July 2024 message from the Executive Director

In late June the United Kingdom hosted a State Visit by their Imperial Majesties, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan. Although they were not able to visit Norwich on this occasion, we were honoured to be invited to a reception organised by the Japan Society, the Japan Association and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and to the State Banquet at the Guildhall. The visit reconfirmed the excellent relationship between the UK and Japan.

During July we move into the next phase of our 25th anniversary celebratory Japan in Norwich programme, with a focus on Hokusai (Hokusai: A Vision Above and Hokusai: Art Beyond Boundaries) and tanzaku, comprising exhibitions and events in Wells-next-the-Sea on the beautiful north Norfolk coast and in Norwich. We look forward to the associated public symposium on Saturday July 13th and some very special tea ceremonies, and of course our July Third Thursday lecture to be given by Dr Akiko Yano of the British Museum on city life and salon culture in the late 18th and 19th centuries which will be held both in person at Norwich Cathedral Hostry and online via Zoom.  Preparations have been led by Dr Ryoko Matsuba, recently returned from Japan where she delivered a lecture at the Artizon Museum in Tokyo on the history of the Sainsbury Institute.

Curators Nakayama-san and Arai-san installed the artworks at Wells Maltings along with Dr Ryoko Matsuba for the exhibition Hokusai: A Vision Above.

In addition to our Japan in Norwich programme, in recent weeks we organised or participated in some excellent workshops and conferences. I travelled to Heidelberg University for a conference on Narrating Japanese Art Histories: Past, Present and Future at the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies.  This conference, honouring the immense contribution to the field of Japanese art studies by Professor Melanie Trede, marked the 20th anniversary of the Ishibashi Foundation Visiting Professorships in Japanese art, that has brought more than 30 distinguished scholars to Heidelberg over the years, including a number of our own former Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellows. Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer was on the organising committee. We also were delighted to represent UEA at the Royal Norfolk Show on 26 and 27 June, an important event for the community of East Anglia which attracts around 85,000 people annually. Here, we showcased our Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project with a selection of displays and finds associated with our excavations at Warham Camp and Arminghall Henge, as well as our virtual reality 64 The Close.

Dr Andy Hutcheson discussed excavations at Arminghall and Warham with visitors to the Royal Norfolk Show.

July is the month of Tanabata, the Star Festival, which celebrates the story of the Weaving Princess and the Cowherd. It was therefore perhaps particularly appropriate that we began the month with the walls of the Institute transformed by works by Yunoki Samiro and textiles from Okinawa as part of the workshop organised by our current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Dr Rosanna Rios Perez: Binding colours through textiles: Yunoki Samiro’s journey in arts and crafts. We enjoyed two intensive days of discussion about Yunoki himself, the Mingei movement and much more, all kicked off with a weaving demonstration at the Norwich University of the Arts. If you would like to know more about the Mingei movement and its connections to Britain we strongly recommend a visit to the the exhibition currently at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, Art Without Heroes: Mingei until mid-September

The Institute greatly values its connections to a wide range of organisations and projects involved in Japanese arts, cultures, archaeology and heritage. For the last few years I have been an advisor to the European Union-funded Encounter project based at the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, led by Dr Enrico Crema. An avowedly ‘Big Data’ project, Encounter is redefining the transition to rice agriculture between the Jōmon and Yayoi periods of Japanese prehistory, which set in train the remodelling of so much of the scenery of the archipelago with the construction of the ubiquitous rice paddies. Fresh from the Yunoki workshop, I joined the Encounter team for a conference presenting the results so far, all set in the context of a comparison with the arrival of agriculture in the British Isles at the start of the Neolithic, some 6000 years ago . With an impressive crop of scientific papers already published, this inspirational project represents a tremendous advance in our understanding of this key period in Japanese archaeology.

As usual, in August we take a break from our Third Thursday lectures, and the next e-bulletin will be in September, which will have details of our autumn programme, including our 25th anniversary conference at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday 9th November. I hope to see you at our events in July, and on behalf of everyone at the Sainsbury Institute, I wish you a relaxing and restorative summer.

Best wishes,
Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director