Research Highlights

Quarterly Research Update: Two Summer Schools at the Sainsbury Institute and UEA

Forty students from around the world will certainly remember summer 2018 as a hot Japan-inspired summer in Norwich. In July and August, the Sainsbury Institute and the University of East Anglia welcomed two outstanding groups of international students to learn about Japan and its arts and cultures. Two summer schools, the Japan Orientation and the Ishibashi Foundation Summer School, offered students an overview of the variety of research and outreach activities of the Sainsbury Institute and its partner institutions.

Japan Orientation Summer School’s student presentations day. Special guests included
Koshi Noguchi from Toshiba of Europe and Tada Sanae from the Japan Foundation Budapest.

The Japan Orientation Summer School, generously sponsored by the Toshiba International Foundation, was geared towards students from the countries of the Visegrád Group. It brought together undergraduate students specialising or interested in Japan from Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United States.

During the four-week courses, which consisted of class work, excursions, and active exchange with academic communities in Norwich and beyond, students got a taste of what it is like to be working with or in Japan, conducting research about Japanese society or history, or running a business with Japanese partners. For many of them, this was their first experience abroad and their first professionalisation opportunity. To show the students a variety of ways knowledge about Japan can be useful for their future, the speakers we invited ranged from scholars at UEA, the Sainsbury Institute, and Cambridge University, to businessmen based in London and Japan, and even Minister Shinichi Iida from the Embassy of Japan in UK. In addition to the intensive program in Norwich, students also visited Cambridge and London, saw the newly opened Japan House, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, where they could learn more about Japan-related activities in the UK.

Visit to Hiryama Ikuo East Asian Conservation Studio at the British Museum

Straight after the departure of the Japan Orientation group, we welcomed a new batch of students for the Ishibashi Summer School. This cohort consisted of graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and young curators from the United States, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Romania, Russia and the UK, who specialize in Japanese art and visual culture. They convened in Norwich for a three-week programme of stimulating lectures, engaged discussions, illuminating object studies and hands-on experience of handling Japanese art objects.

Each of the three weeks was headed by one of the SISJAC’s leading academics. In the first week Professor Simon Kaner introduced participants to the exciting field of Japanese archeology and ongoing research projects he is conducting in on the Shinano River basin. Professor Nicole Rousmaniere took the students to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in the second week, giving students a behind-the-scenes look into London’s Japanese art exhibition landscape. In the third week Toshio Watanabe presented his own methods of studying modern Japanese art by talking about his life as a researcher on the subjects of Japanese gardens and Japonisme in European art. He also raised fundamental questions in the field such as “What is Japanese?” and “What is art?”.

Academic class led by Professor Toshio Watanabe

These exceptional intellectual insights were enhanced by other invited lecturers including Norio Akasaka, director of Fukushima Museum, who talked about reviving Japan’s Tohoku region after the 3/11 disaster through the means of art. Dr Akira Matsuda from Tokyo University presented a talk on cultural heritage management. Dr Ayumi Terada from Tokyo University spoke about the experimental projects undertaken by the university museum, Intermediatheque, as new forms of public engagement in Japan. The group was treated to a special talk by Dr John Carpenter from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York who provided a rare glimpse into the life of a Japanese art curator at one of world’s most prestigious cultural institutions. As part of the programme, the participants enjoyed visits to Stonehenge, Cambridge and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Burghley House, and a special dinner at the residence of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.
We hope memories from this summer will stay with our students for a long time, and look forward to hearing about their new projects, collaborations and friendships that sprung from their time with us!

Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Lecturer, Sainsbury Institute