Haruo Shirane, researcher in Japanese literature, elected to the prestigious Academy of Japan


Professor at Columbia University and renowned scholar of Japanese literature Haruo ShiranePhD, was elected an honorary member of the prestigious Japan Academy (Nippon Gakushi-in). Professor Shirane’s home department, East Asian Languages ​​and Cultures at Columbia, announced the news on April 8, 2022.

Columbia’s announcement noted that election to the Japan Academy “is the highest recognition given in Japan to scholars in any field”. He went on to say, “Professor Shirane is the only one to receive this honor in Japanese Studies since Donald Keene.”

In a follow-up interview with JAPAN StrikerProfessor Shirane added that “the only honorary members before me in the Japanese humanities were Donald Keene and Arthur Waley (before World War II).”

A bicultural Japanese scholar

Born in Japan and raised in the United States from a young age, Professor Shirane is currently the Director of the Donald Keene Japanese Culture Center, named in honor of the great scholar of Japanese literature. Keene (1922-2019) was also Professor Shirane’s Colombian colleague.

RELATED: Donald Keene, 96, and his ‘special karmic connection’ with Japan and its people

Arthur Waley (1889-1966) was the first English translator of Lady Murasaki Shikibu’s 11th-century classic of Japanese literature, The Tale of Genji.

A short biographical sketch provided to JAPAN Striker notes that Professor Shirane is “the author and editor of over thirty books” and “the leading scholar of Japanese literary studies in North America”. Professor Shirane, the biography continues, “has had an enormous impact here and in Japan for his interdisciplinary approaches to Japanese literature, performance and culture.

“He is known for his studies of The Tale of Genji and [Matsuo] Basho’s haiku; his work on canon formation and popular culture; his writings on ‘secondary nature’, which analyzed the intersection of environment, literature and the visual arts; his numerous anthologies of Japanese literature; and, above all, for having produced several generations of scholars in Japanese literature.

Background full of scholarship and culture

Professor Shirane did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Columbia and the University of Michigan, and since then has won numerous awards and honors for his research and innovative approaches to the study of literature. Japanese. His 1987 book The Bridge of Dreams: Poetics of the Tale of Genji won the Kadokawa Genyoshi Award of the best Japanese literature book.

Ten years later, Professor Shirane’s 1997 Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory and Basho’s Poetry (Stanford University Press, 1998) won the Ishida Hakyo Awardnamed after the famous 20th century haiku poet. This book also won a Haiku Society of America Book Prize in 1998.

According to Professor Shirane, his interest in the intersection of Japanese poetic sensibilities and the natural environment led him to write Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature and the Arts (Columbia University Press, 2012). This book “explored the material culture of kimono gardens and championed ‘secondary nature’ as a major dimension of Japanese culture and environment. The book received the 26and Yamagata Banto Award.

This recognition once again put Professor Shirane in tandem with his longtime Columbia colleague, Donald Keene, who won the first prize Yamagata Banto in 1982.

Additionally, Professor Shirane won the Award for the best academic title of the year three times (1987, 2004, 2012), the Ueno Satsuki Memorial Prize on Japanese Culture (June 2010) “for his unique contribution to the field of Japanese cultural studies” and the National Institutes of Humanities International Prize for Japanese Studies (December 2019) “for his outstanding achievements in the fields of Japanese humanities, social sciences and environment and for his major contributions to the globalization of Japanese studies.”

The National Institutes for the Humanities hailed Professor Shirane as the “first recipient of the NIHU International Award in Japanese Studies.

by Professor Shirane anthologies of japanese literaturewho, as his impressive resume notes, “have become indispensable to the teaching of Japanese literature”, include Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900 (Columbia University Press, 2002), Traditional Japanese Literature, from the Beginnings to 1600, an Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2007) and Monsters, animals and other worlds: a collection of short medieval tales (with Keller Kimbrough, Columbia University Press, 2018).

Professor Shirane is also co-editor of the Cambridge History of Japanese Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Professor Haruo Shirane (Columbia University)

Looking forward

Professor Shirane tells JAPAN Striker that among his favorite achievements are “my work on the environment and Japanese culture ー see my book Culture of the four seasons ー and train the next generation of scholars. Indeed, his curriculum vitae lists several dozen scholars of Japanese literature whom Professor Shirane has guided in researching and writing dissertations.

What’s next for the newly elected Japan Academy member? “Right now, I’m writing a book about the supernatural in Japanese culture (Gods, demons and ghosts),” Professor Shirane shares with JAPAN Striker.

Congratulations to Professor Haruo Shirane for his outstanding achievements! We at JAPAN Striker We are excited to read the next chapters in the life and work of this remarkable scholar of Japan’s rich literary history.

Author: Dr. Jason Morgan

Read more essays and interviews with Dr. Jason Morgan at this link.

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