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November 2023 message from the Executive Director

Good news for those of us with Kansai affiliations as the Hanshin Tigers (we are talking baseball just in case you don’t know) won the SMBC Japan Series 2023 – the first time in 38 years. I was living in Hyogo prefecture, home to the Hanshin Tigers’ own Koshien Stadium in 1985 last time this happened and well recall the resulting outpouring of emotion. And if that is not enough to dispel the winter blues that can descend following the end of British Summer Time and the ‘putting back of the clocks’, we were further cheered by the Aurora Borealis putting on an exceptionally rare (and fine) show above East Anglia this week – even seen at Stonehenge.  In the meantime, storms Babet and Ciarán brought very wet and windy weather across the country. Japan in contrast remains unusually warm for this time of year – both are perhaps a reminder of the importance of conversations on climate change and sustainability as we head towards 2024.

The Institute has, as ever, been very busy in October having co-organised two conferences. The first, the 7th annual International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles (IASSRT) symposium took place in Norwich (and for the first time in the UK) between 15th-18th October. We welcomed experts on Silk Road textiles from across the world to the city and participants gave a series of talks on the theme of ‘Reconnections along the Silk Roads: Restoring and reconstructing textiles from afar’ across two days at Norwich Castle Museum and Norwich Cathedral. This was followed by two busy tour days visiting silk weaving mills, historic houses, and textile-related sites across East Anglia to compliment the themes addressed in the conference days before. On 1st November, we were also delighted to co-organise a workshop with Manchester School of Architecture (MSA) on ‘Transdisciplinary Dialogues in Contemporary Japanese Architecture and Culture’. Focusing on a multidisciplinary approach, the workshop discussed how the research strengths of MSA can be applied to other topics of Japanese studies. You can read a report of both events in this month’s e-bulletin.

Attendees of the the International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles symposium outside Norwich Castle.

We also welcomed Dr Panpan Yang (SOAS) to our Third Thursday Lecture Series last month, who gave a fascinating talk on the 1941 animated film Princess Iron Fan. Framing the animation in terms of exchange, the talk explored how the animation was shaped by and in turn shaped cultural interactions in this field between Japan, China and America. Helen McCarthy, whom some of you may remember gave an excellent talk on anime and manga fanzines last year, has provided a report on Dr Yang’s talk in this e-bulletin. Our November lecture will be given by Professor Yukio Lippit (Harvard University) on the Shōsōin Imperial Treasury and its impressive collection of art and artefacts. I hope many of you will be able to join us online for this on 16th November.

Across the Institute, colleagues continue to provide an impressive array of outputs for their research. Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere gave a well-received talk at Wells Maltings which discussed Nabeshima ware and how a set of dishes in the Royal Collection can help us to better understand gift exchange and international trade in the late 19th century. Academic associate Professor Junzo Uchiyama also gave an excellent talk at Lund University on disaster archaeology, and how understanding adaptations to natural disasters of the past can provide important insights for the future. Dr Ryoko Matsuba has continued her research trip in Japan focusing on recording traditional craft techniques and we look forward to her return to the Close this month and hearing more about her projects. Dr Andy Hutcheson has also been busy with the final arrangements for the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference taking place at UEA in December, alongside his continued work with the Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project and related excavations. Across the Institute and with colleagues in the Centre for Japanese Studies and the Japan Country Dialogue Group, both situated within UEA, we have also spent this month looking ahead to the new year and shaping some of the exciting projects we will be undertaking as we enter our 25th anniversary, which we look forward to announcing further details of very soon.

This month, alongside our Third Thursday Lecture, we are preparing to welcome several visitors from Japan to the Institute including an important visit from our partners at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (Tobunken). Dr Maizawa Rei, a specialist in the history of Buddhist art in medieval Japan, will be providing a gallery talk and lecture at the Sainsbury Centre on 16th November focusing on important objects in the collection – you can find more information on this event here and we look forward to reporting more on this in next month’s newsletter.

Hoping you enjoy this issue,

Best wishes,
Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director