Edwin O. Reischauer

Edwin Oldfather Reischauer (October 15, 1910 – September 1, 1990) was an American educator and professor at Harvard University. Born in Tokyo to American educational missionaries, he became a leading scholar of the history and culture of Japan and East Asia. Together with George M. McCune, a Korean scholar, in 1939 he developed the McCune–Reischauer romanization of the Korean language.

Edwin O. Reischauer
Edwin Oldfather Reischauer

(1910-10-15)October 15, 1910
DiedSeptember 1, 1990(1990-09-01) (aged 79)
Other namesエドウィン・O・ライシャワー
Alma materOberlin College (A.B.)
Harvard University (Ph.D.)
Spouse(s)Elinor Adrienne Danton (widowed in 1956)
Haru Matsukata
Children3, including Robert Reischauer
Scientific career
East Asian studies
InstitutionsUnited States Ambassador to Japan (1961–1966)
Harvard University
ThesisNittō guhō junrei gyōki: Ennin's Diary of His Travels in T'ang China, 838–847 (1939)
Doctoral advisorSerge Elisséeff
Doctoral studentsGail Lee Bernstein
John W. Dower
John Curtis Perry
Other notable studentsSen. Jay Rockefeller

Reischauer became involved in helping create US policy toward East Asia during and after World War II. President John F. Kennedy appointed Reischauer as the United States Ambassador to Japan, where he served (19611966). Reischauer founded the Japan Institute at Harvard University in 1973 and was its founding director. It was later named for him.

Early life and education

Reischauer was born in Tokyo, Japan, the son of Helen Sidwell (Oldfather) and August Karl Reischauer, Presbyterian educational missionaries. He and his younger brother attended the American School in Japan before going to the United States for college. Both did graduate work in Asian studies. The senior Reischauer graduated with a B.A. from Oberlin in 1931.[1]

On his 75th birthday, Reischauer recalled publicly that his aim in life after graduating in 1931 was to draw American attention to Asia.[2]

He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1939. He was a student of the Russian-French Japanologist Serge Elisséeff, who had been the first Western graduate of the University of Tokyo.[3] His doctoral dissertation was "Nittō guhō junrei gyōki: Ennin's Diary of His Travels in T'ang China, 838–847", a study and translation of the Japanese monk Ennin's travelogues on his journeys in China during the Tang dynasty.[4] Ennin's work, Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law (入唐求法巡礼行記; Middle Chinese: Nyip-Dang gjuw-pjop zwin-léi hæng-kì), is written in Classical Chinese. Reischauer's work shows the high level of Sinological scholarship that a graduate student was expected to demonstrate.[3][5]

Teaching career

Reischauer had a 40-year teaching career at Harvard. He and John King Fairbank developed a popular undergraduate survey of East Asian history and culture. The course, which was known as "Rice Paddies," was the basis for their widely influential textbooks, East Asia: The Great Tradition (1958) and East Asia: The Modern Transformation (1965). Reischauer wrote both for fellow scholars and for the general public, including Japan: Story of a Nation, which was published in several editions.

He served as director of the Harvard–Yenching Institute and chairman of the Department of Far Eastern Languages. For his farewell lecture at the Yenching Institute in 1981, students had to compete for seats with faculty colleagues, university officials, and a television crew from Japan.

In that crowded scene, he said, "As I remember, there were only two graduate students interested in East Asian studies when I first came here: myself and my brother."[6]

Personal life

Reischauer married (Elinor) Adrienne Danton in Tokyo on July 5, 1935. They had three children together. She died in 1955 of a heart ailment.[7] Author James A. Michener introduced the widower to Haru Matsukata at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo in 1955.[8] They married on January 16, 1956.[9] They learned that, as teenagers, they had attended the same Tokyo high school. Haru confessed to having had a secret crush on him. Together they became a formidable team.[10] They jointly designed their house in Belmont, Massachusetts. It is operated and used today as the Edwin O. Reischauer Memorial House.

Later life

In 1973, Reischauer was the founding Director of the Japan Institute at Harvard University. It was renamed the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies in his honor when he turned 75, in 1985.[11]

Reischauer was also honored in 1985 by the opening of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), part of Johns Hopkins University. Speaking at the dedication ceremonies in Baltimore, Senator Jay Rockefeller, one of Reischauer's former students, described Reischauer as being "what a teacher is meant to be, one who can change the life of his students." At the same event, Japan's ambassador, Nabuo Matsunaga, read a personal message from Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone: "I know of no other man who has so thoroughly understood Japan."[2]

Romanization of Korean

With George M. McCune, Reischauer in 1939 published the McCune–Reischauer system for romanization of the Korean language, which became the most-widely used system for many years.[12]

Reischauer called Hangul, the Korean alphabet, "perhaps the most scientific system of writing in general use in any language."[13]

US policymaker

Reischauer promoted US foreign policy both in public and in government on Japan and the rest of Asia after World War II and during the Vietnam War.

World War II and afterward

On September 14, 1942, three years before the end of World War II, Reischauer, then an instructor in Far Eastern languages at Harvard University, wrote the "Memorandum on Policy towards Japan." It laid out a plan on how the US could attain its postwar objective of "winning the peace" in Asia.[14][15]

According to late 20th-century Japanese historian Takashi Fujitani, the memo revealed a "condescension toward Japanese people" and a "purely instrumentalist and manipulative stance."[16] In the abstract to his article, "The Reischauer Memo: Mr. Moto, Hirohito, and Japanese American Soldiers," Fujitani wrote:

Already at this early date in the war, Reischauer proposed retention of the Japanese emperor as head of a postwar “puppet regime” that would serve U.S. interests in East Asia. He also argued that Japanese Americans had until then been a “sheer liability” and that the United States could turn them into an “asset” by enlisting them in the U.S. military. He reasoned that Japanese American soldiers would be useful for propaganda purposes – that is, to demonstrate to the world and particularly the “yellow and brown peoples” that the United States was not a racist nation.[17]

Myth of saving Kyoto

During the war, Reischauer served as a Japan expert for the US Army Intelligence Service. A myth developed after the war that he had prevented the US from a nuclear bombing of Kyoto.[18] Robert Jungk in his memoir about the war and atomic scientists, claimed that Reischauer convinced his boss to persuade Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson not to bomb Kyoto, and to have it crossed off the black list of potential sites.[19]

Reischauer specifically denied that popular myth:

I probably would have done this if I had ever had the opportunity, but there is not a word of truth to it. As has been amply proved by my friend Otis Cary of Doshisha in Kyoto, the only person deserving credit for saving Kyoto from destruction is Henry L. Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, who had known and admired Kyoto ever since his honeymoon there several decades earlier.[20]

US bases in Okinawa

A secret memorandum, declassified in 1996, detailed a conversation among top US military and civilian officials on July 16, 1965 in Tokyo. Reischauer, then serving as the US Ambassador to Japan, proposed a plan to enable the US both to keep its military bases and to introduce nuclear weapons in Okinawa after the reversion of the US-occupied islands to Japanese sovereignty. Reischauer based his strategy on the symbolic political importance of reversion for Japan's conservative ruling party, but argued that the US did not have to "give Japan any real say in the use of our bases."[21]

He said that "if Japan would accept nuclear weapons on Japanese soil, including Okinawa, and if it would provide us with assurances guaranteeing our military commanders effective control of the islands in time of military crisis, then we would be able to keep our bases on the islands, even though 'full sovereignty' reverted to Japan."[21]

These "became key elements [of] the 1969 U.S.-Japan Okinawa Reversion Agreement," effectively making "U.S. military presence more or less permanent and maintaining the option to introduce nuclear weapons."[16] In a 1981 article, Time reported: "Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer revealed that ...U.S. naval vessels carrying nuclear weapons have routinely visited Japanese ports—with Tokyo's tacit approval."[22]

The secret memo also revealed Reischauer's proposed countermeasures to quell "nationalistic reaction" to continuing US military presence in Okinawa. In his 2010 article, "'Secret' 1965 Memo Reveals Plans to Keep U.S. bases and Nuclear Weapons Options in Okinawa After Reversion," Steve Rabson, author and lecturer on Okinawan literature, history, and culture, wrote:

To reduce the risk of “disturbances” in Okinawa, Reischauer proposed an increase in U.S. aid, revision of the Price Act to increase compensation for owners of land the U.S. had seized for base construction, and a loosening of the ban on flying the Japanese flag. It is difficult to measure precisely his influence at the time, but all three of these recommendations became U.S. policy.[16]

Illness and death

In 1964, while serving as Ambassador to Japan, Reischauer was stabbed in an assassination attempt. His attacker was captured and deemed by authorities to be mentally disturbed. He apparently acted alone and had no connection to any group or cause. In the aftermath of the violence, Japan's Minister of Public Safety was compelled to resign.[23]

Reischauer received a blood transfusion and recovered from his wound, but the transfusion infected him with hepatitis for the rest of his life. Although he continued to work and lead an active life, he eventually died from the complications of hepatitis.[24]

Selected bibliography

In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about Reischauer, OCLC/WorldCat encompasses roughly more than 300 works in more than 1000 publications in 18 languages and more than 23,000 library holdings.[25]

  • The Romanization of the Korean language, Based Upon Its Phonetic Structure (1939) with G. M. McCune [26][27]
  • Elementary Japanese for University Students (1942) with S. Elisséeff
  • Japan, Past and Present (1946; rev. ed. 1963)
  • The United States and Japan (1950; rev. ed. 1957, 1965)
  • Translations from Early Japanese Literature (1951) with Joseph Yamagiwa
  • Ennin's Travels in T'ang China (1955)
  • Ennin's Diary: The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law (1955), translated from Chinese
  • Wanted: An Asian Policy (1955)
  • Our Asian Frontiers of Knowledge (1958)
  • East Asia: The Great Tradition (1960) with J. K. Fairbank
  • East Asia, The Modern Transformation (1965) with J. K. Fairbank and A. M. Craig
  • A History of East Asian Civilization (1965)
  • Beyond Vietnam: The United States and Asia (1968)
  • Japan: The Story of a Nation (1970; rev. ed. 1981, 1990)
  • A New Look at Modern History (1972)
  • Translations from Early Japanese Literature (1972) with Joseph K. Yamagiwa
  • Toward the 21st century: Education for a Changing World (1973)
  • East Asia, Tradition and Transformation (1973; rev. ed. 1989) with J. K. Fairbank and A. M. Craig
  • The Japanese (1977)
  • My Life between Japan and America (1986, autobiography)
  • The United States and Japan in 1986: Can the Partnership Work? (1986)
  • The Japanese Today: Change and Continuity (1988)
  • Japan, Tradition and Transformation (1989)


Notable students

See also


  1. "Edwin O. Reischauer". Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University. Archived from the original on 2014-07-04. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  2. "Reischauer is Feted in Capital". The New York Times. October 16, 1985.
  3. Zurndorfer, Harriet Thelma. (1995). China Bibliography: A Research Guide to Reference Works About China Past and Present, p. 31 n85.
  4. Schulman, Frank Joseph. (1970). Japan and Korea: An Annotated Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations in Western Languages, 1877–1969, p. 909. (Reischauer 1610)
  5. Edwin O. Reischauer (1939). Nittō Guhō Junrei Gyōki: Ennin's Diary of His Travels in T'ang China (838–847) (Ph.D.). OCLC 76996908.
  6. Johnston, Laurie and Robert Thomas. Notes on People; Reischauer, at Harvard, Gives Farewell Lecture, New York Times. April 23, 1981.
  7. Edwin O. Reischauer, My Life between Japan and America, John Weatherhill, Inc., pp. 57 and 137
  8. Reischauer, My Life, p.140
  9. Reischauer, My Life, p. 142
  10. "Haru M. Reischauer, 83; Eased Tensions With Japan," New York Times. October 5, 1998.
  11. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (RIJS), Director, 1974–1981
  12. G. M. A. McCune, E. O. Reischauer, Royal Asiatic Society. Korea Branch, The Romanization of the Korean Language: Based Upon Its Phonetic Structure (Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1939).
  13. Hyun, Peter. "A Trove of Unfamiliar Art from Korea," New York Times. January 4, 1981.
  14. Rabson, Steve. "'Secret' 1965 Memo Reveals Plans to Keep US bases and Nuclear Weapons Options in Okinawa After Reversion", The Asia-Pacific Journal, 5-1-10, February 1, 2010
  15. Fujitani, T (2001). "The Reischauer Memo: Mr. Moto, and Japanese American Soldiers". Critical Asian Studies. 33 (3): 379–402. doi:10.1080/14672710122556.
  16. Rabson 2010
  17. Fujitani, T. (2001). "THE REISCHAUER MEMO: Mr. Moto, Hirohito, and Japanese American Soldiers". Critical Asian Studies. 33 (3): 379–402. doi:10.1080/14672710122556.
  18. Kelly, Jason M. (2012). "Why Did Henry Stimson Spare Kyoto from the Bomb? Confusion in Postwar Historiography". Journal of American-East Asian Relations. 19 (2): 183–203. doi:10.1163/18765610-01902004.
  19. Jungk, Robert. (1959). Brighter Than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists, p. 178.
  20. Reischauer, Edwin. (1986). My Life Between Japan And America, p. 101.
  21. "Memorandum of Conversation: U.S. Policy in the Ryukyu Islands". July 16, 1965. Record Number 79651
  22. "Japan: Time to Confess, Nuclear 'Lie' Strains U.S. Ties", Time, June 8, 1981
  23. Ford, Franklin L. (1987). Political Murder: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 310. ISBN 978-0-674-68636-6. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  24. "Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan Expert, Dies," The Harvard Crimson. September 10, 1990.
  25. WorldCat Identities Archived December 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine: Reischauer, Edwin O. (Edwin Oldfather) 1910–1990
  26. Japan Foundation Archived 2008-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
  27. RIJS Archived 2010-10-12 at the Wayback Machine named in his honor when he turned 75 in 1985.
  28. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies Archived 2010-11-28 at the Wayback Machine


Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Douglas MacArthur II
United States Ambassador to Japan
Succeeded by
U. Alexis Johnson
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.