2019年2月24日 星期日

唐納德·基恩(Donald Keene 1922-2019 ドナルド・キーンさん)死去 96歳;入籍日本,adult adoption

Donald Keene, a scholar of Japanese literature who became the first foreigner to receive the country's highest cultural award, died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital on Sunday.
U.S.-born scholar of Japanese literature Donald Keene dies at 96

FILE PHOTO: Donald Keene shows off a placard with his name written in Japanese at Tokyo's Kita ward office after becoming a Japanese citizen in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo March 8, 2012. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Donald Keene, a scholar of Japanese literature who became the first foreigner to receive the country’s highest cultural award, died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital on Sunday.

Keene, 96, was known for introducing Japan’s culture in the United States and around the world through his scholarship and translations of classical and modern Japanese literature.

“It was all of sudden. I was shocked,” Akira Someya, the director and secretary-general of the Donald Keene Centre in the northern city of Kashiwazaki, told Reuters.

Keene, who befriended giants of Japanese literature such as Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata, was awarded the Order of Culture in March 2008, the first non-Japanese to receive it, and became a Japanese citizen in 2012.

He graduated from university in 1942 and studied Japanese under the auspices of the U.S. Navy before working in military intelligence during World War Two, interrogating prisoners and translating documents.

Keene went on to a career as a scholar of Japanese literature and was credited with a key role in winning recognition for “The Tale of Genji”, an 11th-century masterpiece often called the world’s first novel, as world-class literature.

After more than half a century teaching at Columbia University, Keene moved to Tokyo full-time and took Japanese citizenship following the devastating earthquake and nuclear disaster in northeast Japan in 2011.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Prominent U.S.-born Japanese literature scholar Donald Keene, who introduced a number of talented Japanese writers to the world, died of cardiac arrest at a Tokyo hospital on Sunday. He was 96.

He obtained Japanese citizenship in 2012 after seeing the struggle of people hit by the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster that devastated the coastal Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.

Keene was a close friend of a number of Japanese novelists and scholars, including late novelist Yukio Mishima, Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata and writer Junichiro Tanizaki.

Born in New York in 1922, he became fascinated with Japanese literature after he read an English translated version of the Tale of Genji, at Columbia University when he was 18.

The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, is a love story of a son of an emperor and is generally considered the world’s first novel.

Keene’s interest in contemporary Japan grew while as he served as the Japanese-language interpreter for the U.S. Navy during World War II, interrogating a number of Japanese prisoners and translating diaries left by Japanese soldiers.

In 1953, he entered a graduate school of Kyoto University to study Japanese literature. He also taught at Columbia University in New York, frequently visiting Japan and translated a number of contemporary works of Japanese novelists into English, becoming close friends of them.

“I have been happiest when I thought I had discovered some work not fully appreciated by the Japanese themselves, and as an enthusiast, I have not tried to keep my discovery to myself but to ‘publish’ it,” Keene wrote in his autobiography titled “On Familiar Terms,” published in 1994.

“I am glad that I had the chance to contribute to a basic understanding in the West of Japanese literature, and of Japanese culture in general,” he wrote.

Keene was a professor emeritus of Japanese literature at Columbia University.

“Professor Keene played the leading role in the establishment of Japanese literary studies in the United States and beyond,” the university said in a statement posted at its Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture.

“Through his scholarship, translations, and edited anthologies, and through the work of students he trained and inspired, he did more than any other individual to further the study and appreciation of Japanese literature and culture around the world in the postwar era,” the university said.

Famed Japanese literature scholar Donald Keene dies at 96
The Japan Times·5 hours ago

Donald Keene, renowned scholar of Japanese literature, dies aged 96

The Guardian·53 mins ago

Noted scholar Donald Keene dies

NHK WORLD·5 hours ago



Donald Keene/1922年、NY生まれ
日本文学研究者のドナルド・キーンさん死去 96歳(2019/2/24)

■語る 日本の文化と人生

【アーカイブ】日本人とともに生きたい 古今の日記読み、心を知った ドナルド・キーンさんに聞く有料会員限定記事 (2012/10/22)
【2012年10月22日朝刊文化面】 日本文学者のドナルド・キーンさんが日本永住を決めて東京に戻ってから1年が過ぎた。3月に日本国籍を取得。取材や講演などに引っ張りだこで、90歳とは思えない慌ただしい日々を過ごしてきた。少し落ち着いてきたと…[続きを読む]


【アーカイブ】67年前、私は沖縄の戦場にいた 日本国籍取得のドナルド・キーンさん(2018/10/25)有料会員限定記事
【2012年6月20日朝刊社会面】 東日本大震災からの復興を励まし、寄り添うかのように今年3月、日本国籍をとった日本文学研究者のドナルド・キーンさん(90)。初めて日本の地を踏んだのは67年前、沖縄に……[続きを読む]



Lifelong Scholar of the Japanese Becomes One of Them

WITH his small frame hunched by 90 years of life, and a self-deprecating manner that can make him seem emotionally sensitive to the point of fragility, Donald Keene would have appeared an unlikely figure to become a source of inspiration for a wounded nation.
Yet that is exactly how the New York native and retired professor of literature from Columbia University is now seen here in his adopted homeland of Japan. Last year, as many foreign residents and even Japanese left the country for fear of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident that followed a deadly earthquake and tsunami, Dr. Keene purposefully went the opposite direction. He announced that he would apply for Japanese citizenship to show his support.
The gesture won Dr. Keene, already a prominent figure in Japanese literary and intellectual circles, a status approaching that of folk hero, making him the subject of endless celebratory newspaper articles, television documentaries and even displays in museums.
It has been a surprising culmination of an already notable career that saw this quiet man with a bashful smile rise from a junior naval officer who interrogated Japanese prisoners during World War II to a founder of Japanese studies in the United States. That career has made him a rare foreigner, awarded by the emperor one of Japan’s highest honors for his contributions to Japanese literature and befriended by Japan’s most celebrated novelists.
Dr. Keene has spent a lifetime shuttling between Japan and the United States. Taking Japanese citizenship seems a gesture that has finally bestowed upon him the one thing that eludes many Westerners who make their home and even lifelong friendships here: acceptance.
“When I first did it, I thought I’d get a flood of angry letters that ‘you are not of the Yamato race!’ but instead, they welcomed me,” said Dr. Keene, using an old name for Japan. “I think the Japanese can detect, without too much trouble, my love of Japan.”
That affection seemed especially welcome to a nation that even before last year’s triple disaster had seemed to lose confidence as it fell into a long social and economic malaise.
During an interview at a hotel coffee shop, Japanese passers-by did double takes of smiling recognition — testimony to how the elderly scholar has won far more fame in Japan than in the United States. A product of an older world before the Internet or television, Dr. Keene is known as a gracious conversationalist who charms listeners with stories from a lifetime devoted to Japan, which he first visited during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
BUT what is perhaps most remarkable about Dr. Keene is that Japan, a racially homogeneous nation that can be politely standoffish to non-Japanese, has embraced him with such warmth. When he legally became a Japanese citizen this year, major newspapers ran photographs of him holding up a handwritten poster of his name, Kinu Donarudo, in Chinese characters. To commemorate the event, a candy company in rural Niigata announced plans to build a museum that will include an exact replica of Dr. Keene’s personal library and study from his home in New York.
He says he has been inundated by invitations to give public lectures, which are so popular that drawings are often held to see who can attend.
“I have not met a Japanese since then who has not thanked me. Except the Ministry of Justice,” he added with his typically understated humor, referring to the government office in charge of immigration.
Still, in a nation that welcomes few immigrants, Dr. Keene’s application was quickly approved. To become Japanese, Dr. Keene, who is unmarried, had to relinquish his American citizenship.
His affection for Japan began in 1940 with a chance encounter at a bookstore near Times Square, where Dr. Keene, then an 18-year-old university student at Columbia, found a translation of the Tale of Genji, a 1,000-year-old novel from Japan. In the stories of court romances and intrigue, he found a refuge from the horrors of the world war then already unfolding in Europe and Asia.
Dr. Keene later described it as his first encounter with Japan’s delicate sense of beauty, and its acceptance that life is fleeting and sad — a sentiment that would captivate him for the rest of his life.
When the United States entered the war, he enlisted in the Navy, where he received Japanese-language training to become an interpreter and intelligence officer. He said he managed to build a rapport with the Japanese he interrogated, including one he said wrote him a letter after the war in which he referred to himself as Dr. Keene’s first P.O.W.
LIKE several of his classmates, Dr. Keene used his language skills after the war to become a pioneer of academic studies of Japan in the United States. Among Americans, he is perhaps best known for translating and compiling a two-volume anthology in the early 1950s that has been used to introduce generations of university students to Japanese literature. When he started his career, he said Japanese literature was virtually unknown to Americans.
“I think I brought Japanese literature into the Western world in a special way, by making it part of the literary canon at universities,” said Dr. Keene, who has written about 25 books on Japanese literature and history.
In Japan, he said his career benefited from good timing as the nation entered a golden age of fiction writing after the war. He befriended some of Japan’s best known modern fiction writers, including Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe. Even Junichiro Tanizaki, an elderly novelist known for his cranky dislike of visitors, was fond of Dr. Keene, inviting him to his home. Dr. Keene says that was because he took Japanese culture seriously.
“I was a freak who spoke Japanese and could talk about literature,” he joked.
Japanese writers say that Dr. Keene’s appeal was more than that. They said he appeared at a time when Japan was starting to rediscover the value of its traditions after devastating defeat. Dr. Keene taught them that Japanese literature had a universal appeal, they said.
“He gave us Japanese confidence in the significance of our literature,” said Takashi Tsujii, a novelist.
Mr. Tsujii said that Dr. Keene was accepted by Japanese scholars because he has what Mr. Tsujii described as a warm, intuitive style of thinking that differs from what he called the coldly analytical approach of many Western academics.
“Keene-san is already a Japanese in his feelings,” Mr. Tsujii said.
Now, at the end of his career, Dr. Keene is again helping Japanese regain their confidence, this time by becoming one of them. Dr. Keene, who retired only last year from Columbia, says he plans to spend his final years in Japan as a gesture of gratitude toward the nation that finally made him one of its own.
“You cannot stop being an American after 89 years,” Dr. Keene said, referring to the age at which he got Japanese citizenship. “But I have become a Japanese in many ways. Not pretentiously, but naturally.”


90歲高齡的唐納德·基恩(Donald Keene)瘦小的身軀前弓,自嘲的態度讓他看似情感敏感,甚至是脆弱。這些都讓他看起來不像是會讓一個傷痕纍纍的民族受到鼓舞的人物。
但在他的第二故鄉日本,這名土生土長的紐約人、哥倫比亞大學(Columbia University)的退休文學教授卻正給人以這種印象。2011年,在地震和海嘯造成重大傷亡,並引發福島核事故之後,許多外國居民,甚至是日本人出 於對輻射的恐懼逃離該國。基恩博士卻故意反其道而行之。他宣布將申請日本國籍,以示支持。
這是基恩博士生命中意外的頂點。這名帶着羞澀笑容的安靜男士從二戰期間審問日本戰俘的海軍下級軍官,成長為美國的日本研究奠基人,生涯已然不凡。這 樣的經歷使他成為極其罕見的外國人,因為對日本文學的貢獻而被天皇授予日本的最高榮譽之一,還與日本最著名的一些小說家過從甚密。
在酒店咖啡廳進行訪談時,路過的日本人先是一愣,繼而對他報以微笑,證明這名年長學者在日本獲得的名聲遠遠超過了美國。基恩博士屬於互聯網和電視之 前那個時代的老派人物,他因為優雅健談而聞名,能用一生熱愛日本的故事讓聽眾着迷。他第一次來到日本,是1945年的沖繩島戰役。
但是,基恩博士最非凡的一點大概是他被日本人熱情地接納。日本是單一民族國家,對外國人禮貌卻冷淡。當他今年正式成為日本公民的時候,主要報紙都刊 登了他舉着一張手寫紙板的照片,上面寫着他的日文漢字名字“鬼怒鳴門”(Kinu Donarudo)。為了紀念這一事件,新潟農村地區的一家糖果公司宣布計劃興建一座博物館,其中包括原樣複製基恩博士在紐約家中的私人圖書館和書房。
基恩博士對日本的感情始於1940年一次偶然的經歷。他當時18歲,是哥倫比亞大學的學生,在時報廣場附近的一家書店裡,他找到了一本作於1000 年前的日本小說《源氏物語》(Tale of Genji)的翻譯本。他在宮廷愛情和陰謀的故事中找到避風港,暫時忘卻已在歐亞展開的世界戰爭的慘況。
在日本,他說自己的職業生涯得益於良好的時機:戰後日本進入了小說寫作的黃金期。他與日本一些最知名的當代小說家成為好友,包括三島由紀夫 (Yukio Mishima)和大江健三郎(Kenzaburo Oe)。甚至對訪客出了名地暴躁難耐的年長小說家谷崎潤一郎(Junichiro Tanizaki)也喜歡基恩博士,邀請他去家裡做客。基恩博士說,那是因為他認真對待日本文化。
小說家辻井喬(Takashi Tsujii)說,“他讓我們日本對自己文學的重要性有了信心。”

Keene's love for Japan still growing after 70 years

Donald Keene relaxes in the Kyu-Furukawa Gardens in Tokyo’s Kita Ward, near his home for 38 years. (Makoto Kaku)
Donald Keene relaxes in the Kyu-Furukawa Gardens in Tokyo’s Kita Ward, near his home for 38 years. (Makoto Kaku)

Keene's love for Japan still growing after 70 years

April 17, 2012

In 1940, the Japanese literature scholar Donald Keene came across an English translation of the acclaimed 11th-century Japanese novel “Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji) in a bookstore in Times Square.

War had started in Europe the previous year after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, but Keene found himself transported to a different world inhabited by Japanese court nobles, apparently insulated from violence.

It was a life-changing experience. He glimpsed an entirely different face of a country he had thought of as nothing more than a dangerous military state. It triggered a search for the real identity of Japan and the Japanese that has occupied the rest of his life.
“Not a day has passed without thinking about Japan (since I began studying Japanese at Columbia University at the age of 17),” Keene, 89, said in an interview after obtaining Japanese nationality in March.

Soon after, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Keene became an interpreter for the Navy, traveling to Attu in the Aleutian Islands and Okinawa. He met real Japanese for the first time and also read diaries and letters left by dead Japanese soldiers.

The writers’ last words revealed fear of death and longing for their loved ones back home. The hackneyed language of wartime propaganda was noticeably absent.

Much later in his life, those experiences helped him write “So Lovely a Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers,” which analyzes the diaries of Jun Takami (1907-1965), Futaro Yamada (1922-2001) and other authors.

He began studying Japanese literature after World War II and came to Japan in 1953 to attend Kyoto University. He taught at Columbia University from 1955 to April 2011, spending half of the year in New York and the other half in Tokyo.

In 1962, overcome by the loss of his mother, Keene received a telephone call from Japan telling he had been awarded the Kikuchi Kan Prize for achievements in Japanese culture. It was the first of many awards for his work on Japan.

Keene has written a number of key books on Japanese literature, including the mammoth “Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century.”
The 18-volume series, which discusses works from the “Kojiki” (Record of Ancient Matters), Japan’s oldest extant chronicle, to the novels of Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), took 25 years to complete.

Over the past decade, he has followed up a biography of Emperor Meiji, “Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World,” with a series of lives seeking to shed new light on key Japanese figures.

“I find pleasure in discovering something new (in those people) that other people have not,” he said.

For example, the haiku poet Shiki Masaoka (1867-1902) repeatedly wrote in his essays that he was no good at English, but Keene said documents actually showed that Masaoka was fairly good at the language, getting the second-best English examination scores in his high school class.

The student who topped the class, who later became famous as the novelist Soseki Natsume (1867-1916), was “a genius,” according to Keene.

Keene made up his mind to acquire Japanese citizenship in January 2011, when he was thinking about what he wanted to do with the remainder of his life.

The Great East Japan Earthquake, which devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, subsequently gave that personal decision a broader meaning, he said.
Keene’s intellectual curiosity shows no sign of waning as he approaches 90.
His next scholarly project is a biography of Hiraga Gennai (1728-1780), a well-known inventor and a student of Western science and technology.

“People have suggested that I take a break,” he said. “But you can learn as long as you live.”

Writer Ryotaro Shiba (1923-1996), who wrote a book with Keene, once wrote: “I have never met a person whose childhood image I can imagine so easily.”

Keene’s eyes shone throughout his interview with The Asahi Shimbun. It was easy to see Shiba’s point.

Excerpts from the interview, which was conducted in Japanese, follow:

* * *
Question: What made you decide to obtain Japanese nationality?
Answer: It started when I was hospitalized early last year. I was able to take my time and think about the rest of my life, and I realized that there is little time left for me. When I wondered about the last thing I wanted to do, it was to become Japanese.
If it had not been for the Great East Japan Earthquake, my obtaining Japanese citizenship would only have made a few columns in the newspapers. But the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear accident have given my personal wish a special meaning.
I have received many letters. They said they were encouraged or impressed by my decision to leave the United States and settle in Japan at a time when many non-Japanese people fled Japan.

Q: You were not happy to hear of foreigners leaving Japan, were you?
A: No. In my heart, I was already Japanese.
I could not sleep after I watched black waves sweeping the coast. I was worried about what had become of Matsushima (the group of islands in Miyagi Prefecture) and the Chusonji temple (in Iwate Prefecture), both closely associated with the haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694).
Last year, I visited Chusonji and made a speech there. Some people in the audience had lost family members and had their homes washed away. As I spoke, I found my heart filled with empathy for the survivors. I thought I wanted to live with them. It was an awakening experience.

Q: Many Japanese have lost confidence in their country because the path to recovery remains unclear. We wonder why you have gone so far as to obtain Japanese citizenship.
A: It is because my real home is here. I write only on things related to Japan. I have not written anything on the United States. In addition to many friends, I have many pleasures outside of work in Japan.
Another important factor is that my disposition suits Japan. One example is the courtesy shown in interpersonal relationships. When you buy something, the sales clerk always says, “Thank you.”
Americans call each other by their first names or will slap each other’s backs even when they meet for the first time. I am not really comfortable with expressing closeness in such a way. I cannot explain myself well, but I was born with a Japanese aspect.
Granted, Japan has lost some of its strong self-confidence, but it has a role to play today that it did not during the height of the asset-inflated economic growth of the late 1980s, when it bought the Rockefeller Center.

Q: What role is that?
A: There are many meanings to it. Japan’s reputation in the world shot up after its defeat in World War II. I stayed in Tokyo for about 10 days in December 1945. All that remained were storehouses and chimneys. It was commonly said that it would take more than 50 years for Japan to rebuild itself. I had a different opinion. I thought this country would come back fairly quickly.
It may sound strange, but I was confident because of my experience at a barber’s. When I had my face shaved, I did not have the slightest impression that Japan had been at war.
If the woman at the barber had harbored ill feelings, she would have been able to slash my throat with her razor. I did not have to worry. I felt that the war had already become a thing of the past in Japan.

Q: Wasn’t that because Japanese are forgetful?
A: That experience showed that there are many possibilities in one people. During the war, I was with the Navy and questioned captured Japanese soldiers. I had no resentment toward them. I felt close to them. In the past, Japanese people did incredibly bad things, but it was not that the entire nation was belligerent. There were people who produced beautiful works of art.
The experience of war may have changed the Japanese, but the economic miracle that followed changed my view on Japan in every respect.
Before the war, it was generally believed that Japanese culture was nothing but an emulation of China’s. Today, no one thinks that. Japan has a wonderful, unique culture.
Japanese have earned respect again for continuing to act calmly after experiencing a disaster on the scale of the Great East Japan Earthquake. I do not have the slightest doubt about Japan getting back on its feet.

Q: You have written biographies of people who lived during times of change, such as Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and the painter Kazan Watanabe (1793-1841). What do you see in them?
A: It is the Japanese flexibility to digest new things and make them their own immediately.
Emperor Meiji ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne when he was about 15 years old. In less than six months, he became the first emperor to meet delegates from Western countries.
I was surprised to learn how he transformed himself. He ate Western dishes and grew a beard and a mustache, developing into an emperor with perfect composure.
I specialize in literature and I am most interested in people. I want to know much more about what Japanese people thought in turbulent times, what they feared and how they changed.
That is because I have changed, too, albeit on a different scale. Before I went to college, the only thing I really knew about Japan was that it was opened by Commodore Matthew Perry’s arrival. Now, I am using my soul for Japan. It has been a considerable change.

Famed Japanologist Keene gets museum in Kashiwazaki

December 05, 2011
By KOJI SHIMIZU / Staff Writer
KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Prefecture--Along with permanently moving to Japan, renowned Japanese literature researcher Donald Keene has brought the living room and study of his New York home with him, donating it to a museum here as the centerpiece of an exhibit on his work.
Keene, 89, visited Kashiwazaki on Dec. 3 to attend a ceremony to donate his vast collection of books and furniture, among other items, to the museum.
The 360-square-meter museum, the brainchild of Bourbon Corp., a leading confectionery based in Kashiwazaki, is scheduled to open in autumn 2013.
It will be housed on the second floor of the company's training center.
The museum will display Keene's donation of about 1,700 books, 300 records and CDs, and 100 pieces of furniture, apart from the living room and study, his base for more than 30 years to bring his study of Japanese literary works to the world.
Keene has been living in Tokyo's Kita Ward since September. He decided to acquire Japanese nationality and live in Japan for the rest of his life after the country was hit hard by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.
In the ceremony on Dec. 3, Keene said he believes the devastated Tohoku region will experience a miracle similar to the one that occurred in Tokyo, which was rebuilt into one of the world's largest cities after it was firebombed into charred rubble during World War II.
Keene, a professor emeritus at Columbia University in New York, is known for introducing Japanese literature to the world over the past six decades.
Ties between the Japanologist and Kashiwazaki go back to 2007, when Keene proposed an endeavor to revive an ancient puppet play accompanied by the samisen set in the city.
Local artists gave the puppet play performance in June 2009, for the first time in 300 years.
Bourbon said that Keene's proposal gave hope to the city's residents, who were still reeling from the devastating Niigata Chuetsu-oki Earthquake in 2007.

Some Japanese Portraits by Donald Keene 日本文學散步


photoDonald Keene conducts a lecture last month at Columbia University. (Mari Sakamoto)
NEW YORK--The renowned Japanese literature expert Donald Keene, professor emeritus at Columbia University, is teaching for the last time this spring term.
The 88-year-old Keene will step down in late April, bringing to an end a teaching career at Columbia that began in 1955.
After concluding his teaching duties, Keene plans to move permanently to Tokyo and fulfill his dream of writing full time.
Keene was very concerned following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11. He had made many visits to Chusonji temple in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture, and Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, two of the hardest-hit prefectures in the Tohoku region.
"I have had special feelings toward the Tohoku region since I first traveled along the 'Oku no hosomichi' 56 years ago," Keene said. "I lectured for about six months at Tohoku University, and I am acquainted with the priests at Chusonji temple. I am very worried."
Keene referred to the classic work of literature written by the haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), which he translated into English under the title, "The Narrow Road to Oku."
While there is high scientific interest now in the United States on how to prevent earthquakes and tsunami, Keene is skeptical about the Western-style conviction in science that believes humans can control natural disasters.
"I am a person who has been heavily influenced by Japanese culture," Keene said. "I am moved by the sense of resignation that feels the power held by nature cannot be resisted."
In his final term at Columbia, Keene has been lecturing on such Noh songs as "Funabenkei" and "Yuya."
His initial encounter with Japanese literature was purely by accident.
Having skipped grades in school, Keene entered Columbia University when he was 16. One day, he happened to sit next to a Chinese-American student and started learning kanji from him. Keene was deeply struck by the beauty of kanji.
He was also fascinated by the English translation of "The Tale of Genji" that he read when he was 18, and he volunteered to enter the U.S. Navy's Japanese language school.
He was surprised to hear about Japanese soldiers fighting to the death at Attu in the Aleutian chain. During the Battle of Okinawa, he searched for Japanese hiding in caves.
His days in Qingdao, China, were spent interrogating Japanese prisoners of war.
"I saw the dark side of humans," Keene said. "There were Japanese POWs who betrayed their fellow soldiers, and there were U.S. soldiers who duped Japanese POWs into giving up their artwork possessions."
Becoming fed up with the interrogations, Keene asked for a discharge. He returned to New York, but he could not find an occupation that interested him.
"I resumed my study of Japanese literature because I felt the Japanese language best suited my constitution," he said.
Over the course of 70 years of research, he has written more than 40 books.
When asked to name his personal top three among all the books he has published, Keene gave the Japanese titles for works that he also wrote in English, a multivolume "History of Japanese Literature" as well as books titled in English as "Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion" and "So Lovely A Country Will Never Perish."
"Looking back, what I feel about my life is that it is not me who chose Japan, but Japan who chose me," Keene said. "After retiring from teaching, I will move to Japan and apply for Japanese citizenship. While immersing myself in the Japanese language, I want to devote my time to reading and writing."
His first project is to complete a biography of Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), a haiku poet of the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Donald Keene’s Latest Japanese Adventure

Scholar Donald Keene, who has dedicated his life to studying Japanese literature, culture and customs, revealed last week that he's following another Japanese tradition: adult adoption.

Donald Keene arriving for his permanent relocation to Japan in 2011
Associated Press
Donald Keene, one of the world’s best-known Japanologists, has dedicated his life to studying Japanese literature, culture and customs. Last week, he revealed he’s following another Japanese tradition: adult adoption.
Mr. Keene, 90 years old, told an audience in northern Japan that in March he adopted his long-time friend Seiki Uehara, a 62-year-old performer of the shamisen, a Japanese stringed instrument.
“It felt like the natural course of things,” the former Mr. Uehara—now Seiki Keene—told JRT on Wednesday. The adoption grew out of a friendship that started in 2006, and eventually led to Mr. Uehara’s moving into Mr. Keene’s Tokyo home and helping the older man out with things like keeping his large collection of books organized.
Adult adoption is a fairly common practice in Japan, with around a third of all adopted individuals being adults, according to a survey carried out by the Ministry of Justice in 2010, ahead of stricter checks for accepting adoption applications. In 2011, there were 81,600 cases of adoption in Japan. In many cases, adult men are adopted into families in order to carry on the family name—and sometimes business—when there are no male descendants.
Mr. Keene, who’s known for books and scholarship introducing Japanese literature to the West—as well as his friendships with many of the Japanese literary giants of the postwar period, has no children or other family.
The pair originally came together over a keen interest in kojyoruri, an ancient form of Japanese musical performance. Mr. Uehara had performed in a similar style—jyoruri—for 25 years, as a shamisen player at the Bunraku-za puppet theater, under the stage name of “Tsurusawa Asazo V.” He retired in 1997 and returned to his home prefecture in northern Japan to help his family’s brewery business, but remained passionately interested in the genre.
Mr. Keene is known as a leading expert on kojyoruri. In November 2006, Mr. Uehara approached the older man backstage, after a Tokyo talk, to ask whether Mr. Keene would be his mentor on the subject. Mr. Uehara told Mr. Keene he “had no one to seek guidance from,” the younger man told JRT.
At the time, Mr. Keene was still teaching at Columbia University, where he’d been for more than half a century, and spending time in the U.S. as well as Japan. But following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Mr. Keene decided to move permanently to Japan and become a Japanese citizen. That’s when he brought up to Mr. Uehara the idea of adoption.
“When he’d first mentioned adoption, I thought he was joking,” the junior Mr. Keene says. “But eventually I understood that he was being serious.” Now the younger man helps his adoptive father organize his busy schedule from their apartment in Tokyo, while holding shamisen performances of his own. The older Mr. Keene gained Japanese citizenship in 2012.
The pair say their cross-cultural partnership has been smooth so far. The former Mr. Uehara says his family was delighted at the news of his adoption, and that nobody close to Mr. Keene raised objections either. And what does the younger Keene think of his new surname?  “I like it a lot,” he told JRT. “I’ve finally managed to get used to it.”