Since the time when the Institute was established almost twenty years ago, our mission to conduct excellent research, outreach and educational activities has always been linked closely to our collaboration with organisations we consider to be our ‘strategic partners’, namely the University of East Anglia (UEA), the British Museum and the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), University of London. We share with our strategic partners a strong conviction on Japan’s importance in the world and how the study and outreach of Japanese arts and culture can make a difference to societies and to the lives of people in the UK, and across the world.
School of Oriental and African Studies
The history of Japanese studies in the UK cannot be told without mentioning SOAS which has been at the core of its development.
When the Institute started as a fledgling organisation in the east of England, the support and encouragement from SOAS was crucial for its growth. Our London office was located at SOAS and the majority of the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellows were based until around 2012, receiving scholarly guidance from senior SOAS academics. The Director of SOAS is an ex-officio member of the Management Board of the Institute, and SOAS academics are regular participants at the international conferences and workshops held at 64 The Close. In particular, the Toshiba Lectures for Japanese Arts ran between the years 2003 and 2016, and took the format of three lectures given by one scholar within a one-month period. These were traditionally held at SOAS, then the British Museum and finally in Norwich. Other collaborative events between the Institute and SOAS include ‘Tōhoku’, a photo-exhibition at the Brunei Gallery which was held after the 3.11 Great Kanto Earthquake and Tsunami. The exhibition featured pictures of the aftermath of the calamity taken by various Japanese photographers, with an opening event held at the Japanese Roof Garden adjacent to the Brunei Gallery of SOAS.
SOAS continues to be an important strategic partner for the Institute, with regular collaboration and exchange across resources, staff and research projects.
The British Museum
The British Museum has been an important strategic partner of the Institute for many years. Academics at the Institute have been invited to be guest curators, which has resulted in the opening of ground-breaking exhibitions such as Kazari (2001 and 2002), Crafting Beauty (2007) and Power of Dogu (2009). These exhibitions had a significant impact on the understanding of Japanese arts and cultures for the national and international audience visiting the museum from across the world.
Our institutional ties with the British Museum were further strengthened with the secondment of our Research Director, Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere to the Japanese section of the Museum since 2014 to 2019 as the IFAC Handa Curator in Japanese arts. During her time in this position, Professor Rousmaniere worked on the major exhibition Manga which was held at the British Museum from May to August 2019.
University of East Anglia
At the University of East Anglia (UEA), interest and engagement with Japan has been growing from strength to strength. When the Institute was established in 1999, it was one of the few Japan related elements across the whole of the University.
In line with the Institute’s development, Japan is now located at the heart of UEA’s international, educational and research efforts. In 2011 the Centre for Japanese Studies was established and has continued to grow, with Professor Simon Kaner as its Director. A new BA course on Japanese language was started in 2012 with a generous bequest from Yakult UK allowing the University to hire a lecturer in Japanese language studies. Since then, the number of lecturers in Japanese studies has continued to grow and now includes those who teach and research on Japanese history, international relations, literature, art history and language, all of whom are members of the Centre. The Institute and the Centre for Japanese Studies work closely together on a range of projects, initiatives and events with a particular focus on using innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of Japan.
Japan is one of the five countries designated by the university as a ‘dialogue country’ in the context of its internationalisation efforts. The Vice Chancellor of the university is ex-officio Chair of the Management Board of the Sainsbury Institute and is committed to regular official visits to Japan. The Centre for Japanese Studies in conjunction with the International Summer School Office will has also run a successful series of Japan-related summer schools, namely Japan Orientation sponsored by the Toshiba International Foundation and the Ishibashi Foundation Summer School sponsored by the Ishibashi Foundation.