March 2024 message from the Executive Director

A very warm welcome to the March edition of our e-bulletin. Here in Norwich, we are pleased to see the return of lighter evenings and spring flowers starting to appear.

For our February Third Thursday Lecture, we delivered a special report on the current situation in Wajima following the devastating earthquake on New Year’s Day on the Noto Peninsula. An important centre of urushi lacquerware, the report focussed on the effects on the arts and culture of the region with contributions from Masami Yamada, Curator at the V&A, Living National Treasure Murose Kazumi, an urushi specialist, and a special message from Her Imperial Highness Princess Akiko of Mikasa. The event concluded with a moving video from Murose Tomoya taken on the day of the lecture in Wajima itself, which showed how severely the area has been affected – and even his previous home which had been completely destroyed by the earthquake. It will be a long road to recover the industry and craft of the area, but we hope that increasing awareness of the situation may go some way towards helping. A recording of the lecture is available on request, so please email if you would like to view this, and we have a report on the talk available here.

The reception following the event on Friday 16th February took place at the Sainsbury Centre.

The following day, we were delighted to welcome to Norwich Bill Emmott, Chair of the Japan Society and former Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, and Paul Madden CMG, former British Ambassador to Japan and special advisor to the Centre for Japanese Studies (CJS) at UEA. With a special event held on campus, Bill and Paul talked our audience through a range of current issues in Japan, from the current state of the economy to the changing role of women in Japan, as well as their own background and involvement with Japan. The event then moved to the Sainsbury Centre, home to the office for CJS, where a reception was held – an important opportunity for current students to better understand the world of Japanese studies through conversations with our guests and staff.

As we move into March, we are delighted to announce that this month’s Third Thursday Lecture will be given by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow Dr Rosanna Rios Perez on the topic of katazome. Examining a version of the novel Don Quijote de la Mancha illustrated by Serizawa Keisuke, the talk will explore the Mingei movement and what this work can tell us about Serizawa’s own development as well as that of the wider movement. This lecture will be held as hybrid both online via Zoom and from our headquarters at 64 The Close – in-person spaces are limited and you can find out more information about how to register here. Rosanna will also be giving a talk at the Japan Society on Monday 25th March – more information on this can be found on the Japan Society website. Dr Ji Hye Han, our other Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow for this academic year, will also be hosting a two-day symposium this month on the topic of Defining Identity through Photographs: Works of Japanese and Korean Photographers, 1945–1980s which you can register for here. I would also like to extend my congratulations to Ji Hye for the publication of her article on USFK: Through the Photographic Gaze of Kuwabara Shisei in the latest edition of The Asia-Pacific Journal Japan Focus which you can read here. These Fellowships continue to be an important cornerstone in the Institute’s work, evident from the range of impressive outputs they continue to produce. With our latest application deadline having just passed, we look forward to seeing which scholars will be taking up the positions next year.

We were delighted to welcome Bill Emmott (left) and Paul Madden CMG (right) to UEA for an ‘in conversation’ style event about Japan.

We also welcomed a number of visitors to the Institute in February, including a delegation led by Professor Onishi Hideyuki and our Sainsbury Institute Research Associate Professor Uchiyama Junzo from the Out of Eurasia research project investigating key episodes in the spread of humanity across the oceans and into the higher latitudes based at Okayama University. We were treated to a presentation on the successor to Out of Eurasia, Materia Mind, for which funding has just been confirmed. We congratulate project leader Professor Matsumoto Naoko of the Department of Archaeology at Okayama University and look forward to future collaborations in this area. Professor Sangmin Kim of Mokpo University, a specialist in the East Asian Iron Age who will be spending time with us from the autumn, brought a group of his students to Norwich, and Takanashi Hiroshi, president of the French arm of publishing giant Dai Nippon Insatsu which has recently installed very impressive new digital displays in a number of Jomon sites in northern Japan, also visited us here at the Institute. Meanwhile Dr Andy Hutcheson of our Centre for Archaeology and Heritage concluded the current phase of our Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project with a day in London at the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries with students and volunteers who have taken part in the project to date.

I was delighted to see recognition for the work of our colleagues and friends this month through a series of awards. Dr Sherzod Muminov, Associate Professor in Japanese History and member of the Centre for Japanese Studies at UEA, was awarded the prestigious John Whitney Hall Book Prize for an outstanding English language book published on Japan for his publication Eleven Winters of Discontent: The Siberian Internment and the Making of a New Japan. Honourable mention for this award also went to Morgan Pitelka, Bernard L. Herman Distinguished Professor in of Asian Studies and History at the University of Northern Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow 2001, for his book Reading Medieval Ruins: Urban Life and Destruction in Sixteenth-Century Japan. Gennifer Weisenfeld, Walter H. Annenberg Distinguished Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, and Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow 2005 – 2006, was also awarded the 2024 Prize for Outstanding Book by the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies for her publication Gas Mask Nation: Visualizing Civil Air Defense in Wartime Japan. Many congratulations to Sherzod, Morgan and Gennifer for three very well-deserved prizes.

Finally, we say goodbye this month to our Office Assistant Phoebe Young, who I am sure many of you will have spoken to. I would like to thank Phoebe for all her hard work during her time at the Institute and for always being a smiling and positive face to visitors. Rei Maizawa, of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, has also spent the last four months working at the Institute and has just headed back to Japan following her stay with us in the UK. I wish the very best of luck to both Phoebe and Maizawa-san for the future and am sure our paths will cross again soon.

Best wishes,
Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director