March 2021 Message from the Executive Director

‘A building in Onagawa destroyed by the tsunami, chosen to be preserved as a heritage monument, with in the foreground an ephemeral memorial commemorating the loss of 12 people on this very spot, invites us to consider how we both remember and forget this tragic disaster’ (July 2012. Photo by Dr Matsuda Akira who led our graduate student delegation to Tohoku).

Ten years ago I was arriving in Japan to attend the last lecture by our Senior Advisor on archaeology, Professor Kobayashi Tatsuo, at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, at the start of a trip that was to have established a series of collaborative agreements for our new Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia. Although there were ominous shakings in the previous few days, nobody could have predicted the scale of the earthquake that struck off the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region on Friday 11 March 2011, precipitating a huge tsunami wave and resulting disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. All my planned activities were cancelled and I spent a truly unforgettable few days observing as the awful aftermath was revealed. Our thoughts at this season of commemoration are with all of those who are continuingly affected by this and other such disasters.

Over the past month we have been reviewing the Cultural Properties Loss projects which formed the focus of the Sainsbury Institute’s response. Luke Edgington Brown was one of three graduate students who was able to visit the affected region the summer after the disaster, in partnership with the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and Tohoku University, funded by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. We are grateful to Luke for his reflections on that visit which introduces a set of new online interviews which we previewed in our February Third Thursday and the refreshed archive materials on our webpages.

Adrian Favell, our Professorial Academic Associate, provides an overview of some of the artistic responses to the disaster, which complements the art and archaeology initiatives discussed in our other online interviews with Professor Akasaka Norio and artist and illustrator Aki Sahoko, who both continue to be closely involved in ongoing projects in the region.

Andi Sapey has photographed many of the events at the Sainsbury Institute over the past decade. We congratulate him on winning the prestigious British Journal of Photography International Photography Award – and are delighted to celebrate this achievement with an interview with Andi, who has a long-held fascination with Japan, and by presenting some of his wonderful images.

This month for our Online Third Thursday Lecture we welcome back Julie Nelson Davis, Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, the first of our Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellows to reside in Norwich, who will be in conversation with Arthur Tress about his exceptional collection of Japanese illustrated books. We look forward to ‘seeing’ you there.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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