J. Thomas Rimer

  • Professor Emeritus, Japanese literature


I came to Japanese studies in what would be these days a rather usual way. I had been an English major in college back in the 1950s and had had no contact with the Far East at all until I was drafted into the Army after the Korean War and sent to Sapporo in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Talk about extended culture shock—and I assure you that I remain as fascinated, and surprised, by Japan now as I was fifty years ago. Because I lived and worked there, I began to pursue the same interests I had back at home—I loved music and the theatre, and literature as well. It was only after what might be called this “practical exposure” that I decided to go to graduate school and actually take up the formal study of Japanese culture. It was a very exciting surprise to discover the high quality of artistic and cultural life in Japan, which I learned to appreciate even more as I learned the language and studied literature and history, and it has been a pleasure for me to explore those avenues of understanding for several decades now.

I’ve published a good deal on a variety of topics, and now I’m working with a colleague to put together an anthology of modern Japanese literature, the first volume of which should appear next year from Columbia University Press. I’m also working on a biography on one of Japanese’s most creative twentieth-century stage directors, Senda Koreya. So much to do and so little time!

Education & Training

  • PhD in Philosophy (Japanese Literature), 1971, Columbia University, New York—Thesis: Kishida Kunio and the Modern Japanese Theatre

Representative Publications

  • (with Stephen Addiss and Gerald Groemer) Traditional Japanese Arts and Culture: An Illustrated Sourcebook. University of Hawai'i Press, 2006
  • (with Van C. Gessel) The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature. Columbia University Press, 2005.
  • A translation of the play The Emperor of La Mancha’s Clothes, by Yokouchi Kensuke. Included in the Japan Playwright’s Association, ed. Half a Century of Japanese Theatre, Vol. III. Tokyo: Kinokuniya, 2001.
  • (with Marlene J. Mayo) War, Occupation, and Creativity: Japan and East Asia 1920-1960. University of Hawaii Press, 2001.
  • Japan Editor and contributor for Peter France, ed., The Oxford Guide to Literature in Translation. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • A Reader’s Guide to Japanese Literature (Revision). Kodansha International, 1999.
  • Translation of Senda Akihiko, Voyage of Modern Japanese Theatre. translator, University of Hawaii Press, 1997.
  • (with Jonathan Chaves) Poems to Sing: The Wakan Rōeishū. Columbia University Press, 1997.
  • (with Keiko McDonald) Nara Encounters. Weatherhill, NY, 1997.
  • Editor, The Blue-Eyed Tarōkaja. Columbia University Press, 1996.
  • Editor, Kyoto Encounters. Weatherhill, NY, 1995.