Since the time when the Institute was established almost twenty years ago, our mission to conduct excellent research, outreach and educational activities have always been linked closely to our collaboration with those organizations which we consider as our three ‘strategic partners’, namely the University of East Anglia, the British Museum and the School of African and Oriental Studies, 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 lives of people in the UK, the rest of Europe and the world. We believe that our interface with these three representational British academic institutions, allows the impact of what we do at the Institute to be maximised to its fullest.
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 from the beginning to this day.
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 there up to 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, which ran between the years 2003 and 2016, and took the format of three lectures given by one scholar within a time-span of a month, were traditionally held in the order of the first one at SOAS, the second one at the British Museum and finally at Norwich. One memorable collaborative event with SOAS was a photo-exhibition titled ‘Tōhoku’ which was held after the 3.11 Great Kanto Earthquake and Tsunami at the Brunei Gallery. The exhibition featured pictures on the aftermath of the calamity taken by various Japanese photographers. The opening event held at the Japanese Roof Garden adjacent to the Brunei Gallery of SOAS provided an opportunity to contemplate on the impact of the disaster and pray for the victims and their families.
The British Museum
It is a source of great pride at the Institute to be associated with one of the greatest museums in the world, the British Museum.
In the past, the Institute’s academics have been invited to be guest curators there which have resulted in the opening of ground-breaking exhibitions such as ‘Kazari’ (2001 and 2002), ‘Crafting Beauty (2007)’ and ‘Power of Dogu (2009)’. These exhibitions have had an immense impact on the understanding of Japanese arts and cultures for the audience visiting the Museum in great numbers from all over the world. Moreover, they have contributed in deepening appreciation of their own cultural heritage, be it craft or be it prehistoric figurines, amongst the Japanese themselves.
Our institutional ties with the British Museum has been further strengthened with the secondment of our Research Director, Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere to the Japanese section of the Museum since 2014 as the IFAC Handa Curator in Japanese arts. Professor Rousmaniere is now working on a major exhibition on manga to be held at the British Museum from May to August 2019, which has all the promises of becoming a blockbuster show. In addition to this secondment, Professor Simon Kaner, our Executive Director, is Research Fellow at the Japan Section of the Museum, and Mr Hirano Akira, our librarian at the Lisa Sainsbury Library, is an honorary librarian of the Japanese section of the British Museum.
University of East Anglia
At the University of East Anglia, interest and engagement with Japan has been growing literally from strength to strength. When SISJAC 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 internationalisation, educational and research efforts. In 2011 the Centre for Japanese Studies was established and the following year a new BA course on Japanese language started 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 been growing and now includes those who teach and research on Japanese history, international relations, film and art history studies on top of the language. All these academics are members of the aforementioned Centre for Japanese Studies led by Dr Simon Kaner, and as Dr Kaner is at the same time an academic staff at the Institute, there is an organic collaborative relationship between what happens at the Institute and at UEA.
Japan is one of the five countries which the Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Richardson has designated as a ‘dialogue country’ for UEA in the context of its internationalisation efforts. Professor Richardson who is ex-officio Chair of the Management Board of SISJAC is committed to visiting Japan officially once every 18 months to two years. The Centre for Japanese Studies in conjunction with the International Summer School Office will run two Japan related summer schools in 2018, namely Japan Orientation sponsored by the Toshiba International Foundation and the Ishibashi Foundation Summer School sponsored by the Ishibashi Foundation.