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University of Birmingham and Waseda University Stage Digital Symposium

University of Birmingham

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Held in London, the international digital symposium focused on examples from Japan and the UK, including the Yokai Hikimaku kabuki theatre curtain and its influence on manga, showing how technology can deliver insight and understanding of cultural works.

Dr Matthew Hayler, from Birmingham, Professor Minako Okamuro and Professor Dominque Chen, from Waseda University, spoke to an audience at Japan House, in Kensington, on digital technologies to revive classical arts.

They were followed by Tim Clark and Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, from the British Museum, who together with Ryuichi Kodama, from Waseda University, led a session exploring work on the Yokai Hikimaku, painted by the Kawanabe Kyosai (1831–1889).

The curtain features various Japanese demons called ‘yokai’ and has recently been digitised by the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at Waseda University – converting still images of the demons into vivid animation.

The symposium was opened by Simon Wright, Director Programming of Japan House London,  and Professor Hironori Kasahara, Vice President of Waseda University. Professor Robin Mason, University of Birmingham Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), closed the event.

Professor Robin Mason commented: ‘The UK is one of Japan’s top research partners. It is vitally important for both the University of Birmingham and our country to develop closer engagement with our counterparts in Japan, especially in areas of shared research strength.

‘Our collaboration with Waseda University continues to bear fruit, as there is much common ground between us. This joint symposium on using digital technology to revitalise classical works is tremendously exciting and I look forward to our future collaboration in this area.’

The symposium is a further milestone in a strategic joint research partnership between the Universities of Birmingham and Waseda, which started in 2016, that is producing collaboration across areas such as robotics, corpus linguistics, atmospheric environmental science, urban studies, language education, creative writing and Shakespeare.

Professor Hironori Kasahara, Senior Executive Vice President of Waseda University, and IEEE Computer Society President 2018 commented: ‘It is a great honour to hold this event “Classical Arts x Digital Technologies” at Japan House London in collaboration with the University of Birmingham.

‘This event is very important in introducing Waseda’s international efforts in curating classical arts with latest computer technologies, especially in demonstrating part of the accomplishments of the close collaboration between Birmingham and Waseda.

‘The Theatre Museum at Waseda houses many artefacts including important cultural properties. I hope further research collaborations will be made in the dramatic arts with University of Birmingham.’

Delegates from Waseda visited Birmingham in 2016 to launch a partnership with the School of English Drama and American & Canadian Studies, marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It united the Shakespeare Institute, in Stratford-upon-Avon, with Waseda’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum and the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum is a Waseda facility devoted to the history of performing arts and used for performances by artists from across the globe. It is named after Professor Tsubouchi Shoyo, a pioneer in modern Japanese literature and theatre, also known for translating Shakespeare’s complete works into Japanese.

The two universities worked together for some time before signing their formal agreement in 2016 and there is an active student exchange between Waseda and Birmingham.

Experts from Birmingham joined their counterparts at Waseda’s ‘University of Birmingham Day’ in November 2018 with an exploration of the importance of global Higher Education research, particularly focusing on Britain’s research links with Japan.

They joined Royal Shakespeare Company directors and Japanese Kyogen actors to explore how to bring Shakespeare to life for today’s theatre audiences. The event also celebrated the strategic joint research partnership that is producing collaboration across areas such as robotics, corpus linguistics, atmospheric environmental science, urban studies, language education, creative writing and Shakespeare.


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