February 2023 Message from the Acting Director

Attendees of the UK-Japan 21st Century conference browsed some of the Lisa Sainsbury Library’s special collections, which were arranged to display the development of UK-Japan diplomatic relations.

January was a busy start to the new year for the Sainsbury Institute.

Between Friday 13th to Sunday 15th January, we were delighted to help host the 39th annual conference of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group in Norwich. The group aims to promote dialogue and cooperation between UK and Japan, and is formed of members including parliamentarians, business leaders and representatives from the media, think tanks and academia. The conference itself was held across three days on UEA campus in the SportsPark, and sessions spanned global politics, economics, security, and the effects of the pandemic on the world stage. We then welcomed delegates to the Sainsbury Institute for a welcome reception on Friday evening, joined by the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of Norwich, along with other representatives from the Norwich Civic Office, as well as staff from across the Sainsbury Institute, the Centre for Japanese Studies and UEA. With carefully crafted displays in our Lisa Sainsbury Library tracing the development of UK-Japan relations, publications and projects of staff laid out for delegates to browse, and plenty of opportunity for exchanging greetings between staff and attendees (with the help of some sake), the evening was an excellent opportunity to introduce delegates to the work of the Sainsbury Institute, and to reflect on our own achievements and projects over the years. We are very grateful to all at the UK-Japan 21st Century Group for choosing to hold their conference in Norwich, and for taking the time to visit 64 The Close during their stay.

Professor Simon Kaner, on a brief hiatus from his current study leave, addressed attendees of the conference at the institute, accompanied by the Lord Mayor (Dr Kevin Maguire), Sheriff (Caroline Jarrold), Leader of the City Council (Cllr Alan Waters) and their consort.

We were also pleased to welcome two new scholars to the institute last month. Firstly, we welcomed Dr Alison J Miller as our second Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow for this year. Alison joins us from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee (USA) and specialises in woodblock prints of the early Meiji era. Her time in Norwich will be focussed around a new project on industry and infrastructure in woodblock prints of the 1870s and 1880s. We were also joined this month by Dr Ayelet Zohar, from Tel Aviv University, a researcher of modern and contemporary Japanese art, specialising in post-Shōwa photography and video art. You can register to attend Ayelet’s upcoming talk – Performative Recollection and Parallax Memory: Perpetrator and Victim War Memory in Contemporary Japanese Video Art – taking place on 8th February here. This issue also contains an article by Ayelet to mark Holocaust Memorial Day – Jews in Japan during the Asia Pacific War (1941) – which is available to read here. We are delighted to have two talented researchers joining us for the next few months, and very much hope they enjoy their stay in our ‘fine city’.

Our Third Thursday Lecture in January was given by Dr Joshua Frydman, author of the recent publication The Japanese Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes and Spirits and Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of Oklahoma. The talk gave a fascinating exploration of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, tracing the ancient origins of the myth through to its use in popular culture. A recording of the talk is available on our YouTube channel, and you can read a report on the talk in this month’s ebulletin. We are very grateful to Dr Frydman for taking the time to take part in our series.

February looks set to be as busy as January, as we bring together the final preparations for the conference Crosscurrents of Courtly Exchange to be held at Windsor Castle between 14-15 February. While in-person attendance is now sold out, online tickets are still available and there will be a related talk held at Japan House London on Wednesday 15th February with Living National Treasure Murose Kazumi, urushi (lacquer) artist, which will also be streamed online. Event details and registration are available on Japan House London’s event page.

We also have several lectures coming up over the course of this month, including our February Third Thursday Lecture which will be given by current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Dr Shilla Lee, discussing Tamba pottery, a tradition with ancient origins, and its role in revitalising local communities today. The Centre for Japan Studies will also recommence its Research Seminar Series, with the first being held at the Sainsbury Institute on the topic of ‘Manga and Handscrolls: Alleged Origins, Overlooked Correlations’ with Professor Jaqueline Berndt – you can register to attend the event via the Japan in Norwich website.

With Setsubun, the Japanese festival celebrating the end of winter and arrival of Spring, having just passed, I hope that all of you enjoy the upcoming change of season and new sights (and warmer weather) it brings.

With very best wishes,

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Acting Director

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