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Japan: Art & Society – a five-part multi-speaker webinar series

posted on 29/06/21


For much of history, Japan has been a place of mystery, fascination and allure for outsiders. While much in its culture seems remote and enigmatic, Japanese influence on art and design in the West has been huge – but there has been influence the other way too. These talks by five experts explore five themes and cultural phenomena from a thousand years ago to the present day.

They take place every Thursday from 16 September to 14 October at 4.30pm (GMT+1) and, including Q&A, will probably last just under an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (9 December).

Register for the webinar series for £65

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series.

The talks

1. Phoenix Hall and images of Paradise in Medieval Japan by Meri Arichi (16th September)

The cult of Amida Buddha (Sk. Amitabha) gained an overwhelming number of followers in Japan from the 10th century onward, due to the apocalyptic theory which predicted that the world was to enter the period of “Mappo” (Latter days of the Buddhist Law) in the year 1052. During the dark age of Mappo, the only hope of salvation was to be reborn in the Western Paradise (Pure Land) of Amida Buddha. The Phoenix Hall is the oldest surviving Amida Hall in Japan, and it conveys to us the medieval Buddhist idea of paradise.

Meri Arichi. Lecturer and Senior Teaching Fellow in the History of Japanese Art at SOAS. She studied in London and Florence, and worked at Christie’s, London in the 1990s before returning to academia. She has run courses at Birkbeck College, the V&A, British Museum, and the Courtauld Institute of Art Summer School, and she lectures regularly for The Arts Society..

2. The Gardens of Kyoto and the Imperial Court by Yoko Kawaguchi (23rd September)

During the time Kyoto served as the seat of the Japanese imperial court, from 794 to 1868, gardens created by the aristocracy provided an important space for ceremony and pageantry, for personal religious meditation and for recreation. Several emperors were themselves important garden designers. We will look at pictorial depictions of earlier gardens, as well as exquisite examples that have survived to this day.

Yoko Kawaguchi. Writer and cultural historian specialising in the relationship between Japan and the West. She holds an MA from Kyoto University, and has undertaken postgraduate research at Newnham College, Cambridge. She lectures on Japanese garden history, as well as on the reception of Japanese culture abroad and the perception of Japanese women in the West. Her publications include Butterfly’s Sisters: The Geisha in Western Culture, Japanese Zen Gardens and Authentic Japanese Gardens. 

3. Envisioning Modernity: prints of the Meiji Period by Monika Hinkel (30th September)

Woodblock prints played a significant role in communicating the modernisation process during the Meiji period (1868-1912). In particular prints of enlightenment (kaika-e) became a popular vehicle to introduce specific symbols of modernisation and scenes of the changing Meiji civilisation. Three major themes of kaika-e, new architecture, new modes of transportation, and Western-inspired clothing and hairdos will be presented.

Monika Hinkel. Lecturer and curator specialising in Japanese woodblock prints and Research Associate of the Japan Research Centre at SOAS. She studied at Bonn University, was curator for Japanese art at the Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne, and a researcher at Gakushuin University, Tokyo. She has lectured at Birkbeck, the V&A and Morley College.

4. Japan and West: architectural interchange in the 20th Century by Neil Jackson (7th October)

Ever since the 1850s, the architectural relationship between Japan and the West has been one of give and take. But as Modernism, and then Post-modernism became the way of Western architecture, the debt to Japan was increasingly apparent. Yet the influence was not all one way, for without the West, Japanese architecture would not have developed as it has.

Neil Jackson. Architect and architectural historian and Professor Emeritus at the University of Liverpool. He has published widely on European, American and Japanese architecture, his most recent book being Japan and the West: An Architectural Dialogue (2019). He is currently the President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

5. Pre-recorded. Art in Japan Today by Timon Screech (14th October)

The art-world in Japan is vibrant, both in international contemporary art and in traditional genres, including pan-East-Asian inkwash, and what is labelled 'Japanese painting' (nihonga). Traditional crafts also endure, often with government support. A specific feature is triennales, which rotate around provincial areas, aspiring to the dual purpose of fostering creativity and enlivening a rapidly-depopulating countryside.

Timon Screech. Professor of History of Art at SOAS, University of London. An expert on the art and culture of the Japanese Edo period, including its international dimension, he has published widely on the subject. His books include Sex & the Floating World and Obtaining Images. 


Register for the webinar series for £65


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