May 2022 Message from the Executive Director

The sun was shining in London as the Sainsbury Institute visited the Royal Academy to see ‘Kyôsai: the Israel Goldman Collection’ exhibition.

Last week the Sainsbury Institute visited two superb exhibitions in London: Kyôsai: the Israel Goldman Collection at the Royal Academy, and Japan: Courts and Culture at the Queen’s Gallery, in Buckingham Palace. We thank the curators, Koto Sadamura, our own Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, and Rachel Peat, of the Royal Collections Trust respectively. In the UK we are looking forward to celebrating the Platinum (70th) Anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with a special holiday in early June. How wonderful to have this exceptional exhibition telling the story of the British royal family’s engagement with Japan to help celebrate this unprecedented anniversary.

Staff were also lucky to have present Dr Sadamura Koto, curator of the exhibition and current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow at the institute, to guide them around the exhibition.

Later this week the Sainsbury Institute will gather for a day on the beautiful north Norfolk coast to review what we have achieved over the past three years, and to look forward to plan for the next phase of delivering on our mission. The announcement this week about the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, the mechanism (which takes place roughly every seven years) by which the UK government assesses the quality of the research undertaken by universities across England offers a convenient moment to pause and reflect. We also look forward to announcements by the Japanese government, presaged by Prime Minister Kishida in his speech in London last week, of the long-awaited relaxation of entry restrictions to Japan and the resumption of regular visits for research and networking, so essential to what we do.

Staff finished the day at ‘Japan: Courts and Culture’, currently on show at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until Sunday 26 February 2023.

One major topic for discussion during our day away will be how we further embrace the opportunities offered by online developments, including virtual exhibitions and the potential of the much-vaunted ‘metaverse’ or ‘pluriverse’. A few weeks ago Susan Whitfield, our Professor of Silk Roads Studies, and I ‘appeared’ at a conference on the great Buddhist cave temple complex of Dunhuang, in what is now western China, ‘attended’ by over 1000 people from around the world, and later this month we will be launching our new online exhibition: Nara to Norwich: art and belief at the ends of the Silk Roads, AD 500-1100. Shortly we will be announcing our third Online Summer Programme in Japanese Cultural Studies in a new and refreshed format. We see these online and virtual developments as complementary to, rather than as any kind of replacement for, real life encounters with Japanese arts and cultures – and will continue to pursue all kinds of immersive experiences, both real world and digital, to further foster understanding of Japan through our collaborative research projects.

We look forward to our May Online Third Thursday talk, by Dr Mary Redfern from the Chester Beatty in Dublin. And thanks to Zoe Shipley, one of our first cohort of students on the MA in Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies, now on the JET programme in Shimonoseki for her report on her time in Japan since completing the course. We also thank Kazz Morohashi, who has also provided a report on Dr Koto Sadamura’s talk about the work of Kyōsai, a video of which is also now available online.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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