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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. I hope you enjoy the report on the talk by our Academic Associate Oscar Wrenn. Please do join us on 18th June for our other Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Dr Yen-Yi Chan. One immediate advantage of moving online is the ability to welcome those of you unable to join us in Norwich each third Thursday – and we are planning to keep the lectures online even after we can return to our normal venue.

Over the coming month we will be further enhancing our online presence, with our newly refreshed website and a number of digital innovations, in particular relating to the new MA in Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia, launching this September. Expertly convened by our Lecturer in Japanese Art Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer and taught by our Japanese specialists across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at UEA, this innovative programme is attracting applicants from around the world. Hosted in the University’s Interdisciplinary Institute for the Humanities, the MA represents a major step forward in our partnership in Japanese Studies with UEA. Watch out for our ‘origami canary’.

Look out also for various tasty morsels on our social media feed which are helping us bring you more of the smorgasbord of online temptations offered by purveyors of Japanese art and culture from around the world to complement the work being done by Miwako Hayashi Bitmead and our partners at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo (Tobunken) on the database of publications and exhibitions featuring Japanese art outside Japan.

This month we are also pleased to bring you two offerings that we hope will provide welcome distraction from world events. Dr Chris Hayes, formerly Project Officer for UEA’s Centre for Japanese Studies and currently working with SISJAC on some special projects, reflects on the history of rugby in Japan and his time as a postdoctoral researcher at the Kyoto Prefectural Institute and Archive, which has to date hosted three former SISJAC affiliates. And our Librarian, Hirano Akira, introduces another exquisite treasure from the Lisa Sainsbury Library under the topic of weddings – some small solace at this time of so many nuptials postponed and other ceremonies of various sorts cancelled due to the pandemic.

Speaking of tasty morsels, this month we have a review of Paul Hollywood Eats Japan by our Research and Finance Officer Kaoru Sakurai. I know that many of us have been fortunate to be able to dedicate some of our lock-down time to honing various skills and developing new ones, including in the kitchen. Unable to get together in person, colleagues at SISJAC have instituted a weekly ‘virtual SISJAC pub night’ – one of the regular highlights has been discovering the contents of our distinguished Professor for Japanese Arts and Cultural Heritage, Toshio Watanabe’s food deliveries, as well as what is coming into bloom in the gardens of those of us lucky enough to have access to some nature on our doorsteps. Along with our online staff meetings and writing group, we are doing what we can to keep connected, and learning many new tricks along the way. I am hugely impressed by my colleagues’ efforts to master the wonders of Zoom, Collaborate, Skype and MS Teams, and grateful to them for their patience and perseverance in the face of dodgy internet connections and domestic distractions.

Whatever the coming months holds, the Sainsbury Institute will continue its mission to both undertake the best research into all aspects of Japanese arts and cultures, and to bring the fruits of that research to the widest possible audience.

Best wishes,

Simon Kaner
Executive Director

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