Dr. Donald Keene is an international authority on Japanese literature.
While majoring in Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the United States, Professor Keene commenced his study of the Japanese language. During World War II, he served in the military and graduated from the Navy's Japanese Language School. After the War, he furthered his study of Japanese literature at Columbia and Harvard Universities' postgraduate schools. He continued his studies in Cambridge University in the United Kingdom where he was appointed a lecturer in Japanese language and literature.
During his five-year's stay in the United Kingdom, Dr. Keene met Professor Arthur Waley, who was renowned for translating the "Tale of Genji", and he published his most well-known book, "The Japanese Discovery of Europe". Later, in Kyoto University, Dr. Keene extended his study to include the literary works of Chikamatsu. After acquainting himself with many Japanese writers and critics during his stay in Japan, he expanded his academic themes to include writings from the Japanese classics to modern Japanese literature.
After returning to the United States, he was appointed as a Professor at Columbia University. Since then, Dr. Keene has made frequent visits to Japan, as he maintains bases in both the United States and Japan.
His achievements in the study of Japanese literature over the years are widely known through his numerous publications such as his translation of "The Harvest of Leisure", his works on the Japanese classics including the works by Basho, and modern Japanese literature. His works on Japanese history and in the performing arts of Noh and Kyogen, are also highly respected. Moreover, he has contributed greatly to introducing Japanese modern works by Yukio Mishima and Osamu Dazai to overseas audiences.
His original scholarly depiction of the Japanese people has been highly praised as well as his sensational work entitled "Travellers of Hundred Ages". His monumental and voluminous work, "Dawn to the West", has earned respect in Japan for being the first history book on Japanese literature written by a single author. Also, it earned respect abroad for being the first book to systematically analyze the history of Japanese literature. This book has provided scholars of Japanese literature with a solid academic foundation. His intensive study of Japanese literature which had been believed to be difficult for foreigners to understand, has contributed greatly to the understanding of Japanese culture by people overseas.
Dr. Keene's accomplishments in the fields of arts and culture have been rated as great contributions to the world's understanding of Asia, thus, they make him truly worthy of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes.