Report from Ms. Kamiya Yuko, Keio University Media Center

I spent a most enjoyable time at the Lisa Sainsbury Library as part of an overseas secondment for four months from 5th September to the end of December 2023. This opportunity was part of a programme which began in 2012 between the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and the Keio University Media Center (Library), through which one librarian from Keio University is seconded to the UK each year. I am the ninth person to participate in this programme. Due to the pandemic, this programme was put on hold for four years, and so I was the first Keio visiting librarian following the COVID-19 outbreak. During my secondment, I was based at the Lisa Sainsbury Library in Norwich, where I assisted with the activities of the library and visited various Japanese studies research libraries in the UK and other European countries. In the past, Keio librarians were given the opportunity to visit numerous libraries during the programme and I was able to visit eleven institutions during my time in the UK, including the SOAS Library, SOAS University of London, as well as libraries in Europe such as KU Leuven and UC Leuven in Belgium and the Berlin State Library in Germany. I also had the opportunity to assist at the British Library for nearly two weeks, and participated in a conference of the EAJRS (European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists) and a meeting of the JLG (Japan Library Group).

During my four-month stay , I encountered many researchers from various fields related to Japanese studies. I also had the chance to meet librarians from Europe and the North America involved in Japanese studies and to engage in various discussions with them. As many of you may be aware, the field of Japanese studies is not always considered a major field from a global perspective. Despite this, the interest in Japanese Studies does not seem to have waned; rather, there are many researchers still actively pursuing studies in this field, although this  was not always very visible while I was in Japan. This led me to realise that the role of librarians with specialised knowledge in supporting research is far more important than I had initially imagined. Furthermore, I was very encouraged to learn that there are many librarians around the world who are working together to promote Japanese studies and are being proactive in their approach to this. At the same time, seeing the efforts of these individuals, I was prompted to think about what I, as a librarian from Japan, could do for the librarians and the libraries outside of Japan. I hope to build on the connections I have made during this secondment and to begin actively engaging in research support from Japan myself.

The four months at the Institute also provided a time when I could better understand views towards “Japan” from a worldwide perspective. In various places, I heard that Japanese animations and computer games are some of the gateways that lead people to become interested in Japan. As I am Japanese, I am truly grateful for this perception and felt genuinely proud of Japanese culture. As a result, my interest in animation, which I had not been very keen on before, rapidly surged, and I have even recently started watching “One Piece”! Moreover, being at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, which seems ‘a treasure trove of knowledge on Japanese art’ in my humble opinion, gave me the opportunity to engage more with areas of Japanese arts and culture from across the breath of the history of Japan, such as Ukiyo-e and Buddhist sculpture, as well as contemporary culture. The experience of enhancing my understanding and interest in Japan from an outside perspective is a rare opportunity, and one that I feel will enrich my life in the future.

Three months have passed since I returned to Japan, and I find myself greatly missing the days I spent in Norwich. It was my first visit to the UK, but now I even remember the various troubles with UK public transport with fondness! I truly have many irreplaceable memories. All of this was possible thanks to the warm welcome from everyone at the Sainsbury Institute and the people of Norwich. I am grateful for the wonderful four months I spent there and I hope to visit Norwich again someday, this time with my family.

Ms Kamiya Yuko
Technical Service Librarian, Keio University Media Center