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December 2022 Message from the Acting Director

As preparations for the festive season get into full swing, it is quite insightful to reflect how rapidly and profoundly the world has changed since last December. In the UK, we have seen a return to in-person events and an almost total loosening of restrictions related to the pandemic. Only last February, as the first in-person events returned after the COVID restrictions, we welcomed the postgraduate workshop of the British Association of Japanese Studies and Japan Foundation in February, and later in the year, as Japan loosened its travel restrictions, our research and activities have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, and we were overjoyed to be able to reconnect with our friends and partners from Japan and elsewhere. While politically and economically 2022 has been a challenging year, it also brought many happy moments and long-awaited encounters, and I hope that this festive season will be warmer and more joyful, and will mark the beginning of a brighter and happier New Year. 

At the Sainsbury Institute, our staff and colleagues continue to impress with their wide range of activities internationally. Dr Matsuba Ryoko and Yuhan Ji, our Ishibashi Foundation Digital Project Officer, spent some time in Boston and Chicago this month as part of the Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures project, where they have been working across archives to digitise some of the collections related to the activities of Edward Sylvester Morse and his role in establishing Japanese art history abroad. They also hosted a fascinating workshop last month with Living National Treasure and urushi artist Murose Kazumi at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent – a report of which you can read in this newsletter. We also had an initial online workshop with the selected doctoral and postdoctoral fellows working on surveying archives of postwar Japanese arts in Europe, as part of the Ishibashi Foundation Digital Futures project. Despite being on study leave this year, Professor Simon Kaner is also busy with activities relating to various projects, including a television interview in Japan this month where he discussed the parallels between prehistoric Jomon culture and Stonehenge, as well as an article for the 50th anniversary of the Japan Foundation which you can read here.

Dr Shilla Lee, current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, delivered a talk at the Sainsbury Centre on Tamba potters.

Here in Norwich, our Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow for 2022-2023, Dr Shilla Lee, gave a talk on ‘Crafting pottery, crafting events: Tamba potters and their promotional activities within Tamba Tachikui Pottery Cooperative’ as part of the World Art Research Seminar series which was held at the Sainsbury Centre. We also held our November Third Thursday Lecture with Professor Hans Bjarne Thomsen who explored the use of the catfish prints, or Namazu-e, by artists as a means of dealing with the aftermath of the Ansei earthquake. We are very grateful to Professor Thomsen for giving this talk – a report of which you can read in this issue. The Centre for Japanese Studies also held their final autumn research seminar last week on the topic of ‘Transcultural Dynamics in Memory Literature of Japanese- and Lithuanian-speaking Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners in the Soviet Union’ (a recording of which is now available online) and we look forward to more interdisciplinary Japanese studies lectures from this series in the Spring.

We also have a busy programme of events planned for the coming months. I am sure that many of our readers will be pleased to hear that we will be returning for an in-person Third Thursday Lecture this month at UEA campus, presented by Paul Madden CMG FRGS, Former British Ambassador to Japan. We look forward to seeing many of you there and hope you will be able to join us afterwards for a mince pie. For those who are not able to attend in-person, we will also be streaming the talk live through Zoom – you can sign up to attend the lecture here. We are also delighted to announce that tickets for the conference Crosscurrents of Courtly Exchange, organised by Royal Collection Trust in collaboration with the Sainsbury Institute, and rescheduled for mid-February, are now available to purchase. This two-day conference held at Windsor Castle promises to provide an unprecedented view into the Japanese objects in the Royal Collection and will see talks given by specialists from across the world. For something a little closer to home, the UEA Bunkansai will be held on 3rd December at UEA in Lecture Theatre 1 which will see a celebration of Japanese culture featuring live performances and artwork by students and staff from the university.  As we head in to 2023, we hope that this flourishing of events that we have seen over the last few months will long continue.

On behalf of everyone at the Sainsbury Institute, we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year for 2023! 

With very best wishes,

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Acting Director

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