April 2023 Message from the Acting Director

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer visited the Centre Pompidou, Paris, with early career researchers participating in the Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures Project.

Last week in the UK, the clocks went forward an hour hailing the beginning of British Summer Time (BST) and lighter evenings. While the weather remains somewhat overcast here in Norwich, we are hoping for sunnier days as we head closer to the summertime.

At the end of March, we bid a very fond farewell to our academic visitor, Professor Tetsuei Tsuda, who has been undertaking research at the Sainsbury Institute over the past year. Tsuda-sensei is a Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, and specialises in medieval Buddhist art. He has been an important part of the institute over the last year, having given kuzushiji workshops, written lecture reports, and taken part in the weekly staff meetings at the institute while also lending his expertise to various projects across the Sainsbury Institute, Sainsbury Centre and other institutions within the UK. I would like to wish Tsuda-sensei every success in his future research and am grateful for all he has done during his time with us.

Professor Tetsuei Tsuda enjoyed a cream tea with colleagues on his last day at the institute.

The institute has also been hosting another visiting scholar, Dr Ayelet Zohar (Tel Aviv University) who will be with us until the end of Spring this year. It was announced last week that Ayelet will be taking up the position of President of the Japan Art History Forum (JAHF), a central organization for the field which brings together scholars of Japanese art history worldwide. Many congratulations to Dr Zohar on this appointment! Dr Zohar’s main research focuses on Japanese photography from the Meiji era to contemporary works, and you can read her article on ‘Jews in Japan during the Asia Pacific War (1941)’ from a previous edition of the ebulletin here. We are also delighted that Dr Zohar will be giving our April Third Thursday Lecture on the topic of Mao Ishikawa, one of Okinawa’s leading photographers, and her recent project The Great Photographic Scroll of the Ryūkyū. I’d also like to thank one of our eagle-eyed readers for spotting a slight error in our last e-bulletin, and correctly pointing out that our 250th lecture will in fact be this month, so we look forward to many of you joining us for that online on 20th April.

For me, the last few weeks have been filled with preparations for the next stage of our Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures project. As part of this, I organised an archiving workshop in Paris, and together with a small group of early career researchers we surveyed the archival collections at the Bibliothèque Kandinsky at Centre Pompidou, archival collections at Musée Cernushi, and visited colleagues at INALCO (Institut National de Langues et Civilsations Orientales). Our focus was on records of major exhibitions and artistic exchange within postwar Japanese art, and we were able to identify very interesting materials related to Japanese abstract painters based in Paris, the global movement of avant-garde calligraphy in the postwar years, major photography collections, and more. We are planning a similar trip to Amsterdam in June, and will be reporting our findings in a workshop to take place at the Sainsbury Institute in July.

 This e-bulletin will also take a look at some of the exciting activities undertaken by students of our MA Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies from their perspective. The course, established in 2020, takes a multidisciplinary approach to Japanese studies, and prides itself on providing students with hands-on, practical experience in the world of research. Current student Liam Head provides a report on the digitisation of over 1,200 tsuba, or sword guards, currently in the collection at the British Museum. Hanging scrolls in the museum were also digitised during this project, and a report of this has been given by current student Nanaka Kishi and SOAS student Xinyao Lu. Introducing students to research and digitisation techniques reinforces the core research theme of Digital Japan that the institute is undertaking, and it is encouraging to see the next generation of researchers beginning their journey into Japanese Studies.

March was another busy month of lectures and talks. Dr Mary Redfern of the Chester Beatty Library gave a fascinating talk on a surimono series by Yashima Gakutei, where the carefully selected motifs and characters in the series articulated the identities of the poetry circles that commissioned them. You can read a report of the talk in this edition of the e-bulletin. We also welcomed back former Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow Robert Hellyer to Norwich who gave a talk as part of the Centre for Japanese Studies Research Seminar series on his latest book Green with Milk and sugar: When Japan Filled America’s Tea Cups – you can view a recording of the lecture here. Prof Garren Mulloy from Daito Bunka University also delivered a talk as part of the series on his latest book Defenders of Japan: The Post-Imperial Armed Forces, 1946-2016-A History. UEA hosted the British Academy conference ‘Measuring Heritage Loss and Damage from Climate Change for Effective Policy Reporting’ at the end of March, where Dr Andy Hutcheson, Research Fellow at the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage here at the Sainsbury Institute, gave a talk on archaeological losses through climate change.

I would like to wish our readers a very happy Easter, and hope our friends and colleagues in Japan are enjoying the height of the cherry blossom season.

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Acting Director

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