Expats like me have a lot of fun coming to Japan and blogging about what we see here, but we’re really just Johnny-come-latelys who have recently arrived on the scene. There’s a large body of gaijin writers who came to Japan in the years after World War II and stayed here, writing books that helped bridge Japan and the West. Like Jack Seward, a Texan who’d learned a little Japanese from hired hands working on his family’s ranch, which resulted in him being picked for General MacArthur’s staff during WWII, leading to many books on Japan until his death last year. Or Boye Lafayette De Mente, a respected author who has published books on Japan since the 1950s. Then there’s Donald Keene, a famed Japanologist who translated many of the best works of Japanese literature of the 20th century, and who hob-knobbed with the likes of Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata and the other literary greats of the period. Recently Mr. Keene retired from his professorship at Columbia University and came to live in Japan, announcing that he’d be taking Japanese citizenship and spending the rest of his days in the country he loved so much. I will raise a glass to Mr. Keene tonight.
Keene (right) chilling out with Yukio Mishima (center), who had one of the most
interesting deaths of the 20th century.