His interest in studying the literature of Japan developed from his duties as a member of the U.S. Army of occupation in 1948. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University (as a graduate student he studied at the Department of Chinese Literature at Tokyo University) before becoming visiting professor of Japanese history and literature at University of British Columbia's Department of Asian Studies in 1967, joining the faculty the following year.
Zolbrod wrote numerous articles and books on the subject of Japanese literature and history. His books included:
- The journal of Asian studies - Volume 51 p1007 1992 "Obituary LEON ZOLBROD (1930-1991) Leon Zolbrod, a pioneer scholar of traditional japanese literature, passed away in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on April 16, 1991, after a protracted and valiant battle with cancer of the bile duct. He was 56 years old ..."
- Leon M. Zolbrod Takizawa Bakin - Volume 20 - Page 165 - 1967 Publisher's note "Leon Zolbrod is currently sitting Professor of Japanese History and Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His interest in the literature of Japan developed from his duties as a member of the army of occupation in 1948"