December 2020 Message from the Executive Director

December is the season of the bônenkai 忘年会 in Japan – a party for seeing out the old year, albeit for so many of us this year festive get-togethers will be in a reduced form, inevitably reliant on the technology of the screen to reunite us. With Covid-19 infections on the rise again across Japan, many of us will not be too sorry to see 2020 depart, and look forward with new hope to 2021 with its promises of vaccines, life returning to normality, and the ability to once again spend time with friends and family in person, unfettered by pandemic restrictions.

Our December Third Thursday Lecture will set this extraordinary year in a longer term-perspective, looking back and to the future, as we are joined by one of our most distinguished and astute Japan-watchers, Bill Emmott, Chairman of the Japan Society and former Editor of The Economist. Bill writes that he has long been ‘fascinated by a sort of psychological contradiction in the way that Japanese society, culture, politics and economy at times feel quite straightforward to understand and explain, especially by using comparative international thinking, but then at times a cloud seems to descend and the explicable can become enigmatic, even inexplicable’. His most recent book is Japan’s Far More Female Future (Oxford University Press, 2020). Please join us for what promises to be a great way to wrap up our 2020 Third Thursdays.

A week before that, on 10 December, the Chair of the Management Board of the Sainsbury Institute and Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, Professor David Richardson, will be taking part in a webinar organised by the Japan Society on The Future of Higher Education in the UK and Japan, along with the President of Tsuda University in Tokyo, Dr Takahashi Yuko. Tsuda University, one of the oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions for women in Japan, was established in 1900 by Tsuda Umeko (1864 –1929), pioneer of women’s education in Japan, who was one of five women on the renowned Iwakura Mission of 1871 which did so much to introduce Japan to the rest of the world, and who be the face of the new 5000 yen banknote from 2024. Dr Takahashi and Professor Richardson share a passion for ensuring that university prepares students for global citizenship. And, with Dr Takahashi being a specialist in American Studies (one of the University of East Anglia’s great strengths) and both being proponents of judicious and ambitious planning (both universities have a 2030 Vision), this should be a fascinating encounter.

 This month we celebrate the publication of a major new book Bokujinkai: Japanese calligraphy and the Japanese avant-garde, revealing the group which brought about the rebirth of calligraphy as contemporary art. Our Lecturer in Japanese Arts, Cultures and Heritage, Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer has been studying this fascinating group for a decade and her book is the culmination of this in-depth engagement.

We are also delighted to mark the publication of the 1st Sainsbury Institute Online Occasional Paper, with a selection of treats from Toshio Watanabe, our Professor of Japanese Arts and Cultural Heritage. The articles included give a flavour of Professor Watanabe’s tremendous contribution to the field of Japanese art studies, as well as offering us the opportunity to congratulate him on his 75th birthday this summer. This is freely available via the Sainsbury Institute website

And Dr Mary Redfern of the Chester Beatty in Dublin looks back at our November Third Thursday on the stunning Kôgei 2020 exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum.

With this issue of our e-bulletin we also launch our refreshed website. We hope you enjoy the new look, and as ever, we welcome comments and feedback. Wishing you, on behalf of everyone at the Sainsbury Institute, very Merry Christmas.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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