Professor Donald Keene
Donald Keene received his B.A. (1942), M.A. (1947), and Ph.D. (1949) degrees from Columbia University, and his Litt. D. from Cambridge University in 1978. He is the recipient of the Kikuchi Kan Prize of the Society for the Advancement of Japanese Culture (1962); the Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class (1993) and Third Class (1975); the Japan Foundation Prize (1983); the Tokyo Metropolitan Prize (1987); the Radio and Television Culture Prize (1993); and the Asahi Prize (1998). He has received honorary degrees from St. Andrew's College (1990), Middlebury College (1995), Columbia University (1997), Tohoku University (1997), Waseda University (1998), Tokyo Gaikokugo Daigaku (1999), and Keiwa University (2000). In 1985, he became the first non-Japanese to receive the Yomiuri Literary Prize, honoring the best book of literary criticism in Japanese, for the original Japanese version of Travellers of a Hundred Ages, and he was awarded the Nihon Bungaku Taisho (Grand Prize of Japanese Literature) for the same work.
In the autumn of 2002, Professor Keene was presented with one of Japan's highest honors, the title "Person of Cultural Merit" (Bunka Koro-sha), for his distinguished service in the promotion of Japanese literature and culture. Established in 1951, the Bunka Koro-sha award is given annually by the Japanese government to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement and development of Japanese culture. Recipients are provided with a lifetime annual financial grant. Professor Keene became the third non-Japanese to be designated an individual of distinguished cultural service by the Japanese government. In 2008, Professor Keene received another high honor, the Order of Culture (Bunka Kunsho), which the Japanese Government presents to those who have greatly contributed to Japanese art, literature, or culture. He became the first foreign national to receive such an award.
Professor Keene began teaching at Columbia University in 1955, and was named Columbia University Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature in 1986 and University Professor in 1989; he is currently a University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus. Professor Keene has published approximately 25 books in English, consisting of studies of Japanese literature and culture, translations of Japanese works of both classical and modern literature, a four-volume history of Japanese literature, and edited works including two anthologies of Japanese literature and the collection Twenty Plays of the No Theatre. Professor Keene's Japanese publications include approximately 30 books, some written originally in Japanese, others translated from English.
In 2002, Professor Keene's Meiji Tenno (Shinchosha, 2001; translation by Yukio Kakuchi), a biography of the Meiji Emperor, won the 56th Mainichi Shuppan Culture Prize in the Humanities and Social Sciences division. The English text, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852–1912, was published by Columbia University Press in the same year, and, among many enthusiastic reviews, was named one of the Best Books of 2002 by the Los Angeles Times Book Review.
In 2011, after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Professor Keene decided to move permanently to Japan and become a Japanese citizen. In April of 2011, the 25th-year anniversary celebration of the Donald Keene Center was held, and Professor Keene's last class was conducted on April 26, 2011. Since moving to Japan, he continues to write and translate in both English and Japanese.
More recent works include: Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan. (Columbia University Press, 2008), So Lovely A Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers (Columbia University Press, 2010), 15 volumes of The Collected Works of Donald Keene (Shinchosha, 2011), The Winter Sun Shines In: A Life of Masaoka Shiki (Columbia University Press, 2013), and Watashi ga nihonjin ni natta riyuu - nihongo ni miserarete (PHP kenkyuujo, 2013).
Click here for a pdf version of a pamphlet commemorating Prof. Keene's last class at Columbia and the 25th anniversary of the Donald Keene Center.