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Donald Keene
キーン ドナルド
Donald Keene.jpg
Donald Keene in his Tokyo home in 2002.
Donald Lawrence Keene

(1922-06-18)June 18, 1922
New York City, United States
Died February 24, 2019(2019-02-24) (aged 96)
Citizenship United States(Renounced)
Children 1

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

Keene's contributions to the understanding of Japanese culture were recognized by the Japanese government in 2002 and in 2008. 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."

Early life

Keene was born in Brooklyn in New York City. 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.


Starting in 1955, Keene was a professor at Columbia University for over fifty years. 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.


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

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.

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


  • Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, Third Class, 1975
  • Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, Second Class, 1993
  • Person of Cultural Merit, 2002
  • Order of Culture, 2008
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