Students took the initiative in organizing more than 7,000 books from the collection of Donald Keene (1922-2019), an American-born scholar of Japanese literature.
Toyo University in Tokyo’s Kita Ward and the Donald Keene Memorial Foundation signed an agreement in July to scrutinize the collections of scholars who have introduced Japanese literature and culture to the world.
Students at Toyo University, where Keen was a research advisor, examined books stored at homes in Kita Ward, Tokyo, compiled data, and created a list of publications.
Hitoshi Ishida, a professor at the university’s Faculty of Letters, Department of International Communication, said, “We would like to publish the completed book list to many people via the Internet.” “I think this kind of database will attract attention overseas.”
After about 100 students applied for 20 part-time positions on the project, the school increased its quota to 29.
Students, including two from China and South Korea, work in shifts about three times a week at a facility provided by Kita Ward.
They enter the publication’s data into the computer in a special format, including the location of discovery, content, and handwritten notes on the page.
Keene is said to have become interested in Japanese literature after encountering Arthur Waley’s translation of The Tale of Genji.
Student Akane Michiyuki, 22, said checking out the Japanese editions of classics from Keane’s collection was “impressive.
Ayaka Yoshioka (19) said she became interested in the subject after reading a conversation between Keane and the famous author Ryotaro Shiba (1923-1996) in Chuko Bunko’s “Japanese and Japanese Culture.”
Keene is also well known for his interactions with writers Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) and Kobo Abe (1924-1993).
His collection spans many fields, not just literature and history.
It has been confirmed that the travel guide “Chikyu no Arukikata” and magazines containing Keane’s essays are in possession. I found an opera ticket stub between the pages of the book.
19-year-old Ayano Suzuki said, “A part-time job that teaches you is attractive.”
Others said the work was challenging.
“There are a lot of old English books, but some of them, like Japanese books, lack the colophon entirely,” Yoshioka said. “Information about these titles is hard to find online, which makes our job more difficult.”
Mr. Ishida, who supervises the program, talked about the future development.
“Since information such as the location of the book is also recorded, it may someday be possible to reproduce his research in a VR (virtual reality) space,” said Ishida. And it would be great if it could be used for education that combines science and humanities.”
Senior official Yoshio Urano of the Kita Ward Regional Revitalization Division said the city was proud to have Keane as a resident.
“We will explore more effective approaches to raise awareness of Keen’s achievements by raising awareness among residents,” Urano said.
Inspection of Keane’s collection will continue until March 2024.