A short history of the Sussex Japan Society

In the beginning Year 1 1996-97 Year 2 1997-98
Year 3 1998-99 Year 4 1999-2000 Year 5 2000-01
Year 6 2001-02 Year 7 2002-03 Year 8 2003-04
Year 9 2004-05    

In the beginning Jeannette and John Simpson, who had an interest in Japan for many years and who were teaching (very!) basic Japanese at Adult Education classes, had a dream of a venue where their students, Japanese people living and working in Sussex, and anyone else with an interest in things Japanese, could meet to discuss Japan, its people, language and culture.

In 1996 they mentioned this idea to the then manager of the Adur Resource Centre in Shoreham-by-Sea and he offered free use of his premises to get the concept off the ground. John and Jeannette then contacted Haruko Lewis (who they knew from excellent language weekends at the Brasshouse Centre) and borrowed heavily from her experience of running the Birmingham Eiwakai.

8 July 1996 after publicity in local newspapers (who displayed considerable interest) an Inaugural Meeting was held at the Adur Resource Centre to establish whether there was enough support to make a Sussex Japan Society viable. This question was answered by the presence of over 50 people. The meeting adopted a Constitution (which, with the logo, was based on ideas from the Birmingham Eiwakai) and elected a committee. John and Jeannette agreed to be co-opted members but were anxious that it should not be "their" society and should have input from a wide range of members.

15 July 1996 the first committee meeting was held and it was agreed to make the meeting for members a monthly event. Membership fees were set and the programme was discussed on the basis of the responses to a questionnaire on members interests circulated at the inaugural meeting. A Programme Sub-Committee was set up (although it was subsequently found more effective to have one Programme Secretary). John and Jeannette set up a Web site to publicise the Society.

Year 1 1996-97

12 August 1996 was the first meeting for members. The subject was "Encounter with Japan" given by John and Jeannette Simpson and included a light-hearted questionnaire "What do you know about Japan?".

9 September 1996 Steven Sherlock talked on visiting and travelling in Japan, illustrated with photographs.

14 October 1996 Cath Rees-Jones demonstrated Chinese Brush Painting and let members try it for themselves.

3 November 1996 Many members and language students went to the Open Day at Rikkyo Japanese school with whom we have a long and friendly relationship.

11 November 1996 Koizumi Shoko gave a talk on Japanese Culture, including calligraphy, and gave her impressions of working in England.

16 December 1996 Demonstrations of Ikebana and Kimono wearing were given by Masako Harrison. This was the first meeting in St Mary’s Church Hall, East Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, which has since become our regular venue.

20 January 1997 New Year Party with Japan quiz and refreshments – this was held in the hall of the Methodist Church, Tarmount Lane, Shoreham-by-Sea.

17 February 1997 David Morrison of Ricardo Engineering, Shoreham gave a talk on Doing Business in Japan.

17 March 1997 Roger Newman talked on and demonstrated Shiatsu.

21 April 1997 We had an illustrated talk on Japanese Swords by Fred Stride, Vice President of Token, the Japanese Sword Society.

17 May 1997 The Society was represented with an impressive stand at The Northbrook College Language Fair, which was manned by several members including two of our Japanese members wearing kimono. We were further supported by local clubs giving demonstrations of Karate, Okinawan weapons training and Iaido.

19 May 1997 At short notice Kato Kyoko and her friend Nanae gave a demonstration of Origami, and kindly assisted the clumsy gaijin to produce some work to be proud of!

16 June 1997 As part of the Adur Festival we arranged a meeting in conjunction with members of Rikkyo School. Originally we expected a demonstration of the Tea Ceremony but in the event they also provided demonstrations of Japanese dance and Koto playing, which made a spectacular evening for those of the audience attending a Society meeting for the first time. Also in June two members manned a stand to represent the Society at the annual exhibition of the British Koi Keepers Association.

21 July 1997 At the AGM four new Committee members were elected to replace those whose other commitments prevented them from participating fully. It was reported that the Society’s finances were on a sound footing, since the low cost of venues and the fact that many speakers had given their services freely had allowed a reserve to be built up for the forthcoming year. The Annual General Meeting occupied the first part of the evening and was followed by a Workshop at which members could try their hand at Ikebana, Calligraphy, Brush Painting, Soroban and a quiz.

Year 2 1997-98

18 August 1997 Eric Danot gave a talk and demonstration on Bonsai.

6-7 September 1997 The Society was represented by a stand at "Bonsai South"(which included ikebana and koi carp). The stand was manned by members of the Society.

12 September 1997 In association with the touring art exhibition "Bridges", sponsored by the Anglo-Daiwa Foundation, a special open meeting was held at the Hove Engineerium, at which the artist Alan Dick gave an illustrated talk on Japanese Bars.

15 September 1997 Brian Page, a local dealer in Japanese antiques, gave an illustrated talk on Japanese Woodblock Prints.

20 October 1997 A talk on Japanese Garden Design, illustrated by slides, was given by Alan Thrower.

2 November 1997 Many members and language students attended the Open Day at Rikkyo School, which coincided with the school’s 25th anniversary.

17 November 1997 An evening of martial arts demonstration (Karate and Aikido) was held in the Methodist Hall, with impressive demonstrations (including Okinawan weapons techniques) by two local clubs.

23 November 1997 We took a coach to London for a joint meeting with Birmingham Eiwakai. This took place at Japan House, HQ of the Anglo-Daiwa Foundation who kindly made a meeting room available. It featured an illustrated talk on Sumo by William Lawrence, former Sumo columnist for Kansai Time Out which was very well received – so much so that we had to drag members away for the next part of the day, a visit to Yaohan Plaza, the Japanese shopping precinct in North London.

15 December 1997 This was a Wine Tasting, with an excellent selection of French wines provided by our Chairman, Steven Sherlock, who added to the enjoyment of the evening by a very interesting and well-researched talk on the wines.

16 January 1998 A number of members were able to visit the Hatsugeiko (first practice of the year with attendant ceremonial) of the local Kendo associations at Lewes.

19 January 1998 Roald Knutsen spoke on "Goblins, Mountain Priests and Warriors", expounding his theory that the tengu who taught the hero Yoshitsune swordsmanship were not mythical creatures but a sect of yamabushi (mountain priests – who still exist today).

16 February 1998 - Jurassic Carp This intriguing title was the subject of a talk on the pleasures of koi keeping by Cathy Shepherd.

16 March 1998 Rob Willats gave a dramatic demonstration of the art of Iaido – drawing the katana (Japanese sword) as it would have been done in various situations when faced with differing numbers of enemies.

20 April 1998 Members of the Committee produced a quiz which was both entertaining and informative.

18 May 1998 Cath Rees Jones explained the history of temari – balls decorated with wound silk, originating in Heian times – and made the evening very entertaining by audience participation in the construction of a temari, and, as a bonus, got everyone trying Japanese beadwork too.

16 June 1998  Nanae Koimai and some of her friends gave a very enlightening demonstration of Japanese home cooking.  Most of the large number who attended were able to sample the various delicious dishes.

20 July 1998  was the Society AGM, marking our second anniversary.  After a short business meeting members took part in some Japan-related activities.

Year 3 1998-99

17 August 1998 Eric Danot gave us another brilliant demonstration of Bonsai, and commented very kindly on the efforts brought along by members who had been inspired by his talk last year to take up the hobby.  He gave a further boost to the hobbyists by announcing a 10 per cent discount for all SJS members at his shop in Brighton.

September 5  1998 On that Saturday the Society, with generous assistance from the Daiwa Foundation, held a public exhibition in the Unitarian Church Hall, Brighton, which succeeded beyond our wildest hopes.  It was open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and 750 people passed through the doors in that time.   Our team in the kitchen served over 350 helpings of noodles, innumerable teas and coffees, the Yakult representatives ran out of samples by lunchtime, and the Japanese National Tourist  Office used up all their leaflets.  We are very grateful to all those who supported us and especially those members who worked so hard to make it a success.

September 21 1998  The meeting was held in the the Methodist Church Hall to give more room for a Kendo demonstration, accompanied by a most enlightening talk by Roald Knutsen.

October 12 1998  This was an additional meeting, where members of the Rikkyo school treated us to an evening of Japanese culture & tradition, which included koto playing, traditional dance, and the tea ceremony.

October 19 1998  Michael Jackson, world-famous as The Beerhunter, came to talk to us about Japanese beers.  We were amazed at his encyclopaedic knowledge of the brewing industry of the world and Japan in particular, delighted by revelations of Japanese beers we had never before discovered, and gratified by samples of some of those beers.  But most of all we were impressed to learn that this very busy man, in demand all over the globe, had arranged to come to the Society some considerable time before: since then circumstances made it extremely inconvenient for him, but still he kept his promise.   Meaning that he stepped off one plane, drove down to Sussex, back to London the same night and got onto another plane next morning.  A real gentleman!  Check out his web site: Michael Jackson the Beer Hunter See also notes on his books in the Bibliography.

16 November 1998  John Simpson talked on Haiku and explained that it was possible to write haiku in English. The audience then experimented with producing their own haiku, with some very impressive results.

21 December 1998  A few hardy souls gathered in a local pub to celebrate Kurisumasu.

18 January 1999  George Bailey gave a talk, illustrated by slides, on Japanese military history, concentrating on the rise of the Shoguns.

15 February 1999  Akemi Solloway and her husband gave a talk on the history of the kimono, with demonstrations, and Japanese culture in general.

15 March 1999  David Simons, who has lived and worked in, and written about Japan, spoke on Aspects of Japan. He used a discussion format whereby members were able to share their own experiences as well as hearing David’s own interesting and amusing anecdotes.

19 April 1999  David Lesser from the Japanese Garden Society gave an excellent talk on Japanese Gardens illustrated by slides.

1 May 1999  Several members went to the Open Day run by the Brighton & Hove Japan Society and held at the Cornerstone Community Centre Hove, with children's activities, story telling and singing, and a taste of Japanese food.

17 May 1999  Mrs Hely Norton from the Hanga Ten Gallery gave a talk on contemporary Japanese prints, illustrated by some splendid examples.

21 June 1999   June meeting formed part of the Adur Festival and featured David Battie of BBC TV's "Antiques Roadshow".  He gave a very entertaining talk on several kinds of Japanese antiques, and commented on various object brought along by members of the audience of over 100 people.

19 July 1999 The AGM marked the Society's third birthday, and after the normal business we enjoyed a fascinating display of Japanese phone cards by Esme Berman, with a demonstration of shodo by Akemi Solloway and also a chance to see the cards designed by Committee member Alan Thrower.

.Year 4 1999-2000

16 August 1999 Well known Japanese food writer Emi Kazuko gave a mouth watering demonstration of Japanese cookery and members were able to enjoy sushi samples.

21-22 August 1999 The Society had a stand at the Bonsai South exhibition held at Hove Town Hall.  Our display attracted a lot of interest, especially as it was enlivened by instant Chinese brush painting demonstrations and sales of cards.

20 September 1999 Liam O'Brian came to explain and demonstrate Kyudo, the Way of the Bow, to an enthralled audience.

18 October 1999 Japanese Cinema was the subject of a talk by Heidi Potter of the Japan Festival Education Trust, illustrated by video extracts, and opening our eyes to a fascinating topic.

15 November 1999 Roger Newman talked about Shiatsu, theory and practice, and demonstrated several techniques.

20 December 1999 saw the hardy few gathering in the pub to greet Kurisumasu.

17 January 2000 The first meeting of the new Millennium was on the subject of Japanese Railways, by Murray Hughes, Editor of Railway Gazette International and was well illustrated by slides ensuring that we shall all pay much more attention to that efficient transport system on our next visit.

21 February 2000 John Simpson planned a talk on Sumo, Sport of the Gods, but being struck down by 'flu at the last minute, the talk, illustrated by Sumo memorabilia, books, posters and video, was ably delivered by Jeannette Simpson.

20 March 2000 John Wright of Middlesex University spoke on Eastern Theatre Masks and used the effects of light to show how they could be made to live and express emotions.

17 April 2000 Another scheduled speaker succumbed to 'flu but at the last minute our ever resourceful Programme Secretary persuaded Rob Willats to give his impressive demonstration of the art of Iaido.

15 May 2000 This meeting was held at the Unitarian Church in Brighton as it was linked with the Brighton Festival and World Haiku Festival 2000.   Mr Susumu Takiguchi, Chairman of World Haiku 2000, came to lead a lively audience in a haiku workshop on the theme 'Spirit of Sussex' and to judge the competition associated with the event.  The first prize was won by by Bill Wyatt with:

Through hazy sea mist
waves lapping – loneliness of
the ice cream eater

19 June 2000 Akemi Solloway, assisted by her friends, explained Japanese home cooking and demonstrated nikujaga.  This contrasted with tuition in the art of sushi making by Michael Dodd, proprietor of the local Japanese restaurant Oki Nami and all resulted in some very tasty treats for the audience.  Michael, who had spent all day making sushi, now spent most of the evening in the same way providing for the queue of those wanting seconds - and thirds!

17 July 2000 The AGM marked the Society’s fourth birthday, rounding off our fourth successful year. The meeting approved some amendments to tidy up the Constitution and to set up the category of Honorary Life Member to recognise outstanding work by persons furthering the aims of the Society. The first Honorary Life Members created were John and Jeannette Simpson, the co-founders of the Society. The business meeting was followed by an impressive demonstration and explanation of Karate by Paul Rudwick, sensei 4th dan Shotokan Karate International and two of his pupils.

Year 5 2000-01

21 August 2000 featured a demonstration and explanation of ninjutsu techniques

18 September 2000 Stephen Turnbull, the authority on the Samurai, gave a most interesting talk illustrated by slides and pieces of armour, on the history of the Samurai, but gave it an original slant by comparing the concurrent development of warriors in Europe.  He then signed copies of his books for several keen fans.

7 October 2000 The Society arranged another exhibition in Brighton, with displays, stalls, activities and free sushi.  In spite of appalling weather, over 250 people visited the exhibition, which was a major success for the Committee's team work in arranging it.

16 October 2000 Fred Stride, of the UK Japanese Sword Society, talked on Japanese Legends and illustrated it with artefacts decorated with legendary figures.

5 November 2000 Several members attended the annual Open Day at Rikkyo School near Horsham.  As usual, the displays and performances by the pupils were excellent and visitors were able to enjoy a literal taste of Japan at the food stalls.  

20 November 2000 Yayoi Lidbetter gave a fascinating demonstration of various Japanese hairdressing techniques from the Taisho era, accompanied by a commentary from Akemi Solloway.

18 December 2000 saw a very small group in the pub, where under the influence of lemonade only, a society member, who had never spoken in public before, was persuaded to do what became a most enjoyable session on computer games (see 23 April).

15 January 2001 A fascinating talk on Shinto by an English lecturer (normally working in Hokkaido) who had taken part in three Shinto retreats.

19 February 2001 A talk on Tai chi, with a demonstration

19 March 2001 A demonstration of the game of Go, with everyone then having a try, in groups.

23 April 2001 A talk on the history of Japanese computer games, with even the technologically unconfident getting absorbed afterwards playing the games on the computers that the speaker had brought in.  Most popular were the Japanese language learning games.

21 May 2001 A judo display by a group of children from Peacehaven.

16 June 2001 A local school had a youth day with the theme “Land of the Samurai” at which the Society had a display of posters and items reflecting Japanese culture.

18 June 2001 A former teacher on the JET scheme talked about his experiences living in Japan and teaching in a Japanese school.

16 July 2001 The AGM marked the Society’s fifth birthday, rounding off our fifth successful year. After the business meeting, members talked about Japanese items they had brought with them, which were of particular significance to them.

Year 6 2001-02

20 August 2001 This was the big meeting of the year, when Lesley Downer came to talk on the Secrets of the Geisha.  Needless to say, the meeting attracted a large number of visitors as well as the regular members.

17 September 2001 A local practitioner gave a talk on the Japanese form of healing known as Reiki.

15 October 2001 A highly active demonstration of Okinawan weapons Karate, with an explanation of some of the philosophy underlying it.

4 November 2001 Some members attended the annual Open Day at Rikkyo School near Horsham.  As usual, the displays and performances by the pupils were excellent and visitors were able to enjoy a literal taste of Japan at the food stalls.

19 November 2001 A workshop on Noh theatre, with most people present trying either dance, singing or drumming.

17 December 2001 Normal Christmas pub evening cancelled, as too few people likely to be able to attend.

21 January 2002 When the projected speaker did not arrive, John Simpson stood in with a talk on Japanese woodblock prints

18 February 2002 Members of the Committee led a discussion on Japanese Weddings, to which members also contributed reminiscences or showed souvenirs.

18 March 2002 Tomoko Boyden and friends gave us a lively evening of Japanese cooking with lots of tasty samples and origami, at which everyone tried their hand.

15 April 2002 Olwen and Michael Hollings gave a fascinating talk on the Birds of Japan, illustrated with slides, which not only showed the unusual species there but revealed remote parts of Japan, well off the tourist trail.

 20 May 2002 Margaret Lewis explained the techniques of Japanese Embroidery, and showed some magnificent items, ranging from pictures to wedding kimono.

17 June 2002 My Day at a Japanese Senior High School for Disabled Young Adults was the title of a talk by Diana Clarke, illustrated by photographs and delivered very vividly and enthusiastically, showing the inspiring work being done in this field.

15 July 2002 was the AGM following which Eric Danot gave another of his lively talks and demonstrations on Bonsai.

Year 7 2002-03

19 August 2002 we had a fascinating talk on Shogi, Japanese Chess, and were introduced to the subtleties of this challenging game.

16 September 2002 was scheduled for an evening of videos on the sights and sounds of Japan.  This proved rather difficult when the video player failed to arrive but with photographs, including some supplied by Chris Knight, and reminiscences from all present, we had an interesting evening.

21 October 2002 Alan Thrower gave a talk on Japanese Gardens, illustrated by slides and photographs, showing the main styles of garden and explaining the deceptively natural look which gives these gardens their universal appeal.

3 November 2002 Several members attended the annual Open Day at Rikkyo School near Horsham.  Although the school has a smaller number of pupils at present they still maintained the very high standard of displays and performances, as well as providing delicious Japanese food and snacks.

18 November 2002 Kimie Markarian explained to us the workings of the Soroban (Japanese abacus) and demonstrated how a skilled operator could beat an electronic calculator - members of the audience concluded that they needed a lot more practice to reach that level!

16 December 2002 No official meeting – we have found that a meeting close to Christmas does not attract enough attendance, but a few members socialise in a local pub.

20 January 2003 Tim Nicklin and his dedicated group gave a very lively and impressive demonstration of Kobujutsu (Ancient War Arts).

17 February 2003 Tomiko Boyden returned with a group of her friends to give a further demonstration of Japanese Home Cooking.  The appeal of the evening was partly the opportunity to learn interesting new dishes which would be quite easy to replicate at home – but mainly the delicious smells and the generous quantity of tasty samples which kept the audience queuing up for more!

17 March 2003 Ted Kennard told us of his experiences in post-war Japan, and how he subsequently spent many years in Hong Kong, helping with its development as it boomed and then witnessing the hand-over to the Chinese.

April 2003 The normal meeting date coincided with Easter and so was cancelled.

19 May 2003 We welcomed back Lesley Downer, who came to tell us about her new book on Madame Sadayakko ‘the Real Madame Butterfly’, and illustrated a fascinating talk with superb slides.

16 June 2003 Dominic Holmes introduced us to the world of Manga (comic books) and Anime (cartoons), with a range of video clips well chosen to illustrate the diversity of Anime.

21 July 2003 After our brief AGM Neil Cantwell, with his travelling companion Reuben, gave a talk on the 88 Temples Shikoku Pilgrimage.  It was an excellent insight into an area outside most members' experience and was well illustrated by pictures on laptops.

Year 8 2003-04

21 July 2003 The AGM marked the Society’s seventh year of operation. After the business meeting, Neil Cantwell and his travelling companion gave a talk, illustrated with slides, about the 88 temples Shikoku Pilgrimage, which was an inspiration for those wishing to find a different way to see Japan.

18 August 2003 Patrick Carey, author of “Rediscovering the Old Tokaido”, came to tell us how he had walked the route of the old highway between the Shogun’s capital of Edo and the Emperor’s seat at Kyoto.  Much of the old route, depicted in many famous woodblock print series, still existed, and was shown in the slides accompanying the talk – yet more inspiration for travel in Japan.

15 September 2003 David Morrison returned to give us more insights and anecdotes drawn from his wide experience of doing business in Japan.

20 October 2003 Rob Willets brought along examples from his own collection, gathered over many years, to illustrate an interesting talk on Japanese Swords.

2 November 2003 A lot of members attended the annual Open Day at Rikkyo School near Horsham and enjoyed the customary high standard of displays and performances, as well the delicious Japanese food and snacks.  This was a precursor to our meeting on . . .

17 November 2003 when members of the Rikkyo School Koto group, with their music teacher, came to perform for us.  Although most of them had only recently taken up the instrument they acquitted themselves well, giving a most enjoyable concert.  Perhaps the highlight of the evening for most members was when the pupils conducted a hands on tutorial, encouraging us to try playing this distinctive instrument.

15 December 2003 No official meeting – we have found that a meeting close to Christmas does not attract enough attendance, but a few members socialise in a local pub.

20 January 2004 John Simpson introduced members to Enka, “the Japanese blues”, illustrated with audio examples of this music which has been called “the soul of Japan”.

16 February 2004 David Hill told us of his work on the tiny sub-tropical islands south of Japan studying “Japanese Monkeys”.  Slides illustrated the fascinating efforts in conservation and attempts to maintain the environment.

15 March 2004 Oriental Medicine was the title of a talk by Alan Plenty who explained the theory and practice of techniques such as acupuncture and moxibustion.

19 April 2004 Tomeko Boyden returned to give another delicious demonstration of Japanese cookery.

17 May 2004 Insights about living and working in Japanese Universities, well illustrated by slides, were provided by Kevin McCormick.

21 June 2004 Another inspiring and entertaining demonstration on how to work miracles of Bonsai with unlikely materials was given by Eric Danot.

Year 9 2004-05

19 July 2004 The AGM was followed by an evening in which members brought along their favourite objects related to Japan and explained their appeal and relevance.  It produced a wide range of items and evoked great interest.

16 August 2004 Ronald Baker of the British Origami Society brought along some astounding specimens of the art, and then assisted our clumsy efforts to create our own masterpieces.

20 September 2004 John Simpson gave an illustrated talk showing the 1001 uses of bamboo, and proved it's not just for supporting garden plants.

18 October 2004 Paul Fisher, the BBC's World Music specialist and owner of Farside Music explained the varied styles of Japanese Music and illustrated it with CDs.

15 November 2004 Tim Nicklin and members of his dojo gave a lively demonstration of Okinawan karate and weapons techniques, enhanced by useful explanations.

20 December 2004 No official meeting – we have found that a meeting close to Christmas does not attract enough attendance, but a few members socialise in a local pub.

17 January 2005 Fred Stride of the Token Society gave us an enthusiastic talk on Japanese Swords while we marvelled at his collection of historic weapons.

21 February 2005 Kitty Cava gave an enlightening talk on the theory and practice of Shiatsu in a way which made the more esoteric aspects comprehensible.

21 March 2005 John Simpson illustrated the kind of things Japanese people were watching on television, with extracts from JSTV.

18 April 2005 Murray Hughes gave a talk on Japanese Railways which was most enlightening as well as entertaining.

6 May 2005   The Committee of the Sussex Japan Society decided that the problems they had been struggling with for some time - declining membership, dwindling attendance at meetings, the difficulty of finding speakers prepared to commit to engagements long term - had reached a stage where it would be impossible to continue.  In recent years an increasingly heavy workload had been shouldered by a dedicated few and the limit had been reached, so it was agreed to quit while we were still ahead and formally dissolve the Society with immediate effect.  We have had nearly nine good years during which we have offered a rich and varied programme of events and this history stands as a monument to the Committee's hard work.

The End - or a New Beginning?   The Committee recognised the atmosphere of friendship and goodwill in pursuing a common interest which had been built up over the years and suggested that this might be continued by meeting from time to time in small informal groups to chat about our interests, go out for a meal, or attend any Japan-related events as a group.  The website will be continued as a resource on things Japanese and a place in which information on local Japan-related events can be publicised.  So continue to watch our events page and perhaps we may meet up with you one day.  Until then ja, mata ne.

To see a list of local Japan-related events click this link.

Updated May 2005

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