February 2021 Message from the Executive Director

As I write, much of East Anglia is blanketed in snow, courtesy of Storm Darcy. From the depths of this gloomiest of winters we are warmed by the news of the rollout of vaccines which, along with the rest of the world, we hope heralds at last the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic.

The Sainsbury Institute continues to busy itself with research, and increasingly with teaching, albeit online and from home, looking forward of course to the day when we can re-engage in person with our friends, research partners and students in Japan, the UK and so many other places. The team continues to keep in regular touch through our weekly staff meetings – which these days see colleagues from Japan, Russia and the US all beaming (or rather Teaming or Zooming) in to join those of us waiting out the pandemic in East Anglia.

 This month our e-bulletin has a story from our former Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Dr Kitaura Hiroyuki, now at Kaichi International University in Kyoto. Hiroyuki gave a memorable Third Thursday Lecture while with us, and wrote a series of articles for the Kyoto Shimbun introducing our own ‘little Kyoto’ in Norwich. He writes about the pandemic phenomenon Demon Slayer: kimetsu no yaiba 鬼滅の刃, which — despite its graphic depictions of the dispatching of a variety of ghouls and monsters that comprise the category of oni 鬼, and aided by some very canny marketing including, no less, demon inspired sushi assortments — has been an extraordinary success for film distributor Toho.

 Our colleague at the Sainsbury Centre, Dr Vanessa Tothill, offers an insightful review of our January Third Thursday Lecture by our very own Dr Matsuba Ryoko. We hope you find these extended reviews of these talks of interest, and that they offer a flavour of the event for those who were unable to join us, as well as consolidating what we learned for those who were. We have explored the option of recording the lectures and making them available online after the event, but given the challenges of copyright, in particular concerning images, and our desire to bring you the latest thinking, often not yet published in full by our speakers, we feel that these potted reviews are a better alternative. These talks are now attracting a global audience and we will be thinking carefully about how to incorporate lessons learned through moving online once we can again offer the lectures in person.

This month’s Third Thursday online ‘event’ looks forward to the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Disaster by looking back at the legacy of initiatives around the rescue of cultural properties and their role in the recovery. In researching this, I found myself listening to the BBC World Service from 27 October 2011, recorded the morning after the event we co-organised with the Embassy of Japan, during which the awful reality of the situation was brought home to us by my much-missed late friend and mentor Professor Matsui Akira of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (first item). I hope you can join us on 18th as we survey the situation a decade on, and am delighted that this will include an introduction to the new centre for the mitigation of disaster risk to cultural properties at that same organisation.

Stay safe and well,

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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