The Sainsbury Institute Abroad

Top sales in academia: the Chair of the Management Board of SISJAC makes his first official visit to Japan

Mami Mizutori introducing the Vice-Chancellor, Professor David
Richardson at a reception held at the International House in Roppongi, Tokyo

The importance of top sales in promoting and strengthening relationships cannot be emphasised enough. More and more often, Prime Ministers around the world take CEOs of big companies and Directors of major museums with them when they visit foreign capitals. The value of top sales cannot be under-estimated in academia either, and for organizations of any size. Many years of diligently building up a network is essential, but in order to reach a higher level of recognition for what you are doing and to gain support, you need the most senior person of your organisation to carry the torch. This is why we were keen that the Chair of our Management Board and Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, Professor David Richardson visit Japan as soon as possible after having assumed his post in September 2014. Extracting a full week from his extraordinarily busy schedule, we managed to take him to Japan from 8 to 14 November last year, during which he spent four days in Tokyo, and the other two in Kyoto. Simon Kaner, the Director of our Centre for Archaeology and Heritage and I had the pleasure to accompany him.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Angila and Chairman of Sainsbury
Institute’s Management Board, Professor David Richardson

This was not only his first trip to Japan since taking up the aforementioned two posts but also the first ever trip he has made to Japan. So my colleagues and I had to really think hard to decide what would be an optimal schedule trying to get the most out of the time he could spend in Japan. The main objectives of this trip were (1) to meet, greet and thank the existing various supporters and academic partners of the Sainsbury Institute and UEA in Japan at the highest level, (2) to provide a first hand opportunity for Professor Richardson to observe the strength of the existing ties we have, and (3) based on these observations to determine what more needs to be done, who would be appropriate as new partners, and to look into ways to deepen relations with existing partners and supporters.

In relation to the last point, this trip also served as an appropriate opportunity to officially inform our partners and supporters that the Institute will move to the UEA campus in 2019, and the significance this transformation will offer in strengthening the synergies between the Sainsbury Institute and UEA. Last but not least, as an Institute primarily engaged in the area of Japanese arts and cultures, the trip would not have been complete if we did not include some interesting visits to cultural sites so that Professor Richardson would be convinced of the relevance of what we base our existence on.

Professor Richardson conducted meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals. In terms of organisations which have been supporting the Sainsbury Institute and UEA along the years, he had meetings with the President of the Japan Foundation, Mr Ando Hiroyasu, the Chairman of the Toshiba International Foundation, Mr Nishimuro Taizo, the Chairman of the Ishibashi Foundation, Mr Ishibashi Hiroshi, the Executive Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Mr Iwasa Takaaki, the Director of the British Council Japan Office, Mr Matt Burney, and the Executive Director of the Nippon Foundation, Mr Tanami Tatsuya. Support from these organizations has enabled the Institute to conduct research, outreach and educational activities in the UK, Europe and in Japan. We feel very privileged that these prestigious organisations have chosen the Institute to be one of the recipients of their grants. Professor Richardson was clear in conveying the message that we are committed to living up to their expectations in terms of the quality of the output and impact we produce using their funds.

As for our academic partners, he met the Presidents of Tsukuba University, Ritsumeikan University, Ryukoku University and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature. Between the Sainsbury Institute and UEA, we have concluded quite a few collaborative agreements with Japanese academic institutions over the years. In particular, ever since UEA started its BA course on Japanese Language four years ago, there has been a concerted effort to increase the number of these agreements so that the third year students of the BA course can spend their study year abroad at one of a variety of Japanese universities. Currently UEA has 14 such partner universities in Japan and it was obvious that a week was not enough for the Vice-Chancellor to visit all of them. Having said that we arranged two occasions, one in Tokyo and the other in Kyoto where the students had a chance to meet the Vice-Chancellor and to talk about their experience in Japan. It was clear that the students were enjoying every bit of their study abroad year which convinced the VC that Japan was a great country for UEA students to study to expand their knowledge and at the same time have an extraordinary cultural experience.

As mentioned before, an important part of the trip was to expose our boss to the charm of Japanese arts and cultures. To this end, Professor Richardson visited the Meiji Jingu Shrine where he was greeted by the Director of the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute, Mr Sato Masahiro, the Nezu Museum where he met the Director of the Museum, Mr Nezu Koichi, and the Edo Tokyo Museum. All three places are frequently singled out as must go cultural places in Tokyo. For example, in his trip to Japan last year, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, visited the Meiji Jingu Shrine which was reported in The Times with a photo of him wearing the traditional shoes worn by Shinto Shrine priests. The current building of the Nezu Museum was designed by the architect Kuma Kengo who has also designed the new stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Due to the beauty of Kuma’s building, the rich collection amassed by Mr Nezu’s grandfather and its garden with various tea houses, nowadays official visits by head of states including Chancellor Merkel and President Holland are not complete without a stop there. Professor Richardson and his wife, Dr Andrea Blanchflower thoroughly enjoyed these visits, which convinced them, I hope, that they need to go back to Japan many more times.

Simon Kaner speaking about UEA’s Japanese Studies initiatives
at the International House

The highlight of the trip was the reception held at the International House of Japan in Roppongi in central Tokyo, attended by around 100 people. The guests consisted of friends and supporters of the Institute, UEA alumni, and business partners of ADAPT which is an innovative company based in the newly built Enterprise Building on the UEA campus.

At the reception, Professor Richardson gave a speech representing UEA, the Sainsbury Institute and ADAPT, followed by a presentation by Dr Simon Kaner, who spoke both as Director of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute and Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at UEA. Many people travelled from outside Tokyo and the friendly atmosphere of the reception was yet another testament of the strong support we garner.

Please find the full text of Professor Richardson’s speech at the International House in Roppongi, Tokyo.

The five working days in Japan were used to the fullest extent possible. Exchanges of views and contacts at the highest level were much appreciated by our supporters and partners. Professor Richardson explained that UEA is proactively working to improve its global position and was ranked as one of the top 150 universities in the world in the most recent THE survey, jumping 50 places, and that Japan is one of the five dialogue countries that he has designated to be at the core of the internationalisation program of UEA. He also pointed out that UEA is one of the few universities in the UK which continues to develop Japanese studies. This message was received very positively.

Organisations which have been supporting the Sainsbury Institute financially over the years were satisfied with the outcome they have seen, and were content to continue and in some cases even expand their support. As we approach our relocation to the UEA campus by 2019, the Institute will be carefully considering how we can use the support we receive from Japan to enhance the synergy between the two organisations.

It was very clear that ‘ internationalisation’ was at the top of the agenda for Japanese higher educational organisations and research institutes, and that they were eager to further student and academic staff exchange and international collaborative research with universities in the UK. The Japanese government is also keen to assist this agenda by providing financial resources through organisations such as the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The Ministry of Education and Science has also established a new programme to provide funding for Japanese students who aspire to study abroad. The Head of the British Council Japan Office, who has served in Japan previously, is convinced that this time, finally both the Japanese government and higher educational organisations in Japan have realised that internationalisation is not a luxury but an essential mission for survival and needs to be pushed forward with a sense of urgency.

Many concrete action points have emerged from this trip. Most importantly, it was strongly felt that Professor Richardson should be making regular visits to Japan in order to further our dialogue and to meet additional existing and potential partners in Japan.

Top sales for the Sainsbury Institute and UEA in Japan will continue!

Mami Mizutori 
Executive Director