August 2020 Message from the Executive Director

Waterfall River at Ôji (Ôji Takinogawa), from the series Famous Places in the Eastern Capital (Tôto meisho) by Utagawa Hiroshige I (1797-1858), c. 1839-42Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Robert H. Patterson, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Collection (1941-31-185)

August is the month of remembrance in Japan. The o-bon お盆 holiday is traditionally a time to return to one’s furusato 故郷, home place, and attend to the family graves. All this usually leads to an immense burden on transport infrastructure, with trains, planes and roads all full to overflowing. This year, of course, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is very different. The shinkansen are running as normal – but with many empty seats, unheard of at this time of year. This summer also marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and the dropping of the atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On several occasions over the past few years I have been able to enjoy the massive firework displays that illuminate the Shinano River in Nagaoka. As well as including the largest fireworks known in Japan, these are known locally as the ‘unhappy fireworks’, marking as they do the destruction of the city during the incendiary bombing campaign of over 100 Japanese cities that preceded the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We join with all those commemorating these terrible events in praying for peace around the world.

Sir Hugh and Lady Elizabeth Cortazzi at their home

We are using this month’s e-bulletin, in accordance with the Japanese tradition of sankaiki 三回忌 (2nd anniversary of a death), to remember Sir Hugh Cortazzi GCMG, former British Ambassador to Japan, and indefatigable champion of the study of Japanese in the UK, who died in August 2018. Sir Hugh was a tremendous friend and supporter of the Sainsbury Institute, and the collections of the Lisa Sainsbury Library, not limited to books but including early maps of Japan, ceramics and other Japanalia, were greatly enriched by the generous gifts from Sir Hugh and Lady Elizabeth Cortazzi. We are delighted to be able to bring you memories of Sir Hugh from our Founding and Research Director Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, Professor Peter Kornicki, Dr Michael Loewe and Dr Antony Best.

For the past few years each summer we have welcomed students and early career specialists to Norwich to study Japan on our Japan Orientation Summer School and Ishibashi Foundation Summer Fellowships, generously sponsored by the Toshiba International Foundation and the Ishibashi Foundation respectively. Due to the pandemic, our logistical partners, the International Programmes Office at the University of East Anglia, decided against running the programmes in Norwich this year, and so we went online instead with our first Online Summer Programme in Japanese Cultural Studies. The advantage was that rather than just welcoming 35 students to Norwich, we were able to accept all the bona fide applicants, who numbered over 360 from all around the world, from Uruguay to Iran, Delhi to New Zealand, Norfolk to Tokyo. We are very grateful to our Norwich team who so effectively mastered the digital complexities involved (Christopher Hayes, Ryoko Matsuba, Oliver Moxham and Oscar Wrenn) and delivered a quite remarkable programme that demonstrated the continuing strength of interest in Japanese Studies around the world, despite all the ongoing global insecurities.

The Sainsbury Institute takes a well-earned break in August, and we look forward to reconnecting with you in September for a new season of activities. We hope you enjoy the rest of the summer, and that you stay safe and well.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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