Remembering Prof. Sadao Asada

Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historians

Peter Mauch is a Senior Lecturer in Asian History at Western Sydney University.

Sadao Asada, Professor Emeritus of Doshisha University, died in Kyoto on February 4, 2019. He was 83 years old.

Professor Asada remains the finest historian of Japan’s Imperial navy, and one of his nation’s very best diplomatic historians. His corpus reveals an eye for the minutest detail, an unbridled enthusiasm for deep archival research, and an uncompromising set of scholarly standards. His legacy extends to that large number of students whom he trained and inspired.

Sadao Asada was born on January 29, 1936, in Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto. He attended Doshisha’s relatively liberal schools. During his senior year at Doshisha High School, under the tutelage of Carelton College graduate Milton L. Beirman, he nightly rewrote his class notes in English. Here, then, was an early indication of the stamina and determination which he applied to his studies.

Asada was awarded a Grew Foundation scholarship in 1954 (another renowned historian, Akira Iriye, preceded him by one year and was the first Grew Foundation scholar). For the next four years, Asada attended Carelton College. History and American literature classes were among his favorites, and he wrote his senior thesis about the U.S. occupation of Japan. He graduated magnum cum laude in 1958.

Asada undertook his graduate studies at Yale. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation, entitled “Japan and the United States, 1915—25” under the supervision of the doyen of U.S. diplomatic history, Samuel Flagg Bemis. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1963.

Asada returned to Japan in May 1963. He took up a position as the executive secretary of Doshisha University’s newly established Center for American Studies and proceeded to build one of the world’s finest American studies libraries. He later moved to Doshisha’s political science department, where he taught diplomatic and naval history until his retirement.

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