Donald Keene

Japanese/American academic (1922-2019)

Donald Lawrence Keene (June 18, 1922 – February 24, 2019), also known as Donarudo Kiin (鬼怒鳴門, Kiin Donarudo),[1] was an American and Japanese scholar, teacher, writer, translator and Japan studies expert.[2]

Donald Keene in his Tokyo home in 2002.

Keene's contributions to the understanding of Japanese culture were recognized by the Japanese government in 2002 and in 2008.[3] In 2012, Keene became a Japanese citizen and he explained,

"You cannot stop being an American after 89 years.... But I have become a Japanese in many ways. Not pretentiously, but naturally."[2]

Early life


Keene was born in Brooklyn in New York City.[4] He received a Bachelor's degree from Columbia in 1942. He studied Japanese language at the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School. After World War II, he returned to Columbia where he earned a master's degree in 1947.

He earned a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1951. In this period, Ryūsaku Tsunoda became his mentor.[5]



Starting in 1955,[6] Keene was a professor at Columbia University for over fifty years.[2] He retired from Columbia after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. He became a Japanese citizen under the name Kīn Donarudo.

His first visit to Japan was during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.[2]

Keene died on February 24, 2019 in Tokyo from heart failure, aged 96.[7]

Selected works


In an overview of writings by and about Keene, OCLC/WorldCat lists roughly 600+ works in 1,400+ publications in 16 languages and 39,000+ library holdings.[8]

This list is not finished; you can help Wikipedia by adding to it.
  • The Battles of Coxinga: Chikamatsu's Puppet Play, Its Background and Importance, 1951
  • The Japanese Discovery of Europe: Honda Toshiaki and other discoverers 1720-1952, 1952
  • Japanese Literature an Introduction for Western Readers, 1955
  • Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1956
  • Major Plays of Chikamatsu, 1961
  • Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu, 1961
  • Japanese Discovery of Europe, 1720-1830, 1969
  • Twenty Plays of the Noh Theatre, 1970
  • World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867, 1976
  • Some Japanese Portraits, 1979
  • Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era, 1984-1988
  • The Pleasures of Japanese Literature, 1988
  • Introducing Kyoto, 1989 (with Herbert E. Plutschow)
  • Travelers of a Hundred Ages: The Japanese As Revealed Through 1,000 Years of Diaries, 1989
  • Modern Japanese Novels and the West, 1989
  • No and Bunraku: Two Forms of Japanese Theatre, 1990
  • Appreciations of Japanese Culture, 1991
  • The Colors of Poetry: Essays in Classic Japanese Verse 1991 (with Ooka Makoto)
  • Travelers of a Hundred Ages, 1992
  • Seeds in the Heart: Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century,1993
  • On Familiar Terms: A Journey Across Cultures, 1994
  • Modern Japanese Diaries: The Japanese at Home and Abroad As Revealed Through Their Diaries, 1995
  • The Blue-Eyed Tarokaja: A Donald Keene Anthology, 1996
  • On Familiar Terms: To Japan and Back, a Lifetime Across Cultures, 1996
  • Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age: Woodblock Prints from the Meija Era, 1868-1912, 2001 (with Anne Nishimura & Frederic A. Sharf)
  • Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, 2001 (with William Theodore De Bary, George Tanabe and H. Paul Varley)
  • Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912, 2002
  • Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne Van Biema Collection, 2002 (Lee Bruschke-Johnson and Ann Yonemura)
  • Five Modern Japanese Novelists, 2002
  • Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan, 2003
  • Frog In The Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan 1793-1841, 2006
  • Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan, 2008
  • So Lovely A Country Will Never Perish: Wartime Diaries of Japanese Writers, 2010




  1. "Donald Keene obtains Japanese citizenship; shows off 鬼怒鳴門 as his name," Archived 2015-12-25 at the Wayback Machine Japan Today. March 9, 2001; retrieved 2012-11-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Fackler, Martin. "Lifelong Scholar of the Japanese Becomes One of Them," The New York Times, November 2, 2012; retrieved 2012-11-02.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Keene Center of Japanese Culture, About Donald Keene Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 2012-11-02.
  4. Pilling, David. "Lunch with the FT: Donald Keene," 28 October 2011; retrieved 2012-11-5.
  5. Arita, Eriko. "Keene: A life lived true to the words," Japan Times. September 6, 2009; retrieved 2012-11-18.
  6. Library of Congress Authority File, Keene, Donald; retrieved 2012-11-02.
  7. ドナルド・キーンさん死去 96歳 Archived 2019-02-24 at the Wayback Machine (in Japanese)
  8. WorldCat Identities: Keene, Donald; retrieved 2012-11-1.

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