Events 2000

February 1 - 29

Donald Keene Lecture Series: Scenes from the Life of Emperor Meiji
Four Lectures by Professor Donald Keene

Meiji Emperor imageTo celebrate the completion of Donald Keene's new biography of the Emperor Meiji (published by the Japanese monthly literary magazine Shincho 45, and serialized over the past 5 years in more than 60 installments), the Donald Keene Center will present a series of four lectures, surveying the life of the emperor who reigned over one of the most tumultuous periods of Japanese history. Ascending to the throne in 1867, as a youth of sixteen, Emperor Meiji died in 1912, having witnessed the transformation of Japan from a state of feudal disunity to a modern nation.

Prof. Donald Keene, as one of the world's most renowned authorities on Japanese literature and intellectual history, brings unique talents and insights to the writing of the first comprehensive biography of the Emperor Meiji. His translations, anthologies, and critical studies of Japanese literature have provided the foundation for this field in the West. He has been twice decorated by the Japanese government and as received virtually every other major Japanese and western literary award. In 1985, he was the first non-Japanese to receive the Yomiuri Literary Prize for the best book of Japanese literary criticism in Japanese. Since 1986, Prof. Keene has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1990 he was elected to the Japan Academy. Prof. Keene received his BA, MA, and PhD degree from Columbia University, and has been associated with Columbia throughout his academic career. He is currently a University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature Emeritus.

February 1

Donald Keene Lecture 1: The Early Years of Emperor Meiji
Altschul Auditorium (417 International Affairs Building), Columbia University (118th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

February 7

POKÉMANIA!: A Special Program with the Creators of Pokemon
Guest speakers include: Tsunekazu Ishihara (President of Creatures, Inc., Founder of The Pokemon Center, and developer of Pokemon related toys and products); Masakazu Kubo (Executive Producer of Shogakkan Publishing Co., and coordinator of international marketing of Pokemon)
Roger F. Murray Amphitheatre (Room 301, Uris Hall, 3rd floor), Columbia Graduate School of Business
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM (followed by a reception)

Puzzled by Pikachu and Poliwhirl? Bewildered by Bulbasaur and Blastoise? Mystified by Magnemite, Meowth, and Marowak? Astounded by the amazing commercial success of the Pokemon phenomenon that is now sweeping the world? The Pokemon phenomenon is a fascinating story of creative endeavor, application of new technologies, international cultural exchange, and world-wide marketing.

This program will present the creators and packagers of Pokemon in a panel discussion and multimedia demonstration on the development and international marketing of the electronic games, trading cards, films, toys, videos, and myriad tie-ins that have attracted children all over the world.

The panel discussion will be in Japanese (with English translation).

Co-sponsored by The Center on Japanese Economy & Business and the East Asian Institutert of the Consulate-General of Japan in New York

February 8

Donald Keene Lecture 2: Emperor Meiji and Foreign Visitors
Altschul Auditorium (417 International Affairs Building), Columbia University (118th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

February 14 - March 6
Kenji Mizoguchi Film Series
Miller Theatre, Columbia University (116th St. and Broadway)
6:00 PM


The films of Kenji Mizoguchi, along with those of Kurosawa and Ozu, are perhaps the most celebrated works of Japanese cinema throughout the world. In the years since his death in 1956, his reputation as one of the master directors of  world cinema has continued to grow. Few critics today would neglect to include at least one Mizoguchi film on their short lists of "best films of all time," and audiences the world over return again and again to his films, discovering something new in them with each re-viewing.

Kenji Mizoguchi’s life closely parallels the development of cinema in Japan: born in 1898, only a year or two after the introduction of the first Kinetoscope and Vitascope films into Japan, Mizoguchi entered the film industry in the early 1920s, just as filmmakers were breaking away from the conventions of Japanese traditional theater to establish themselves as independent artists. Though Mizoguchi made eighty-five films during his thirty-three years as a director  (1923-56), his exalted international reputation rests on a relatively small number of works. Only about a dozen of his films are in regular distribution outside Japan, and of these fewer than half are seen with any real frequency. Among them, the three masterpieces that brought international acclaim to Mizoguchi by winning top awards at the Venice Film Festival in three consecutive years—The Life of Oharu (1952), Ugetsu  (1953), and Sansho the Bailiff  (1954)—continue to fascinate us with their extraordinary artistry.

If there is a single theme uniting all of Mizoguchi’s films, a "red thread" running through his entire body of work, it is his sympathy for individuals, particularly women, who are victimized by society. His very first film, The Resurrection of Love (Ai ni Yomigaeru Hi), a story of two impoverished sisters in love with an artist, has been described as "a portrayal of the poor so devastatingly realistic that it proved unacceptable to the censors" when it was made in 1923. Much the same could be said of his very last film, the 1956 Street of Shame  (Akasen Chitai), a sensitive portrayal of the hardships suffered by prostitutes, made at the time of a national debate over a new anti-prostitution law. In all his films, Mizoguchi’s compassionate humanism hovers like a protective angel over the women oppressed by society as he investigates with remarkable delicacy the nuances of human relationships. And in each film, regardless of whether it is a medieval ghost story, an adaptation from Maupassant or Eugene O’Neill, or a domestic tragedy unfolding in the back alleys of modern Osaka, the viewer is enveloped in an atmosphere perfectly attuned to the subject at hand. Transcending mere accuracy in selecting and decorating his settings, Mizoguchi seems almost to control the textures and vapors and aromas that draw the viewer totally into the worlds he created on film.

The words of Akira Kurosawa, spoken in eulogy at Mizoguchi’s funeral, serve as eloquent commentary of the admiration of one Japanese film master for another:

"Mizoguchi’s greatness was that he would do anything to heighten the reality of every scene.  He never made compromises. He never said that something or other ‘would do.’  Instead, he pulled or pushed everyone along with him until they had created the feeling which matched his own inner image. He had the temperament of a true creator. Mizoguchi pushed and bullied and was often criticized for it. But he held out, and in doing so he created masterpieces... Directors like him are especially necessary in Japan, where this kind of pushing is so resisted. Of all Japanese directors, I have the greatest respect for him... With the death of Mizoguchi, Japanese film has lost its truest creator.”

February 14

Mizoguchi Film Series
Miller Theatre, Columbia University (116th St. and Broadway)

6:00 PM
Panel Discussion
A panel discussion about the life and work of Kenji Mizoguchi with:
Joanne Bernardi (Associate Professor of Japanese, University of Rochester) and Paul Anderer (Professor of Japanese Literature, Columbia University) and Andrew Sarris (film critic)

8:00 PM
Film: Sansho the Bailiff (Sansho dayu)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1954, 125 min.)
Original story: Ogai Mori.  Photography: Kazuo Miyagawa.  Music: Fumio Hayasaka.  With Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, and Eitaro Shindo.

An 11th-century tale in which the wife and two children of an exiled court official are captured by slave traders while trying to join him.  The wife is sent to the remote island of Sado, and the children are held in a labor camp run by Sansho the Bailiff, a cruel and sadistic tyrant.  The boy, Zushio, gradually accommodates himself to the harsh rules of the camp, but his sister Anju continues to resist.  Sacrificing her own life, she helps him escape.  Zushio returns to Kyoto, where he is reinstated to his proper position and eventually is made governor of the very province where he had been imprisoned.  Zushio frees the slaves and sends Sansho into exile before resigning his post to search for his mother.  He finds her on Sado, now aged, blind, and crippled.

Sansho the Bailiff  is a compelling fable, set in ancient times but with a message tinged with the liberal sensibility of postwar Japan and distinguished by the extraordinary visual imagery of cameraman Kazuo Miyagawa.

Awards: Grand Prize, Venice Film Festival 1954.

February 15

Lecture & Demonstration: Tsugaru Shamisen
Chikuzan Takahashi II & Tomiko Kojima
620 Dodge Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM (Reception to follow)>
Co-sponsored by the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies

This program is made possible by the cooperation and support of Music From Japan.

February 17

Lecture: On Beyond Shomu: Whither Buddhist Kingship?
Joan Piggott (Professor of Japanese History, Cornell University)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

In her Emergence of Japanese Kingship, Professor Piggott described how Shomu Tenno embraced the Mahayana ideal of chishiki as a key motif in his theater-state mode of kingship. In this presentation, she will reflect on what happened to chishiki kingship after Shomu, during the reigns of his daughter, Koken-Shotoku Tenno (749-70) as Heavenly Sovereign and Retired Heavenly Sovereign. We usually think of Koken-Shotoku as an unstintingly Buddhist monarch whose reign led to significant breaks with the past: the end of the Nara capital, the end of female sovereignty, and an end to theater—state Buddhist kingship. But Prof. Piggott argues that some revisions are needed in this common wisdom. Shomu's daughter actually presided over the Nara court during an epoch when T'ang practices were enthusiastically being taken as models, resulting in curious contradictions: a female sovereign mandating realm—wide distribution of a canonical text of patriarchy, the Classic of Filial Piety; and a Buddhist monarch whose oral edicts were filled with references to Heavenly signs, propriety, filiality, and Heaven's Mandate. Characterization of elements of "T'angification" and analysis of their impact on Heavenly Buddhist kingship "on beyond Shomu" into early Heian times will be foci of this presentation.

Continue the conversation with Professor Piggott at a Brown Bag Lunch on Friday, February 18th at 12:00 in the Kent Hall Lounge (primarily for Graduate Students).

February 21

Mizoguchi Film Series
Miller Theatre, Columbia University (116th St. and Broadway)
6:00 PM
Ugetsu (Ugetsu monogatari)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1953, 96 min.)
Original stories by Ueda Akinari and Guy de Maupassant. Screenplay: Yoshikata Yoda.  Photography: Kazuo Miyagawa. Music: Fumio Hayasaka. With Kinuyo Tanaka, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Sakae Ozawa, and Mitsuko Mito.

A complex and beautifully wrought fable of the perils of greed and ambition, set during the civil wars of 16th-century Japan.  A village potter and his neighbor go off to Kyoto to peddle their wares and are seduced by the attractions of the city and by the ease with which they can prosper.  When rampaging armies loot their village, the potter is more concerned with protecting his profits than his own family.  The potter falls under the spell of a beautiful ghost-woman, and only his harrowing escape from her clutches brings him to his senses.  He rushes home to discover that his family has perished.  His neighbor, smitten with the lure of military glory succeeds through fraud to secure a high rank, only to be brought down by the discovery that his wife has become a prostitute. One of the most famous and best loved of all Japanese films, Ugetsu has been listed by many international critics among “the best films of all time.”  Among its many awards are the Silver Lion and Film Critics’ Prize at the 1953 Venice Film Festival.

8:00 PM
A Geisha (Gion bayashi)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1953, 87 min.)
Screenplay: Yoshikata Yoda. Photography: Kazuo Miyagawa. Music: Ichiro Saito. With  Michiyo Kogure and  Ayako Wakao

In part a reworking of Mizoguchi’s 1936 film, Sisters of the Gion, the present film depicts the relationship of two geisha in postwar Kyoto. Miyoharu, slightly past her prime, is loved by a younger man who is squandering his family's fortune on her. Eiko, a younger geisha, asks Miyoharu to train her.  The older woman, impressed by Eiko’s beauty and talent, arranges for her debut, using money borrowed from a wealthy businessman.  When Eiko rejects the advances of this patron, he angrily has both women blacklisted in Kyoto’s teahouses.  The ban is lifted only when Miyoharu agrees to sleep with an unwanted suitor, while urging Eiko not to follow in her footsteps.

Although Miyoharu was intended to be the central character, the picture was “stolen” by the young actress Ayako Wakao in the role of Eiko.  She survived the severe criticism that Mizoguchi typically directed at all his actors, and exceeded even the director's expectations.  A Geisha launched Wakao as one of Japan's greatest stars.

February 22

Donald Keene Lecture 3: Incidents at Otsu
Altschul Auditorium (417 International Affairs Building), Columbia University (118th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

February 24 (Thursday)
Lecture: "Original Enlightenment" Discourse in Medieval Japanese Culture
Jacqueline Stone (Associate Professor, Japanese Religions, Dept. of Religion, Princeton University); Discussion with Ryuichi Abe (Kao Associate Professor of Japanese Religion, Department of Religion, Columbia University)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Booktalk on her recent work: Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism

"Original enlightenment" (hongaku) doctrine asserts that all things are Buddha, just as they are.  Emerging from within the powerful Tendai school of Buddhism, this discourse exerted an immense impact on medieval Japanese culture, including the arts and nascent theories of Shinto.  Scholars have long recognized its importance but differ over its interpretation.  Some have touted it as the pinnacle of Buddhist philosophy, while others have condemned it as a dangerous antinomianism that undermined morality and religious discipline.  Its relation to the new Buddhist movements of medieval Japan—Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren—is hotly debated. Jacqueline Stone's recent study, Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism, reconsiders this discourse in its historical and institutional contexts.  The author reflects on some of the book's conclusions, questioning established scholarly readings of "original enlightenment thought" and noting issues still unresolved.

February 28

Mizoguchi Film Series:
Utamaro & His Five Women (Utamaro wo meguru gonin no onna)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1946, 93 min.)
Screenplay:  Yoshikata Yoda; Photography: Shigeto Miki. With Minosuke Bando, Kinuyo Tanaka, Kotaro Bando, and Hiroko Kawasaki
Miller Theatre, Columbia University (116th St. and Broadway)
6:00 PM

In this film about the renowned 18th-century woodblock print artist Utamaro, Mizoguchi may have found the perfect allegorical subject for his own experience as a film director. Utamaro, like Mizoguchi, was the creator of a popular art form, not always appreciated as art, yet he was profoundly convinced that his work was of no less quality than that of conventionally acknowledged artists.  Both men were obsessed with women as subjects, and both were hampered throughout their careers by restrictions imposed by outsiders.

Utamaro was the first period film made after the war to be approved by the censors of the American Occupation, no doubt because its theme is about freedom and equality  The film depicts Utamaro’s irrepressible creative impulses and his relationships with the many women who posed for him.

8:00 PM
My Love Has Been Burning (Waga koi wa moenu)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1949, 84 min.)
Screenplay: Yoshikata Yoda & Kaneto Shindo.  Photography:  Kohei Sugiyama. With Kinuyo Tanaka, Ichiro Sugai, Mitsuko Mito, Eitaro Ozawa, and Kuniko Miyake.

A Meiji-period drama based loosely on the autobiography of Eiko Kageyama, one of that era’s most influential feminists.  Eiko defies her family and leaves her job as a schoolteacher in Okayama to live in Tokyo with her lover, a leader of the new Liberal Party.  She leaves him for another political activist, with whom she is arrested.  Released from prison in the 1889 amnesty following the issuance of the Meiji Constitution, she rejoins her husband in liberal political work, but leaves him when he has an affair with her former servant.  An interesting view of Meiji-period politics through the eyes of an intensely committed advocate of women's rights.

February 29

Donald Keene Lecture 4: Meiji and War
Altschul Auditorium (417 International Affairs Building), Columbia University (118th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

March 2 (Thursday)
Lecture: Textile Metaphor and Studying Kukai: Another Thought on the Origin and Influence of Esoteric Buddhism in Japanese History
Ryuichi Abe (Kao Associate Professor of Japanese Religion, Department of Religion, Columbia University); Discussion with Robert Thurman (Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies, Columbia University)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

Booktalk on his recent work, The Weaving of Mantra, Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse

The Weaving of Mantra bookcoverRyuichi Abe's book is an attempt to present a new way of studying Kukai (774-835).  Departing from the conventional notion of Kukai as the founder of a Japanese Buddhist sect, which Abe views as a modern myth, the author worked to embed Kukai and his introduction of Esoteric Buddhism within the fabric of political and social life in ninth-century Japan. What emerged from Abe's observation is a picture drastically different from conventional ones, in which Kukai's invention of a new type of religious discourse planted a seed that triggered changes--the collapse of ancient institutional structure that in turn encouraged the rise of medieval social order. The development of native Japanese syllabary, the Buddhisization of Japanese Emperorship, and the growth of popular legends on Kukai are among topics discussed.

March 6

The 2000 Soshitsu Sen XV Distinguished Lecture on Japanese Culture: Kuruma-za (Sitting in a Circle) - Thoughts on Japanese Group Mentality
Makoto Ooka (Poet)
Casa Italiana, 1161 Amsterdam Ave. (between 116th and 118th Streets, Columbia University
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM (followed by a reception in honor of Mr. Ooka)
RSVP REQUIRED: call 212-854-5036

Makoto Ooka imageMakoto Ooka is one of Japan's most distinguished contemporary poets. He is perhaps best known for his daily poetry column, Ori-ori no uta (Verses of the Times), which has appeared every morning for nearly two decades on the front page of the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's mass-circulation newspaper. In this widely read column, he examines a single poem written by a classic or modern Japanese poet, and occasionally a translation of a non-Japanese poem. Mr. Ooka has also published numerous volumes of his own poetry, as well as translations, literary criticism, and essays, for which he has received nearly every major Japanese literary award. English translations of his writing include: The Colors of Poetry: Essays on Classic Japanese Verse (1991), A String Around Autumn (1982), Elegy and Benediction (1991), A Poet's Anthology: The Range of Japanese Poetry (1994), What the Kite Thinks: A Linked-Poem with Three American Poets (1994), and Beneath the Sleepless Tossing of the Planets (1995). He has served as President of the Japan Poets Association (1979-81) and President of the Japan PEN Club (1989-93). He was designated Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the government of France in 1993, and received the Imperial Award of the Japanese Art Academy in 1996. The following year he was designated a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government.
Mr. Ooka is a Visiting Fellow of the Donald Keene Center, under a program supported by the United States-Japan Foundation.


March 6

Mizoguchi Film Series: The Life of Oharu (Saikaku ichidai onna)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi (1952, 137 min.)
Original story by Ihara Saikaku.  Screenplay: Yoshikata Yoda.  Photography: Yoshimi Hirano.  Music: Ichiro Saito. With  Kinuyo Tanaka, Toshiro Mifune, Ichiro Sugai,  Toshiaki Konoe,  Sadako  Sawamura, Eitaro Shindo, Jukichi Uno, Daisuke Kato, and Chieko Higashiyama
Miller Theatre, Columbia University (116th St. and Broadway)
8:00 PM

In this film adaptation of Saikaku’s 17th-century cautionary tale The Woman Who Loved Love  (Koshoku ichidai onna),  Mizoguchi substitutes a heartrending pathos for the bitter irony and self-mocking humor of Saikaku’s original.  Both versions depict the downfall of a well-bred woman, caused both by social forces and by her own sexual appetites.  The Life of Oharu, like Mizoguchi’s powerful 1936 film Osaka Elegy, shows how a woman can be stripped of social respectability and her own self-esteem simply by the fact of her own helplessness in a world dominated by men.

Winner of the Grand Prize at the 1952 Venice Film Festival, The Life of Oharu is the film that first brought Mizoguchi to international prominence, and is ranked as one of his greatest masterpieces.

March 20

Japanese sword imageLecture: The Culture of Force and Farce:  A History of Fourteenth- century Japanese Warfare
Thomas Conlan (Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies, Bowdoin College)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

March 24

Lecture: Benign Wolves, Rogue Boars, and a New Social and Ecological History of Japan
Brett Walker (Assistant Professor of History, Montana State University - Bozeman)
918 International Affairs Building, Columbia University (118th St. Amsterdam Ave.)
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Co-sponsored by the East Asian Institute, Columbia University

March 28

Lecture: Terute's Reflections: The Heroine as Archetype, Itinerant Entertainer, "Composer" and Tourist Attraction in Variant Oguri Narratives
Susan Matisoff (Professor and Chair, Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

Oguri imageOguri is a narrative first captured on paper around 1630. One example of the sekkyô-bushi genre, this sprawling tale ranges across space both in the geographical sense (from Kyoto to Ibaraki, Gifu, Kumano and back) and beyond, to the underworld court of King Emma. Orikuchi Shinobu saw the relationship between its central characters—Oguri, Terute and her father Yokoyama—as an archetype manifest as early as the Kojiki. Later scholars' theories relate aspects of the tale to realities of local history and to its transmission by women itinerants (aruki miko). After fading from prominence through much of the twentieth century, the Oguri narrative, and Terute in particular, have re-emerged as objects of local boosterism, and as the subject of new theatrical creations such as Umehara Takeshi and Ichikawa Ennosuke's Oguri "Super Kabuki" collaboration. This lecture will focus on the heroine Terute, refracted from various angles.
Co-sponsored by the University Seminar on Buddhist Studies

April 7

Lecture: Japan's International Role in the New Millennium
Shunji Yanai (Japanese Ambassador to the United States; Former Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs)
1501, Kellogg Center, International Affairs Building, Columbia University (118th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)
6:15 PM - 7:45 PM
Co-sponsored by the East Asian Institute, the Center on Japanese Economy and Business, and the Center for Japanese Legal Studies, Columbia University

April 11

Lecture: The Aesthetics of Actor Prints
Ellis Tinios (Professor of School of History, The University of Leeds)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:30 PM
Co-sponsored by the Ukiyo-e Society of America

April 18

The Culture of Sake: A Workshop and Sake-Tasting
John Gauntner (Author, Japan Times columnist, and international consultant on sake)
Satow Room, Lerner Hall, Columbia University (115th St. and Broadway)
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Sake bottle imageOver the past decade, Mr. Gauntner has visited and done research at many of the thousands of sake breweries in every part of Japan.  He will introduce new fine-quality sakes that have recently been imported to this country.  His illustrated lecture will be followed by a tasting with a variety of unusual sakes.

Must be 21 to participate in Sake Tasting

For informative reading on sake, see John Gauntner's

April 24

Note: This program was originally scheduled for April 10th
Lecture: Beyond Paper and Curtain: Architectural Works and Humanitarian Activities of Shigeru Ban
Shigeru Ban (Architect; Visiting Fellow of the Donald Keene Center)
Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall, Columbia University (115th St. and Broadway)
6:30 PM
RSVP REQUIRED: Seating is limited. Please call 212-854-5036
Paper Gallery image
Paper Gallery, 1994
SHIGERU  BAN, the brilliantly innovative Japanese architect, will speak about his work both as a designer and as a social activist encouraging the world’s architects and builders to produce safe, low-cost shelters for victims of earthquakes and other natural disasters.  He is best known for his cardboard-pillared buildings that have served as elegant permanent private homes and galleries, and also as temporary shelters for millions of people left homeless after massive earthquakes in Japan and Turkey.  Architect for the Japanese pavilion at the International Exposition 2000 in Hannover, Mr. Ban will also construct a special structure this summer in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.  In 1995, he established the NGO called VAN (Volunteer Architects Network), and he serves as Special Consultant to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In November 1999, Herbert Muschamp wrote of Shigeru Ban in the New York Times:
".... In the last five years, Ban has responded to the news of earthquakes and other disasters as if to a call of conscience.  After the Kobe quake in 1994, Mr. Ban designed units of cardboard and plastic housing for the thousands who had been driven from their homes.  The following year, he established the Volunteer Architects Network, a non-governmental agency of the United Nations.  This year, under the aegis of that agency, he has coordinated the production and shipment of cardboard housing units for refugees in Turkey.

It happens that Mr. Ban is also a brilliant designer of private houses, apartment houses, public buildings and museum exhibitions.  In these, he has displayed a striking talent for innovative form, structure and spatial organization.  This diverse body of work plays havoc with our Western inclination to plug architects into mutually exclusive categories: the artistically gifted or the socially committed.  In Mr. Ban’s case, they stem from the same outlook... In his work, we are invited to see the social dimension within the aesthetic, the artist inside the humanitarian."
Co-sponsored with the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University

Mr. Ban is a Visiting Fellow of the Donald Keene Center, under a program supported by the United States-Japan Foundation

April 27

Panel Discussion: Eto Jun
Coordinated by Paul Anderer (Professor of Japanese Literature, Columbia University)
301 Philosophy Hall, Columbia University (116th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM (a reception will follow)

Moderator: Paul Anderer
Guest Speakers:
Jun Eto image
Eto Jun (1932-1999)

• Ken Ito (Associate Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Michigan)
• Alan Tansman (Associate Professor and Chair, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Georgetown University)
• Richard Torrance (Associate Professor of Japanese Literature, Ohio State University)

As a renowned literary critic, educator, and public intellectual, Eto Jun occupied  a crucial place in Japanese cultural life since the late 1950s. This  discussion will address several areas of Eto's writing and his concern, ranging from his seminal reviews and essays on modern fiction, his magisterial work on the great novelist, Natsume Soseki, to his probing and often provocational studies of Japanese—American relations, and of Japanese identity.
May 2 (Tuesday)
Lecture: Paintings by Ando Hiroshige: The Tendo Hiroshige
Tadashi Kobayashi (Professor of Japanese Art History, Gakushuin University, Tokyo)
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (78th St. & 5th Ave.)
6:00 PM (a reception will follow)
For more information, please call 212-772-5800
Co-sponsored by the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and the Ukiyo-e Society of America

May 18

Note: This program was originally scheduled for May 17
Lecture: Commercialism, Cuisine, and the Other Hiroshige
Hans Thomsen (Dept. of Art and Archaelogy, Princeton University)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:30 PM
Co-sponsored by the Ukiyo-e Society of America
Program Change: Donna Welton's lecture on Genroku Period Prints and Printed Books has been replaced by this program

September 5 (Tuesday)
The Shumei Taiko Drum Ensemble of Japan
On the steps of Low Library Plaza, Columbia University (116th St. & Broadway)
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Shumei Taiko 2

Taiko drumming is a traditional form of Japanese art, often used in celebrations and festivals. While the origins of Taiko drumming are said to go back more than 1500 years, Taiko drums remain an integral part of Japanese cultural history today. The applicability of Taiko music to contemporary music has been especially evident since the 1950's, when jazz musicians began to incorporate Taiko scores and rhythms in their compositions.
Co-sponsored by the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies

October 17 (Tuesday)
Satsuma Biwa: Lecture, Demonstration, and Concert
• Lecture and Demonstration by Professor Hugh De Ferranti (Assistant Professor of Asian Languages, Cultures & Music, University of Michigan)
• Concert of Satsuma Biwa narratives by the eminent artist Yoshinori Fumon
301 Philosophy Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM

Yoshinori Fumon
Yoshinori Fumon
A Biwa is a short-necked plucked lute, of which various types are used for various kinds of music. The biwa is a distant relative of the European and of other Asian lutes, but derives immediately from the Chinese piba. The biwa was already used in court music in the 8th century, but in the 16th century a new type of biwa music grew out of an older style. To arouse the martial ardor of young men, biwa songs were composed on suitable themes, and this repertoire was continually added to over the years.  The Satsuma biwa has remained the most popular of all biwa styles.

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, and the Department of Music, Columbia University

October 20

Symposium: Architecture and Modern Japan
Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
9:00 AM- 5:00 PM
RSVP Required

  •  Session 1: ORIGINS AND FOUNDATIONS (Discussant: Ellen Conant, Independent Scholar)
  •  Session 2: NATION AND STATE (Discussant: Professor Alan Tansman, University of California, Berkeley)
  •  Session 3: MODERNISM AND INTERNATIONALISM (Discussant: Professor Kenneth Frampton, Columbia University)0
  •  Session 4: ARCHITECTURE AND THE CITY (Discussant: Professor Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University)

Simultaneous interpretation between Japanese and English will be available on the day of the symposium.

This symposium will be dedicated to the discussion of sixteen papers intended for eventual publication in a conference volume. The paper drafts will be made available in advance to all who are interested in attending the symposium and joining in the discussions. Please note that it will not be possible to provide copies of any of the papers to those who are unable to attend the symposium in person.

Those interested in receiving copies of the papers, free of charge, in order to prepare for the symposium, are asked to contact the Donald Keene Center, either by email to Mari Nakahara, or by phone to the Keene Center at (212) 854-5036, or by fax at (212) 854-4019. Please provide 1) your name, 2) affiliation, 3) area of interest, 4) mailing address, and 5) email, telephone, and fax contacts. The papers will be mailed out in late September.

pic: Yoshio Watanabe

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University

This symposium is made possible by the generous support of the Japan Foundation and the J.C.C. Fund of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, Inc.

October 26

Booktalk and Slide Presentation: Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography
Professor Elizabeth Ten Grotenhuis (Associate Professor of Asian and Japanese Art History, Boston University)Discussion with Professor Ryuichi Abe (Kao Associate Professor of Japanese Religion, Columbia University)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM
The first broad study of Japanese mandalas to appear in a Western language, this volume interprets mandalas as sanctified realms where identification between the human and sacred occurs. The author investigates eighth- to seventeenth-century paintings from three traditions:  Esoteric Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and the kami-worshipping (Shinto) tradition. Explaining why certain fundamental Japanese mandalas look the way they do and how certain visual forms came to embody the sacred, ten Grotenhuis presents works that show a complex mixture of Indian Buddhist elements, pre-Buddhist Chinese elements, Chinese Buddhist elements, and indigenous Japanese elements.

Professor Ten Grotenhuis is the author of many articles and books. Her most recent publication is the work featured in this lecture, Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography (University of Hawaii Press, 1999). She translated and adapted from the Japanese Narrative Picture Scrolls by Hideo Okudaira (1973) and Pure Land Buddhist Painting by Joji Okazaki (1977). She is the co-author, with John M. Rosenfield, of Journey of the Three Jewels (1979), and the author of The Revival of the Taima Mandala in Medieval Japan (1985). She is currently at work on a book entitled Arts of the Silk Road. In addition to having authored scholarly books and articles, she wrote the script and narrated a short film called the The Life of the Buddha, produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1987), and she wrote the program notes for a concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma based on the Japanese aesthetic concept mono no aware (1992).
Japanese Mandalas book cover

Co-sponsored by the University Seminar on Buddhist Studies

November 3

Symposium: New Perspectives on Studying Medieval Japan
Professor Masaharu Imai (Tsukuba University); Visiting Fellow of the Donald Keene Center; Visiting Professor (Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

4 Sessions involving Professor Imai and leading scholars from surrounding institutions:
  • Session 1: Defining "Medieval Japan": New Perspectives
  • Session 2: Buddhism, Shinto, and Women's History
  • Session 3: History and Art: Dealing with Textual and Nontextual Primary Sources
  • Session 4: The formation of "Nihon kenkyu" and US-Japan Intellectual Exchange

Professor Imai is a Visiting Fellow of the Donald Keene Center, under a program sponsored by the U.S.-Japan Foundation.  Co-sponsored by the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies

November 10

Symposium: Japanese Aesthetics in Contemporary Sound And a Demonstration on the Traditional Japanese Sho
• Keynote Speech: Music critic, writer, and arts administrator John Rockwell
     Mr. John Rockwell was the Director during the first years of the Lincoln Center Festival,
     and is currently the editor of the Sunday "Arts & Leisure" section of New York Times.
• Demonstration of Sho: Mayumi Miyata plays examples of gagaku and contemporary sho music
• Panel Discussion: Toshio Hosokawa, Karen Tanaka, Lois V Vierk, and other music specialists
301 Philosophy Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
5:30 PM


Sho is a mouth organ of Japanese court music. The sho consists of a lacquered wooden cup-shaped body, into which 17 narrow bamboo pipes of varying length are inserted vertically to form a circular cluster. Two of the pipes are mute; the remainder are fitted with small metal tongues vibrating freely through a small slot, and made to speak by closing a finger hole on the pipe. The instrument plays single notes and chords identified in the notation by the names of the pipes, and the player can maintain a continuous sound by sucking and blowing alternately. The sho is related to the Chinese sheng and to other East Asian mouth organs.

Co-sponsored with the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, the Department of Music, Columbia University, and Music From Japan.

November 10

Lecture: Samurai Sword and Sorcery: Illustrations of Fantasy Literature in Nineteenth-Century Japan
Professor Sarah Thompson (Assistant Professor of Japanese Art History, University of Oregon)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:30 PM
Certain nineteenth-century Ukiyo-e prints by Kuniyoshi and other Utagawa school artists depict subjects very similar to those of the "sword and sorcery" genre of twentieth-century English-language pulp fiction, comics, movies, and television. Kuniyoshi's brawny warrior heroes battle not only human enemies but supernatural monsters and seductive sorceresses, in much the same manner as the prototypical sword-and-sorcery hero, Conan the Barbarian. The prints illustrate novels by authors such as Santo Kyoden and Takizawa Bakin, who turned to themes of fantastic adventure as a safer alternative to the witty stories of the contemporary demimonde that had been suppressed by the government during the Kansei Reforms of the late eighteenth century. This lecture will examine several popular fantasy novels of the nineteenth century as illustrated in Ukiyo-e prints.
Co-sponsored by the Ukiyo-e Society of America, Inc.


November 29

Booktalk: Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Basho

Professor Haruo Shirane (Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature, Columbia University)
Discussion with Dr. Amy Heinrich (Donald Keene Center Director & Director of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM
» Click here to read a description of this book (Stanford University Press)

December 5

Lecture: The Utility Fallacy - Japanese Criticisms of Bioethics in America
Professor William LaFleur (Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Pennsylvania)
403 Kent Hall, Columbia University (116th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
6:00 PM
Japanese bioethicists have been struggling with the specific problems of their field but also against the way their American counterparts, dominant in this field, tend to define the issues and offer "solutions." An awareness of Japan as having once gone - in the case of the horrendous activities of Unit 731 - far too far in the direction of unethical medical research shows up in Japanese bioethical writing and is part of the critique of Utilitarianism. An adequate understanding of the protracted debate in Japan concerning the ethics of organ transplantation in Japan requires attention to this matter.



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