Donald Keene museum exhibition brings scholar's life and career to light
An exhibition at the Kita City Asukayama Museum in Tokyo is shedding greater light on the life and career of 89-year-old scholar Donald Keene, with some items on display for the first time.
Of the 153 photos and artifacts on display, around 30 are being exhibited in Japan for the first time, including a personal sketchbook given to Keene by novelist Junichiro Tanizaki. "I want those people who may know my face but not know about my work to see (the exhibition)," says Keene.
The New York-born Keene was intrigued by an English translation of the ancient novel "The Tale of Genji" as a student at Columbia University in 1940. He pursued graduate studies at Kyoto University and since the 1970s, spent a few months of the year absorbed in research at an apartment in the capital, from which he could see the Kyu-Furukawa Gardens in Tokyo's Kita Ward. He decided to become a permanent resident of Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
The museum exhibit includes pictures of Keene traveling through Europe with his father as a child, and also introduces his work as an intelligence officer for the U.S. Navy in Okinawa. Through panel exhibits, it lays out Keene's interactions from the 1950s with famed Japanese authors including Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Kobo Abe, and Ryotaro Shiba.
At the opening ceremony for the exhibition on May 19, Keene said that he felt he was "very lucky" that Japanese authors showed interest in him at a time when Western scholars of Japan were very few. Looking at a letter Mishima sent to him a few days before the author committed suicide, Keene noted that Mishima had seen him off at the airport as he returned to the United States, and that he "did not know that would be the last (meeting)" and had been "very shocked."
The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 24. The museum is closed on Mondays.
June 03, 2012(Mainichi Japan)