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April 2020 Message from the Executive Director

Along with most of you, my colleagues at the Sainsbury Institute and I have been adjusting to a new lifestyle over the last couple of weeks, a home-based one to which we will become very accustomed for the duration of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. This April, then, when we should really all be out and about enjoying the blossoms and other harbingers of spring, I want to start by thanking everyone – our wonderful staff, our partners in the UK, Japan and elsewhere, and you, our audience, for being so very understanding of the new situation we are in.

Along with so many organisations across the country and elsewhere, we have had to put our plans for public events on hold for the time being. We are working hard to bring you an enhanced offering Japanese arts and cultures online, as accessible and easy to use as we can possibly make it, using all the digital wizardry available to us. Please do take the opportunity to follow our social media outputs on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

This month, in place of our regular Third Thursday lecture, we are therefore pleased to be able to bring you an online version of a lecture I was able to give for the Asia Society in New York (albeit from my current home), part of their programming around an exhibition entitled The Art of Impermanence, showing exquisite Japanese artworks from the John C. Weber Collection and the Mr and Mrs John D. Rockefeller III Collection. In the near future we will be announcing additional online programmes. We understand these can never make up for the opportunities to get together with friends with whom we share our passion for Japanese arts and cultures to enjoy lectures in person, but we hope they will provide some distraction at this time of great disruption and uncertainty.

We will be continuing to update our website on a regular basis, and this month we are delighted to have two pieces by our current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellows, Dr Yen-Yi Chan (who reviews our February Third Thursday Lecture by Dr Halle O’Neal) and Dr Robert Simpkins, who reports on his recent research trip to Japan where he in engaged in pioneering studies on the lively contemporary music scene.

In early March I was delighted to be able to visit Budapest and Prague as a guest of the Japan Foundation in Budapest, to give a series of talks and meet students interested in applying for our Japan Orientation Summer School – generously sponsored, as it has been since 2014, by the Toshiba International Foundation, but now postponed until 2021. I was able to visit Pecs, home of the Zsolnay ceramic factory, now home to part of the University there, as well as having a remarkably well preserved early Christian necropolis, complete with wall paintings in the tombs, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Prague I was invited to speak at the Oriental Institute, established back in 1922. And I met some of the former participants in the programme. The enthusiasm for Japan I have encountered on all my visits to central and eastern Europe promoting this programme over the years is both inspiring and humbling, and I very much look forward to further deepening the relationships we have established there.

We are in regular contact with our friends and partners in Japan, and will be providing regular updates on what is happening there through bulletins posted on both the Sainsbury Institute website and the website of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia www.uea.ac.uk/cjs.

I hope you enjoy our online content, and until we are able to meet again, hope that you all stay safe and healthy, and that you get to enjoy something of what is doubtless a truly unforgettable spring.

Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

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