hong Kong. But if Boy's Own games on barren rocks cannot put this dreadful jingoism in perspective, perhaps a sharing of culture can provide a more warming context. The festival - which runs throughout this month - includes performances of Kabuki and Bhutto at the Festival of Asian Arts starting next week, as well as demonstrations of martial arts, and a film festival at the Arts Centre of works by controversial film maker Nagisa Oshima. The visual arts highlight is a show of watercolours and ink by one of Japan's foremost contemporary artists, Ikuo Hirayama. Hirayama's works arise from his ordeal as a teenager during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and his discovery of Buddhism in his spiritual search for inner and outer peace. To paraphrase a slogan, all people who are proud of their respective nations should see the show; if only to remind us what danger there is in hatred. The exhibition can be seen today at The Rotunda, on the third floor of Exchange Square. From tomorrow, until October 19, it moves to the HK Institute for the Promotion of Chinese Culture at the Macau Ferry Terminal. 'Sunny' Sales kicked off the new season of the Hong Kong Philharmonic - of which he is head of the board of governors - with a weak and patronising attempt at humour. As he took the stage, invited by the quaintly-named ladies committee, he spoke of how he had always admired the 'chairladies . . . or chairpersons . . . No, I'll say chairmen. I prefer that term,' of that all-female fundraising group. Shame, Mr Sales, to try for such cheap laughs on such an occasion. As Hong Kong's premier (or at least its most expensive) performance group, our Phil needs a sleek, modern image as it moves into the uncertain decades ahead. The last thing it needs is to be seen as an old fashioned, chauvinistic relic of colonialism. So, this week the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has broken the tradition of 150 years, and started charging compulsory admission. What on earth for? The official answer is GBP2 million (about HK$24 million) a year. Which might be a lot for a privately-run arts group desperate for pennies. But not if it is a nation's premier collection of fascinating odds and ends, set up so that the public can enjoy a shared cultural heritage without paying extra for the pleasure. And not if, at the same time, it has unveiled a package to spend more than 20 times that (GBP42 million) on a hideous extension in the middle of the courtyard. The good news might be that the Hong Kong Museum of Art - that big echoing building in Tsim Sha Tsui with a tacky souvenir shop attached - is considering going the other way. So few people are visiting the museum that there is serious discussion about removing the barriers (and the $10 or $5 on the turnstile and a guard gestures rudely in the direction of the cloakroom) and make the museum free for everyone. An experiment which started last month to make Wednesdays free days is apparently pulling in a few more people, especially schools. But why, if the entrance takings are already so pathetic, don't they make it all free? 'We don't want people coming into the museum if they're not going to look at the art,' said an Urban Council spokesperson. 'They might just come in to enjoy the air conditioning and make use of the toilet facilities. And we wouldn't want that.' God forbid; as taxpayers we certainly would not want anyone to have any small pleasures. This is a Museum after all.