Mission & History

Founded in 1986 at Columbia University, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture is named in honor of Professor Donald Keene, internationally renowned scholar, Columbia University teacher, and interpreter of Japanese literature and culture to the West. The Center is dedicated to advancing the understanding of Japan and its culture in the United States through university instruction, research, and public education. In addition, the Center seeks to encourage study of the interrelationships among the cultures of Japan, other Asian countries, Europe, and the United States. The DKC is the central institution supporting the study of Japanese culture, literature, art, and history at Columbia University, and frequently co-sponsors events with the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the Center for Korean Research, and other Columbia centers and institutes.

Cultural & Educational Events

Chikamatsu Monzaemon's "Amijima."The Donald Keene Center arranges and hosts numerous events throughout the academic year, inviting leading Japanese and non-Japanese scholars, writers, artists, performers, and other Japan specialists to Columbia University. In addition to scholarly lectures, discussions, and symposia, the DKC organizes a wide variety of cultural performances and exhibitions. These range from film series and art exhibits to musical performances, theatrical workshops, and lecture-demonstrations by leading artists, performers, writers, and scholars. Nearly all programs are open to everyone, including non-Columbia affiliates. Such events arrange for interaction between attendees and visiting scholars or performers, and the annual Sen Lectures provide a rare setting for introducing prominent Japanese cultural figures to the American public. In recent years, the Center has hosted such diverse speakers as master weaver Tomita Jun, architect Ban Shigeru, chef Morimoto Masaharu, artist Morimura Yasumasa, poet and literary critic Ooka Makoto, writer and photographer Fosco Maraini, noted film historian Donald Richie, composer Takemitsu Toru, Noh actors Kanze Hideo and Umewaka Rokuro, and the late novelist Shiba Ryotaro. The Donald Keene Center also organizes major international conferences and symposia on various aspects of Japanese culture. In April 1996, the Abe Kobo Commemorative Symposium explored the literary and artistic contributions of one of Japan's most esteemed modern writers. In October 1997, the International Chikamatsu Symposium brought many dramatists, theater specialists, and leading Japanese scholars, filmmakers, critics, and performers to examine the life and work of Japan's great 18th-century playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon.

In addition to scholarly lectures, discussions, and symposia, the Center organizes a wide variety of cultural performances and exhibitions. These range from film series and art exhibits to musical performances, theatrical workshops, and lecture-demonstrations by leading artists, performers, writers, and scholars. Nearly all programs are open to the general public.

In recognition of its first decade of contributions to intellectual and cultural exchange between Japan and the United States, the Japan Foundation awarded the Donald Keene Center its Special Award for 1996. In 2011, the DKC celebrated a quarter century of programs dedicated to introducing Japanese culture, in all its depth and diversity, to new audiences within and beyond the university.

Donald Keene and Shiba Ryotaro

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