April 2021 Message from the Executive Director

As we pass the one-year anniversary of the first pandemic lockdown here in the UK and look forward to the gradual easing of restrictions, we can at least enjoy the beautiful show of cherry and other blossoms, surely one of the most evocative symbols of the coming spring and summer – even if we cannot get to Japan this year to enjoy hanami (花見 or ‘blossom viewing’) with friends there. Enjoying the abundance of images of said blossom on social media is some compensation.

As we are ever-more increasingly aware, social media is a very powerful tool, one that at the Sainsbury Institute we are keen to use in many ways to further promote our aim of facilitating and undertaking world class research into all aspects of Japanese arts and cultures, in pursuit of enhancing intercultural understanding and respect. We are all also aware of the role that social media can play in our instantly connected world to heighten tensions in these turbulent times, sometimes sadly fostering discrimination and harassment. The Sainsbury Institute stands firm against all forms of discrimination and is developing a research agenda designed to contribute to its eradication.

I ‘attended’ the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies in late March – the largest gathering of academics working in Asia. The plenary session was on Race and Racisms in Asia / Asian Studies and built on a statement by the Directors of the Association in June 2020. This important session is freely accessible once you have created a free online account and I would strongly recommend it. Here in the UK, Professor David Richardson, Chair of the Institute’s Management Board and Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, and Chair of the Universities UK Advisory Group on tackling racial discrimination in higher education published a report and recommendations which we all need to heed and implement.

In this month’s e-bulletin we are pleased to present a short report by our latest Handa Jomon Archaeology Fellow, Professor Junzo Uchiyama, now back in Japan following an extended tenure with us in Norwich thanks to the generosity of our partners the International Jomon Culture Conference. Junzo is working on a new research project, investigating the devastating consequences of the Kikai-Akahoya mega-eruption in southern Kyushu some 7300 years ago – curiously (and presumably unrelatedly) the same time as the ‘Storegga slide tsunami’ which submerged large parts of what is now known as Doggerland beneath the North Sea, contributing to cutting the British Isles off from the European continental mainland. We look forward to seeing how Junzo’s research develops further. We also have a report from Ellis Tinios on our March Third Thursday online event introducing the remarkable collection of illustrated Japanese books collected by renowned photographer Arthur Tress.

For this month’s Third Thursday online event we are delighted to partner with the GroundWork Gallery in Kings Lynn, over in the western part of our beautiful county of Norfolk, which hosts a special exhibition on the theme of Japan Water from April to July, as well as welcoming back our Toshiba Lecturer Dr Christine Guth to reflect on rice paddy art. We hope you will join us for what promises to be a fascinating event, celebrating April and the start of the rice cultivation season in Japan.

Stay well.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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