Launch of a new Digital Japan research strand

Digital Japan mini-festival and mini-lectures held at the Forum in Norwich

We have come to think of Japan as a leader in the field of technology, from robotics to futuristic city design. From September 2018, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures is launching a new research strand that brings together the technical innovations of Japanese art and design with the use of digital technology to understand Japanese arts and cultures.

The launch was marked by a Digital Japan Mini-Festival at The Forum, Norwich, from September 20-22nd 2018. A mini-expo showcased current research on Japan including digitized materials, digital-born art and artefacts, and exhibits on digital media. A series of mini-lectures introduced researchers from all over the world working with digital materials for studying Japan.

Professor Ryo Akama and Dr Ryoko Matsuba presenting the ARC 2D
and 3D artefact digitisation project

Materials on display ranged from screenshots of Facebook and Instagram pages that demonstrate how researchers use social media to connect with experts and deepen their knowledge of Japanese history and culture, to original works of art such as digital representations of Japanese landscapes. We showcased the digitization projects of the British Museum and the ARC project at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, which produce high resolution images of classical Japanese artworks including ukiyo-e woodblock prints. In the mini-lecture series, researchers explained how engaging with digital technologies and methods allows them to enhance their research processes, and share their findings with audiences all over the world, and with all language backgrounds and levels of education.

Going forward, the Sainsbury Institute’s Digital Japan research strand will bring together the technical innovations of Japanese art and design with the use of digital technology to understand Japanese arts and cultures. We aim to provide a comprehensive picture of digital research, art, and culture in Japan today.

Moving image display of Ainu salmon skin preparation. Eiko Soga.
Autumn Salmon. 18.54 mins. 2017

The 3D printing technology used by contemporary artists such as Rokudenashiko show how technological advances are shaping arts practice today. At the same time, digital-born art is also shaping our lives through everyday design objects such as robots. Digital media, including social media, both disseminates research on Japan, and deepens research practice by engaging a global community and facilitating exchange through shared images, resources and translation. In these ways, digital technologies and processes are shaping how we study Japan, and engage with Japanese arts, cultures, and heritage. The Digital Japan research stream at the Sainsbury Institute brings together the work of researchers in Norwich and beyond to construct an overview of a fast-developing field.

The Sainsbury Institute is one of the first research institutes in the world to dedicate an area of research activity to exploring digital cultures, technologies, and materials in Japan today. Over the coming years, we hope to welcome researchers from all around the world working on Japan-related digital projects, to lead the field in the study of Digital Japan.

Jennifer Coates
Senior Lecturer, Sainsbury Institute

e-Magazine contents: