Corrina Ellis

PhD Student

Thesis: Planting identity in Hiroshima: the case of Shukkei-en Garden in paintings, poetry, and prose.

Supervisor:  Dr Stephen Whiteman

Advisor:  Professor Anton Schweizer (Kyūshū University)

Funded by Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England (CHASE) with additional support from The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation

In 1945 the atomic bomb obliterated the urban fabric of Hiroshima. The city that emerged following the American Occupation (1945–1952) embodied a new, modern Hiroshima, yet Shukkei-en (The Garden of Miniaturised Views) was restored to its Edo period state, trapping it temporally whilst its urban environment continued to evolve. My project explores what this deliberate choice to reconstruct the past reveals about the nature of historical memory and collective identity in post-war Hiroshima.

Established in 1620, Shukkei-en is today primarily known as the villa estate of generations of Asano family daimyō (domain lord) and considered ‘representative’ of an Edo period (1603-1867) daimyō garden. However, reducing the garden to a static phenomenon of the Edo period negates its significance thereafter, particularly the garden’s changing function during Japan’s imperial exploits (1868-1945) and its reconstruction following World War II, both endeavours to meet specific political and social needs within broader nationwide schemes. As such, Shukkei-en is an extant example of the ways in which gardens have been both stage for, and expression of, changing societal conditions and political identity throughout early modern and modern Japan.

Taking a diachronic approach, my project explores Shukkei-en’s shift from private daimyō residence in the Edo period to space of imperial performance beyond the Meiji Restoration (1868) and subsequent manifestation as a locus of collective memory upon its reconstruction after World War II. Seeking to recover the ideology of the garden’s changing patrons as facilitated through garden records, poetry, paintings, and photography, and supplemented with observations and interviews at the contemporary site, I examine the significant changes to the physical and cultural formation of Shukkei-en across its 400-year history.

My interrogation of the changing role of the same site under different rule or ownership exposes how the post-war Shukkei-en embodies an accumulation of constructed identities, each vital to an understanding of the contemporary site. By focusing on the distinguishing features and uses of Shukkei-en and contrasting the site to comparable provincial gardens, my project adds a new angle to Japanese garden studies as I disclose the multiple relationships between landscape environments and local identity rarely examined outside of imperial and political metropoles.


2021– :  Doctorate of Philosophy in History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art

2018–2020:  Master of Arts in History of Art and Archaeology of East Asia, SOAS University of London (Distinction)

1998–2001:  Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Geography, University of Hull (First Class)

Travel and Research Grants

2022:  AHRC Doctoral Studentship, Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England (CHASE)

2022:  The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Travel Grant

2021–2022:  The Great Britain Sasakawa Japanese Studies Postgraduate Studentship

Volunteer Work

2021–present:  British Museum

Initially taking on a role on the ‘Hands-on’ Asia Desk in the Hotung Gallery where I was trained to deliver object handling demonstrations to school groups and families, I am now based in the Asia department where I research and document Japanese surimono woodblock prints for the online collection. Additionally, I aid the curators in compiling a library on Japanese art and artists in the departmental office and assist with general work on the Japan collections in storage.

2017–2020:  National Museums Liverpool

I contributed to the Ethnology department of World Museum Liverpool on a weekly basis, being primarily responsible for research, documentation, and photography of a collection of preparatory ink drawings by Taki Katei (1830–1901) in preparation for the ‘Drawing on Nature: Taki Katei’s Japan’ exhibition held at the museum in 2019. During this time, I also assisted the Education department set up and deliver hands-on workshops on world cultures for visiting school groups in the museum’s classroom, theatre, and planetarium.


BAJS (British Association for Japanese Studies)

Research Interests

  • Garden histories, specifically Japanese daimyō provincial gardens
  • Urban history of Japan, particularly physical and represented spaces of the Edo period
  • Japanese visual culture and uses of visual imagery to construct and maintain power