June 2020 Message from the Executive Director

As the UK and Japan move towards re-opening after the pandemic lockdown of the past months, I sincerely hope that all of our friends are safe and well, wherever you are. The crisis has forced us all to innovate from our kitchen tables, our home space being requisitioned for work purposes. We have witnessed an astounding leap forward in digital and online activity, including our first online Third Thursday Lecture. Thank you to everyone who joined us to hear Dr Robert Simpkins bring the musical world of Kōenji right into our living rooms – and in particular to those of you who took the time to give us your feedback. […]

Japan’s Rugby Spirit

Perhaps it is just me, but this lockdown period seems to have gone incredibly quickly and yet, simultaneously, the pre-lockdown weeks of March seem like a distant memory. These first weeks of the month were somewhat significant for me as I was coming to the end of a short research fellowship in Kyoto and was planning my next research steps, returning to the UK and then heading back to Japan for two further periods of fieldwork. This was not meant to be as, within a week of returning, the UK went into lockdown, and the Olympics—the focus of my next fieldtrips—was postponed. However, in spite of all the uncertainty and […]

Paul Hollywood Eats Japan

  If you’re a fan of Japanese food like me, and looking for something light-hearted to watch on TV to forget what’s going on in real life outside your front door, I recommend a three-part series which was broadcast on Channel 4 from late April to early May. Paul Hollywood Eats Japan, presented by one of the judges from The Great British Bake Off, is a travelogue following Hollywood’s journey across Japan and, while sampling some of the most popular Japanese cuisines, he meets some local people and experiences some culture too. If this sets alarm bells ringing, I don’t blame you. From the olden days of Clive James to […]

Report for the talk “Online Lecture: The intimacy of minor sounds: an anthropologist’s journey into the private, insular worlds of amateur music in Tokyo”

Though the COVID-19 lockdown has limited the contact all of us have been able to have with others, the importance of opportunities to talk, listen, and absorb has been made clear through the new wealth of lectures, talks and events that have begun taking place online. The Sainsbury Institute took its first foray into this world with its May Third Thursday Lecture, given by Dr Robert Simpkins on his anthropological research on musicians in the district of Kōenji in Tokyo.The Third Thursday Lecture has always been a wonderful opportunity to learn about Japanese arts and cultures, but also to share that experience with others in the audience, so it was […]

Treasures of the Library: Japanese Wedding Ceremonies Old and New

Wedding gowns are supposed to be white. This tradition is believed to be attributed to the legacy of the wedding gown worn by Queen Victoria in 1840. The custom of the bride in a white gown spread not only in Britain but also in many other countries of the world, including Japan, in the 20th century.   Some Japanese brides choose kimonos for their wedding day. Red and black are the colours1 generally chosen for wedding kimono, but white is also a popular colour. It is believed that brides chose the colour white influenced by the white wedding gown irrespective of Japanese tradition as a white kimono was traditionally worn for funerals in Japan2. Dressing […]