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Japan scholar and translator Donald Keene dies at 96

27 Comments
By Ken Moritsugu

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27 Comments
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Makoto ShimizuFeb. 24  10:28 pm JST

Great man that helped to build bridges between cultures, a true peace maker.

Not really. His interests in Japanese literature were too esoteric for even most Japanese and he is unknown in the U.S. (and elsewhere) outside of scholarly circles and Americans who have study and/or lived in Japan.

With regards to "building bridges between (the two) cultures," Reischauer did more of that than any other of America's Japan hands.

MASSWIPEFeb. 24  09:54 pm JST

We're not going to see people like him again in the 21st century, at least not coming from a much-changed and more diverse United States.

Keene, like Reischauer, Seidensticker and Ritchie, were a part of or came to Japan at a unique period of its history. There is unlikely to be any more of them because interest in Japan has waned precipitously. Japan was supplanted by China, in broadest terms, at least a decade ago.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ganbare Japan!Feb. 24  02:57 pm JST

Rip Mr Keene, a great Japanese man. 96 is a good life, such a shame he didnt make 100. Condolensces to his wife and son.

Keene was gay and had a long term Japanese companion that not one obit has mentioned.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ MASSWIPE

You nailed it! His translation work was prodigious, but his over-sentimental view of the Japanese was sometimes grating and hard to swallow, and yet his fawning, maudlin attitude might not be so strange, after all. We can often observe the same phenomenon in other less illustrious gaijin Japanophiles who have "turned Japanese". It's probably just a case of the proverbial when in Tokyo...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My deepest condolenses.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Great man that helped to build bridges between cultures, a true peace maker.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Keene was an interesting fellow, the prototypical racially white unabashed Japanophile who "discovered" Japan as a young white American and found the country more to his liking than the place where he was born and raised. We're not going to see people like him again in the 21st century, at least not coming from a much-changed and more diverse United States. I found it occasionally tough at times to stomach Keene's fawning, maudlin, sentimental attitude towards Japan and its people, but I appreciated the many, many hours he spent translating Japanese literature into English for the benefit of readers like myself.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Yes @Patricia Yarrow Cosmos1, please live and learn. Donald Keene was the first bridge between the English speaking world and Japanese literature. His life was well lived. We can only try to leave such a legacy.

It won't change the fact that until i read about him today "i have never heard of him" we humans are not expected to know everything and everyone who lives on the planet. Have a nice day .

unflattering photo of this man

bit of a foot in the mouth that bit

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Keene was a fascinating man who lived an enviable life. Fly straight Sir.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think Seiki Keene was adopted as an adult. The only way for same-sex couple in Japan to ensure that one partner will definitely be next of kin when the other dies.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Cosmos1, please live and learn. Donald Keene was the first bridge between the English speaking world and Japanese literature. His life was well lived. We can only try to leave such a legacy.

Without a doubt, we owe this man so much.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Oh, and possible the MOST unflattering photo of this man ever. Please, JT, find another more merciful.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cosmos1, please live and learn. Donald Keene was the first bridge between the English speaking world and Japanese literature. His life was well lived. We can only try to leave such a legacy.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Never heard of him and his work until now , forgotten tomorrow .

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

I do pay taxes, but I would never change my name, I don’t mind it, but for me and my families history I just couldn’t do it personally speaking. But still this man was an amazing genius and he lived a great life, should be celebrated, 96 is higher than most of us will see, so good for him. A big salute to an amazing man.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

The man was a legend. Met him a couple of times and he was always very friendly, helpful and of course knowledgeable.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Donald Keene made the right decision to live out the remainder of his long, productive life in the country where he found love and whose literature he made his life's work explaining to the world and even to the Japanese themselves the Japanese contribution to the cultural heritage of humanity. His books remain as a great bridge between East and West. RIP.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

RIP. Loved the Mishima translations. Looks like he and Mishima shared same interests regarding men. No matter. Both were geniuses.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Condolensces to his wife and son.

Dr. Keene never married.

RIP to a true giant of scholarship.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

RIP. I read some of his works. He has some good stuff on Japanese poetry where he gives analyses in English. I was happy to see him become a Japanese citizen.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The man actually gave up his precious U.S. citizenship, which millions of people covet. Go figure.

-20 ( +3 / -23 )

Rip Mr Keene, a great Japanese man. 96 is a good life, such a shame he didnt make 100. Condolensces to his wife and son.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

Not quite... there is a tax treaty between the US and Japan. If you make over the tax exemption you can simply take the tax credit and given the tax rate in Japan is just as high as the US you will pay none to little tax on income higher than the FEIE. The same is not true obviously if you live in a country with a significantly lower tax rate like say HK... Uncle Sam will have his take in that case.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

He probably gave it up voluntarily to avoid having to pay double income in both Japan and the US. It seems many Americans take Japanese nationality for this reason

Americams in Japan pay no US income taxes until they earn more than $102,000.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

R.I.P.

I have loved his works, especially on Japanese classics, particularly one of his translations on "Okuno Hosomichi" (Narrow Road to Oku) by Matsuo Basho: the book with both Japanese and English translation along with beautiful Kiri-e arts by Miyata Masayuki. If I have to throw away all my books one by one, this one will be the last one.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/%E5%AF%BE%E8%A8%B3-%E3%81%8A%E3%81%8F%E3%81%AE%E3%81%BB%E3%81%9D%E9%81%93-Illustrated-Japanese-Classics/dp/4770020287/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1550981086&sr=1-7&keywords=donald+keene

5 ( +8 / -3 )

An awesome and inspiring individual!

Truly a legend and no greater symbol of the amazing transformation of the relationship between Japan and the U.S. during the postwar era!

A life lived to the fullest and two countries owe him a debt of gratitude for his tireless efforts to promote understanding.

RIP, Dr. Keene.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

When he became a Japanese citizen, was he forced to give up his American citizenship?

He probably gave it up voluntarily to avoid having to pay double income in both Japan and the US. It seems many Americans take Japanese nationality for this reason. Also, it's nice that his son could inherit his estate. Perhaps he couldn't adopt the young man if he was still an American citizen?

Whatever, 96 is a good knock. RIP.

4 ( +14 / -10 )

When he became a Japanese citizen, was he forced to give up his American citizenship?

2 ( +10 / -8 )

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