Now that acclaimed U.S.-born scholar Donald Keene has obtained Japanese citizenship, Tokyo's Kita Ward wants to make sure the whole country knows he's one of its own.
It is printing booklets about the 89-year-old researcher of Japanese literature along with recording a video of his life in Kita Ward and has set up a corner in a city library with the 600 or so books Keene donated. It is calling the effort the Donald Keene Special Project.
"Our bond with Mr. Keene is an important asset that we want to tell the whole country about," a ward official said.
Keene said he is deeply moved by the ward's effort, which includes an exhibition of photo panels of his life and family at the Kita City Asukayama Museum, opening on May 19.
"The exhibition has more than just records of my writing career. It also includes a side of me that many people haven't seen yet, such as, for example, photos from my childhood and of my mother, and artifacts from the life of my little sister, who died young," he said. "It would certainly please me for people to come to Asukayama and visit the museum."
Keene has lived near the Kyu-Furukawa Gardens in Kita Ward since 1974, traveling back and forth between Japan and the United States during that time. In 1996, the ward asked Keene to be its goodwill ambassador. But Keene has spent every January through June in the United States due to his lecture schedule and other activities. Other time constraints have meant that his main work as the ward's ambassador has been limited to giving one talk or so a year.
Last year Keene retired from his post at Columbia University and obtained Japanese citizenship this past March.
"We want to keep in some form the bond Mr. Keene has formed over 38 years of living here and show people his meritorious service and the special place he has in the community," said an official from the ward's public relations division.
One part of the project is the creation of video and booklets showcasing Keene's relationship with the area. The first installment is a collection of photos and a video of Keene enjoying the cherry blossoms along the banks of the Arakawa river on April 5.
Kita Ward will set up a production committee that will include Keene to decide on a shooting schedule and plans to complete the videos and booklets in the next fiscal year (ending March 31, 2014) or later.
Meanwhile, the Kita city library also plans to showcase the donation from Keene of about 380 books from the home he vacated in New York and another 220 or so from his Kita Ward home. The collection includes books containing handwritten notes by Keene, along with one autographed by Nobel Prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata--whom Keene knew personally--among other valuable documents.
In line with Keene's wish for "those books to be read by many people," the library will set up a roughly 30-square-meter corner designed like a study and open to the public. The library anticipates opening the new section at the end of this year.
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