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Late Japanese literature scholar Donald Keene remembered at Columbia University ceremony

JIJI

A ceremony to commemorate noted Japanese literature scholar Donald Keene, who died in February this year aged 96, was held at Columbia University in New York, his alma mater, on Friday. About 200 people, including some who studied under him, attended.

Keene, who was born in New York, entered the university when he was 16.

When he was around 18 years old, Keene was mesmerized by an English translation of the Japanese classic novel “Genji Monogatari” (The Tale of Genji) and started studying Japanese literature.

After studying at a graduate school of Kyoto University, he became a professor at Columbia University in 1960, promoting the charms of Japanese culture across the world through his research activities and fostering of young researchers.

At the ceremony, people who were close to Keene talked about their memories of him, such as his research stance to read all kinds of documents and his cheerful personality.

Keene’s adopted son, Seiki,a shamisen three-stringed musical instrument player for traditional joruri (puppet plays), attended the ceremony and expressed his gratitude to the attendees.

“This is such a wonderful ceremony held at Columbia University, which my father loved so much, in New York, where he was born and raised,” Seiki said.