Throughout his life, Shojiro Ishibashi devoted himself to the development of Kurume City in Fukuoka Prefecture, which was both his hometown and the birthplace of Bridgestone. The achievements of the Ishibashi Cultural Center are testimony to Shojiro's commitment to the cultural advancement of the regional community.
In 1945, Kurume was the target of an air raid that destroyed two-thirds of the city, as a result of which many of the residents were forced to live in temporary shelters. Shojiro later wrote of Kurume in the period directly after the war, "Having a thriving business on its own was nothing but an unhealthy diversion, and I was truly alarmed when I thought of the effect on the minds of young people."
During his travels through Europe and North America in 1953, Shojiro was deeply impressed by Western culture, and on his return he resolved to build a cultural center to promote the cultural advancement of Kurume.
These plans came to fruition as part of the commemorative project to mark the 25th anniversary of foundation of the Bridgestone Tire Co., Ltd., when the Ishibashi Cultural Center was donated to the city. The original 30,000-square-meter premises housed an art museum (the Ishibashi Museum of Art), a gymnasium, a 50-meter swimming pool, a cultural auditorium (temporary), an outdoor music hall, and gardens, and were opened to the public in April 1956.
At the main entrance to the Ishibashi Cultural Center is a monument inscribed with the following words in Shojiro's own handwriting: "For the welfare and happiness of all mankind." During his address at the official opening, Shojiro said, "Needless to say man is not born merely to live an empty life. Improvement in environment and comforts is essential. This can be achieved by cultural development." It was his firm belief that the cultural advancement of the local residents more than anything would lead to a better society and contribute to the development of the region.
The Ishibashi Cultural Center continued to expand in the years that followed, with the opening of a cultural hall and cultural auditorium (1963), the construction of a Japanese garden (1970-72), and the opening of the Ishibashi Museum of Art, Asian Gallery (1996), and with premises of around 60,000 square meters, it currently serves as the main center for local culture in Kurume.
The nucleus of the Ishibashi Cultural Center is the Ishibashi Museum of Art. It exhibited artwork by leading modern Japanese Western-style painters who were originally from Kurume or other parts of Kyushu, such as Shigeru Aoki, Hanjiro Sakamoto, and Takeji Fujishima. It has been handed over in October 2016 to Kurume City with the arrival of the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Ishibashi Cultural Center, and has reopened with a new name "Kurume City Art Museum."