Message from the Executive Director
As We Enter 2013
In spite of the economic difficulties, 2012 will be remembered as a memorable year for the United Kingdom. Festivities continued throughout the summer into early autumn with the celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics and Paralympics. The fine mixture of preserving traditional values while embracing diversity and new trends is the strength of the country. No better was this shown than when the Queen dived into the Olympic stadium with James Bond from the sky. The current debate on gay marriage is also symbolic of a country struggling to redefine its institutions. I see it as a courageous effort involving the whole country into a constructive exercise, not as a divisive political attempt. When frequently asked why should a research institute on Japanese arts and cultures need to have its headquarters outside Japan, my answer is simple and it relates to these aspects of Britain that I have observed. It is because by conducting research from outside Japan, where the redefinition of values and institutions is sometimes more radical than in Japan, we are capable of introducing different angles to the studies of Japanese arts and cultures thus enriching the field.
Having said that, without doubt Japan is also struggling to cope with changes that emanate from both within and outside the country. As we enter 2013, the year of the snake, the new Abe government has initiated new economic policies that will hopefully revive the Japanese economy. When the economy is stronger, people’s interests are attracted more to art and culture, so we hope in earnest that Mr. Abe’s policies now coined as ‘Abenomics’ will work. However, if we turn our eyes outside Japan, unfortunately, relations amongst the major countries in East Asia is at a historically low point. This is in spite of the fact that in the past decades an enormous portion of Japanese public funding for international cultural exchanges have been invested precisely into China and South Korea to foster mutual understanding. I question to what extent have these exchanges been helpful to ameliorate the current political confrontations between Japan, China and South Korea. The people to people ties that should play an important role in times when the governments can not see each other eye to eye are not easily detected. Probably it is a time when the power of cultural exchanges is tested in East Asia.
The Sainsbury Institute is also changing. Last year in October, we established a new Friends of the Sainsbury Institute scheme. Our first event for our friends was a lecture from Professor Nicole Rousmaniere, our Research Director, on her recently published book ‘Vessels of Influence’. In January, we had a special new years event with traditional Japanese sake and food. Although we managed to pick the worst day possible, when snow paralyzed Norwich, many of our friends braved the weather and enjoyed the event. As the number of friends rises steadily we are planning more and more attractive events: a book launch from our Academic Associate Dr Alfred Haft on his book about ukiyo-e, Japanese wood block prints in March, and a private view of an exhibition at the Gallery of the Norwich University of Arts on Japanese paper curated by our Sainsbury Fellow Nancy Casserly in April. The membership is wide open to all. Furthermore, this year, we will start to expand our activities to educational projects for secondary students in UK and other English speaking countries. Our hope is that the power of Japanese arts and cultures will reach the mind and hearts of the younger generation and will bring a different cultural perspective to them. In this way, we hope to contribute to generate further positive changes in UK, and in Japan as well.
Mami MizutoriNorwich Cathedral