July 2023 Message from the Executive Director

As we enter July I resume my role as Executive Director at the Sainsbury Institute following a tremendously valuable period of study leave. It seems a fitting time of year for this to take place, given that we have just passed this year’s summer solstice, which marks the longest day of the year, the changing of the seasons and symbolises a time of transition in the calendar. I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer, who has done an exemplary job of steering the institute over the last 12 months while continuing to oversee another successful year of our MA Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies programme as well as her own projects. She will now be taking study leave herself over the next few months to focus on her research, and we wish her the very best of luck with her next projects. You can read her message of thanks to our colleagues and supporters below.

Left: Mount Myoko on the Nagano / Niigata border last night. Right: A view across the Shinano River in Tsunan Town, Niigata. The archaeology of this region, famous in particular for its Flame Pots, has been one of the foci of Simon Kaner’s study leave.

I am writing this in view of one of the great sights of central Japan, the volcanic massif of Mount Myoko. I am spending a few days working on one component of our Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures project – exploring how we can use some of the digital tools available to us to bring the history of Japanese archaeology to online audiences.  I am also busy preparing our Third Thursday Lecture this month, where I will be discussing the exhibition Circles of Stone: Stonehenge and Prehistoric Japan, which is now entering its final weeks. It has been a pleasure to see so many visitors engaging with Japanese archaeology, specifically relating to the Jomon period, and making comparisons across sites in both the UK and Japan. The talk will also explore the significance of these monuments in the prehistoric period, particularly in both their astronomical and ceremonial roles, and I hope many of you will be able to join us online for this. This also precedes our upcoming conference arranged in collaboration with English Heritage, Stone Circles across Eurasia – you can find more information on the conference on our website.

Top: English Heritage volunteers and colleagues discussed replicas of comparative artefacts from both Japan and the UK with attendees during the reception on 14th June. Bottom: attendees of the BE-ARCHAEO Summer School in Japanese Archaeology organised by Professor Eliano Diana and colleagues at the University of Turin, where Simon was invited as a keynote speaker.

Also related to the Circles of Stone exhibition, the Embassy of Japan in the UK hosted a reception on 14th June in collaboration with English Heritage to celebrate the exhibition and reflect on its impact on the understanding of Jomon culture outside of Japan. A dedicated team of Stonehenge volunteers provided demonstrations with some replicas of artefacts from the exhibition while attendees had the chance to listen to talks from those involved in the creation of the exhibition – you can read more on the reception here.

Vice Chancellor of UEA, Professor David Maguire, stands in the foyer of 64 The Close with Professor Simon Kaner and Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer

Returning to Norwich, we also hosted a visit at The Close in June from the new Vice Chancellor of UEA, Professor David Maguire, and discussed the activities of the institute, as well as our upcoming plans and projects. We also held our usual online Third Thursday Lecture with Dr Sarah E. Thompson, which explored a collection of little-studied and recently attributed works by Hokusai and his students that are currently held at MFA Boston. Unfortunately, we had some technical issues on the day but are very grateful to Dr Thompson for re-recording the talk which is now available on our YouTube channel to watch at your leisure. Our Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures project also continues to see plenty of exciting project activity, including an archival visit to Amsterdam to further explore collections of postwar Japanese art – a report of which you can read in this e-bulletin. I also extend my congratulations to Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and Dr Ryoko Matsuba, both of whom had recent publications which were announced in last month’s e-bulletin – it is always encouraging to see such varied and impressive outputs from across the institute.

A Tanabata Wishing Tree at Mount Myoko in Nagano this morning (7th July)

Today (7th July) marks Tanabata (七夕) in Japan, which is celebrated by writing wishes on brightly coloured tanzaku (短冊) in the hope that they will come true over the coming year. As we head into July, I would like to wish everyone a very enjoyable summer break and hope that any tanzaku wishes come to fruition.

Best wishes,

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

I would like to thank my Sainsbury Institute colleagues and our extended support network and followers for the opportunity to serve as Acting Director of the institute over the last year. It’s been a privilege and pleasure to see our academic community thrive and some important research and publication projects come to fruition. During my study leave the next semester I plan to focus on my own research projects on modern Japanese calligraphy history and on networks of postwar Japanese art in Europe, and I am also looking forward to celebrating the institute’s 25th anniversary very soon.

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer