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Edward G. Seidensticker papers

Identifier: COU:1440

Scope and Contents

This collection contains many personal and professional items of Edward G. Seidensticker, including diaries, personal notes and translations, research, and literature/book reviews. I. DIARIES contains many diaries chronicling Seidensticker’s life from June 1951 to July 2006 in his own words. Locations, dates, and events are noted whenever possible. II. CORRESPONDENCE includes both personal and professional letters arranged in chronological order, dated from 1974 to 2007. III. PAPERS is divided into three sections: III-A. ORGANIZATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS includes many papers, forms, and informational documents concerning Seidensticker’s contributions and involvement in various professional organizations and associations. III-B. INSTRUCTIONAL, TALKS includes writings, literature, and analysis of Seidensticker’s classes and speeches at various universities and organizations. III-C. NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS are newspaper clippings organized by date and/or location whenever possible. IV. WRITINGS, PUBLICATIONS BY SEIDENSTICKER includes sections of books, publications, and various writings by Seidensticker; many books are exclusively published in Japanese and titles have been translated whenever possible. IV-B. WRITINGS BY VARIOUS AUTHORS are publications, brochures, journals, and articles written by various authors on topics primarily focused on Japan, international relations and diplomacy, translations and translating. IV-C. WRITINGS, BOOKS BY SEIDENSTICKER are books written by Seidensticker, which are focused on Japan and translations of Japanese literature such as The Tale of Genji. IV-D. WRITINGS, BOOKS WITH NOTES TO E. SEIDENSTICKER include books where many authors have written personal notes to Seidensticker throughout the articles and books present in the collection. V. PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEDIA includes photographs both personal and professional, negatives, DVDs, and floppy disks. Details are provided whenever possible, including names, dates, and places. VI. OVERSIZE contains larger photographs, Alfred A. Knopf Proofs for Seidensticker’s book Tokyo Rising, maps, and posters.


  • Creation: 1948 - 1980

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical Note

Edward George Seidensticker was born in Castle Rock, Colorado, on February 11, 1921. He received his BA from the University of Colorado in 1942 and then attended the Navy Japanese Language School in Boulder, Colorado, from 1942-1943. In September 1945, he was sent with the occupation forces to Kyushu as a translator with the Marines. Later, in 1948, he was sent to Japan again with the State Department wing of SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers), General Douglas MacArthur’s occupation organization. During the years of occupation, Seidensticker helped with Japanese land reform, which involved divvying up land for farmers and the writing of the Japanese Constitution, which was fundamental to developing equal rights for Japanese women. He resigned from this position in 1950 after he sent a report to Washington regarding SCAP’s failure to break up the great prewar industrial complexes, known as zaibatsu.

After the war, he received further academic training. He received his MA from Columbia University in 1947 and pursued additional graduate studies at Harvard University from 1947 to 1948. After resigning from SCAP, he attended Tokyo University from 1950 to 1955. During his academic career, he specialized in Japanese literature, focusing on the Japanese prose literature of the Heian Period and the modern novel. During his academic career, Seidensticker taught at many universities. He was an instructor at Sophia University in Tokyo 1955 to 1959, as well as an Associate Professor at Stanford University, from 1962 to 1964. He later obtained a full professorship from 1964 to 1966. In addition, he was a Professor at the University of Michigan from 1966 to 1977. Finally, he was a professor at Columbia University from 1977 to 1985 and remained a Professor Emeritus from 1986 until his death.

Seidensticker’s language skills led to a life-long career as a writer and a translator of more than 100 Japanese literary titles. He translated Some Prefer Nettles and The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, who was believed to be one of the greatest Japanese writers of the century. In addition, he translated many works of Yasunari Kawabata, including Snow Country, Thousand Cranes, House of the Sleeping Beauties, The Sound of the Mountain, and The Master of Go. His translation of Kawabata’s Snow Country helped secure a Nobel Prize for Kawabata and Japan. His most famous translation was of The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese lady-in-waiting in the imperial court. His is the fullest and most accurate translation of the novel.

In addition to his translations, he wrote essays about various parts of Tokyo. These publications include Japan in Life World Library, published in 1961; Kafu the Scribbler, published in Stanford, California; Gendai Sakkaron published in Tokyo in 1965; and Genji Days published in Tokyo in 1979. His original works included a two-volume history of Tokyo titled Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake (published in New York in 1983) and Tokyo Rising: The City Since the Great Earthquake (published in New York in 1990). The two latter novels are among the best histories of Tokyo. Pictures from these two works appear in the collection. He received many awards for his work including the National Book Award in 1971, and the Tokyo Cultural Award in 1985.

Seidensticker split his time between Tokyo and Hawaii until the spring of 2006, when he took up permanent residence in Japan. He died in August of 2007 after slipping into a coma from a head injury received the previous April. He is survived by a niece and nephew.


22.5 linear feet (18 boxes)

Language of Materials



Edward G. Seidensticker graduated in 1943 from the U. S. Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He served with the Marines during World War II as a Japanese language interpreter. Seidensticker’s language skills led to a life-long career as a writer and a translator of more than 100 Japanese literary titles. His papers include his numerous and extensive diaries, as well as manuscripts and typescripts of his books, articles and lectures.


I. Diaries II. Correspondence III. Papers III-A. Organizations, Associations III-B. Instructional, Talks III-C. Newspaper Clippings IV. Writings, Publications by Seidensticker IV-B. Writings by Various Authors IV-C. Writings, Books by Seidensticker IV-D. Writings, Books with Notes to Seidensticker V. Photographs and Media VI. Oversize

Physical Location

A50 B-C; unprocessed additions boxes 81-88 A9 L3-4

Surveyed and Partially Preserved by Katherine Harris, 2009 Fourth Accession Surveyed by: Leanne Glenn, March 2012 Complete Processing by Lacy Dunlavy & Jonathan Ferris, 2015
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States