August 2021 Message from the Executive Director

Bonfire in the Shape of the Letter “Great” on Nyoigatake Mountain (Nyoigatake Daimonji), from the series Famous Places in the Capital (Miyako meisho no uchi), c. 1870-71, Hasegawa Sadanobu I (1809–1879), Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University (arcUP2565).

As you receive this, Japan will be gradually returning from the obon お盆 holiday, the kanji characters burnt on the mountainsides around Kyoto smouldering after guiding the spirits of the deceased back to the other world, in the gozan no okuribi 五山送り or daimonji 大文字 festival.

Conditions permitting, we are currently planning to resume our Third Thursday lectures in the Norwich Cathedral Hostry from September. Building on our experiences bringing you the best of research in Japanese arts and cultures online during the pandemic, the new series of lectures will be hybrid in format, allowing our audiences around the world to take part along with those of you who can join us at the Hostry. More on this in the next e-bulletin. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore the extensive catalogue of Beyond Japan podcasts, hosted by Oliver Moxham.

This summer has seen an explosion of Japan-related events at the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia. On the mezzanine is the first UK exhibition by Leiko Ikemura: Usagi in Wonderland, for which we were delighted to host a hybrid Private View last month. We were joined by some very special guests for this unique occasion, footage from which is available here. With this issue we publish a special interview with this exceptional artist, in conversation with our own Ryoko Matsuba. I very much hope you will be able to see the exhibition for yourself. A new book based on the show is at the presses and will be available from mid-September.

In the East End Gallery, there are currently two displays free to see until October: Framing Nature, highlighting the photographic works of Nobuyoshi Araki and Hiroshi Sugimoto as written about by Assistant Curator Vanessa Tothill here; and our Faces of Faith display, exploring the dawn of Buddhism in Japan through the life of Prince Shōtoku Taishi.

The Leiko Ikemura Private View was on the same day as the finale for our 2nd Online Summer Programme in Japanese Cultural Studies, which concluded with an exhilarating selection of pecha-kucha style video presentations by some of the over 300 registrants from some 50 countries. We will have a more detailed report and feedback from those involved in the next issue. Here I would like to thank the Ishibashi Foundation and the Toshiba International Foundation for their generous support for these programmes, and our wonderful course convenor this year, Dr Chris Hayes, who is now preparing to head to Japan to take up a Japan Foundation Fellowship at Ritsumeikan University.

Further congratulations are due to other members of our Japan studies community in Norwich, with successes with Japan Foundation Fellowships, the JET English Teaching Programme and the Japanese Government (Mombusho) Scholarship, and new awards of Sasakawa Postgraduate Studentships at UEA for the new academic year. And in this issue we are delighted to celebrate two new Fellows of the British Academy: Tim Clark (former Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow) and Adrian Favell (our Professorial Academic Associate).

Following on from our Jomon July, we also have a report by our MA student Natsue Hayward reflecting on the Institute’s Jōmon connections, as we prepare the next instalments of our Online Jōmon Matsuri. The spectacular Jōmon collection at the Sainsbury Centre has also featured in a UEA Spotlight feature piece highlighting all things Japanese on campus brought about by collaboration between the university, the Sainsbury Institute and the Centre for Japanese Studies.

For people looking to experience a bit more of Japan from a distance this summer, the Japan Cultural Expo has just launched ‘Japan Cultural Expo Virtual Platform’. This platform introduces selected Japan Cultural Expo programmes through images, VR and movies, all of which can be accessed in both English and Japanese. The platform is an evolutionary process and will continue to have new content added and released for the regular visitor. We are grateful to our colleague in Tokyo, Hiromi Uchida, for bringing this to our attention.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer vacation, and look forward to welcoming you back to our new season of in-person and online events starting next month.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director, Sainsbury Institute

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