September 2020 Message from the Executive Director

Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), Sōka edehon (Painting Manual on Plants and Flowers), c. 1840s, Lisa Sainsbury Library (SISJAC-B003).

The 9th day of the 9th month is celebrated in Japan as Chrysanthemum Day (重陽 chōyō), one of the five ancient festivals (節句sekku). The date is marked across East Asia, early references to the Double 9th festival appearing in Chinese sources from the first century CE. In Japan today it is an opportunity to wish for longevity, and enjoy delicacies including chrysanthemum sake and chestnut rice at temples and shrines. The chrysanthemum is of course the official flower of the Japanese Imperial family, famously if somewhat notoriously appropriated by Ruth Benedict in her influential account of Japan, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Ubiquitous chrysanthemum exhibitions (菊花展覧会 kikatenrankai) are a highlight of any visit to Japan in later autumn.

We look forward to the autumn eagerly anticipating the start of the new MA in Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia. The Sainsbury Institute is central to this initiative, which has as its Academic Director Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer, our Lecturer in Japanese Arts, Cultures and Heritage. We wish her and all of the students enrolled every success with the course. We were greatly encouraged by the phenomenal response to our Online Summer Programme in Japanese Cultural Studies, which attracted several hundred participants from all around the world. Dr Christopher Hayes who coordinated the team delivering the programme writes about the experience.

Many of us were concerned for animals during lockdown, with record numbers of pets rehomed from dog and cat homes, zoos closing and animals apparently missing their human visitors. This month our Librarian Hirano Akira takes the opportunity to introduce another treasure from the Lisa Sainsbury Library, Utagawa Yoshimura’s Album of Animals.

Early September marked the 75th anniversary of the formal end of the Second World War. Oliver Moxham, who is studying for an MA in Cultural Heritage at UEA with a focus on the heritage of the war in Japan, reflects on how we can ensure that the often painful memories of veterans from East Anglia who served in East Asia can be preserved and passed on to new generations. And our Online Third Thursday Lectures resume on 17th with a talk by Dr Maki Kaneko, one of the earliest recipients of a scholarship from the Sainsbury Institute and who wrote her PhD at the University of East Anglia on war art before taking up her current position at the University of Kansas, and Dr Sherzod Muminov, Lecturer in Japanese History at the University and specialist on Russo-Japanese relations and the experience of Japanese prisoners-of-war captured by the Soviet Union. I hope you can join us then.

Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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