|Edwin O. Reischauer|
Edwin Oldfather Reischauer|
October 15, 1910
September 1, 1990 (aged 79)|
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Oberlin College (A.B.)|
Harvard University (Ph.D.)
Elinor Adrienne Danton (widowed in 1956)|
|Children||3, including Robert Reischauer|
East Asian studies
United States Ambassador to Japan (1961–1966)|
|Thesis||Nittō guhō junrei gyōki: Ennin's Diary of His Travels in T'ang China, 838–847 (1939)|
|Doctoral advisor||Serge Elisséeff|
Gail Lee Bernstein|
John W. Dower
John Curtis Perry
|Other notable students||Sen. Jay Rockefeller|
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.
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 (1961–1966). Reischauer founded the Japan Institute at Harvard University in 1973 and was its founding director. It was later named for him.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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 ions.
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."
Reischauer married (Elinor) Adrienne Danton in Tokyo on July 5, 1935. They had three children together. She died in 1955 of a heart ailment. Author James A. Michener introduced the widower to Haru M. at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo in 1955. They married on January 16, 1956. 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. They jointly designed their house in Belmont, Massachusetts. It is operated and used today as the Edwin O. Reischauer Memorial House.
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.
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."
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.
According to late 20th-century Japanese historian Takashi Fujitani, the memo revealed a "condescension toward Japanese people" and a "purely instrumentalist and manipulative stance." 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.
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. 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.
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 cr 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.
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."
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."
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." 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Douglas MacArthur II
| United States Ambassador to Japan
U. Alexis Johnson