April 2024 message from the Executive Director

April marks the start of the new business year in Japan, and we offer thanks and congratulations to the various friends who have let us know about new jobs, retirements and other changes. Here in Norwich we are just back following an extended Easter break which included the start of British Summer Time, so lighter evenings as we look forward to an action packed spring and summer.

Staff, friends and colleagues gathered for a lunchtime reception at the AAS 2024 conference.

March saw the official start of our Japan in Norwich programme, celebrating 25 years of the Sainsbury Institute. Our launch event was held at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) conference in Seattle, which annually brings together an international array of scholars with specialisms across Asian studies. On Friday 15th March, the first full day of the conference, we invited our network of past Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellows, friends and colleagues to a lunch close to the venue. The Institute was represented by Dr Ryoko Matsuba and Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer, both of whom gave papers at the conference, and Professor Toshio Watanabe. We were also joined by Centre for Japanese Studies members Dr Sherzod Muminov and Dr Eriko Tomizawa-Kay, currently on study leave at the University of Michigan. This was an important opportunity to bring together part of the academic network of the Institute, one of our unique strengths with many of our Fellows occupying positions at prestigious institutions across the world. The exchange of ideas and discussions over some delicious Italian food served to highlight just how dynamic the field of Japanese arts and cultures continues to be, and I am very grateful to all those who made the time to join us, and in particular to Olivia Butler whose superb arrangements ensured the lunch was such a success. Congratulations to all those who gave papers at the conference which remains an important event in the Asian studies calendar.

Institute staff gathered for a tea to welcome Professors Fukuda and Negishi to Norwich, as well as welcoming Office Assistant Laura Hollinghurst and thanking previous assistant Jonny Kaner for his hard work while at 64 The Close.

Back closer to home, we were delighted to welcome to Norwich Professor Fujita Haruhiro (Niigata University of International and Information Studies) who is currently working on the NUIS Archaeological Deep Learning Projects alongside friend and collaborator of the Institute, Miyao Toru. During his time here, Fujita-sensei gave an impressive presentation on the application of AI and Deep Learning in archaeological contexts, from typological analysis of pottery sherds, to the reconstruction of Jomon pots from excavated fragments, and recreating the textures and colours of the Oyu stone circles as they would have appeared at the time they were erected. We are very grateful to Fujita-sensei for sharing details of his projects with us and are in the process of investigating how we might be able to use this technology within our projects here at the Sainsbury Institute. We also welcomed Professors Fukuda Masahiro and Negishi Yo from the University of Tokyo. The Institute recently signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo, and has previously undertaken several Summer and Winter Programmes which saw the exchange of students from Japan and the UK to explore the archaeology and heritage of each country. We are looking forward to working more closely with Professors Fukuda and Negishi and their colleagues, and enjoyed introducing them to some of the heritage sites in Norfolk and Wiltshire while they were with us.

This month, we also hosted a special hybrid edition of our Third Thursday Lecture series from our headquarters at 64 The Close. Given by current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow Dr Rosanna Rios Perez, the talk focused on the works of Serizawa Keisuke (1895~1984), renowned Japanese textile artist and active member of the Mingei movement. Serizawa employed the katazome technique to his illustrated versions of the famous novel Don Quijote de la Mancha, which created a vibrant and visually striking style as evidenced by the wonderfully illustrated presentation. Rosanna is also a practicing artist and gave a katazome workshop at the Norwich University of the Arts earlier this month, which came through in her expert navigating of some of the technical questions raised during the Q&A. You can read a report of the talk by Alessandro Bianchi (University of Cambridge Libraries) here, and a recording of the talk is also available on our YouTube channel. Our other Fellow for this year, Dr Ji Hye Han, also hosted a very successful two-day workshop examining identity in the postwar photography of Japan and Korea. This online workshop brought together experts from the field from all over the world for a series of papers and discussions with an impressive programme – as evidenced by the lively discussion and Q&A throughout the event. My sincere congratulations to both Rosanna and Ji Hye for two excellent events which serve to demonstrate how important our Fellowship programme is in contributing to the field. Be sure to also register for Ji Hye’s talk for our upcoming April Third Thursday Lecture on the topic of Kuwabara Shisei: Documenting the US Military Base in Cold War Korea – more details available here.

In this issue, we announce further details of our Japan in Norwich programme, featuring exhibitions across Norwich and Norfolk. From displaying a 16.5m replica scroll from the medieval temple of Hasedera right in the centre of Norwich, to the works of Hokusai from Obuse in Japan and tea ceremonies: these events will showcase the breadth of activities and research that the Institute undertakes and I very much hope many of you will be able to join us.

Best wishes,
Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director