Walking Event Held in Kita Ward, Tokyo, where Keene Lived; Participants Felt Close to Japanologist’s Local Legacy

The Japan News
Takeshi Enomoto, manager of the hair salon where Keene went for his haircut, talks about his memories of Keene in front of the salon on March 20.

A walking event was held on March 20 in the city where Donald Keene lived. Keene’s adopted son Seiki (73) guided 12 participants who were selected in a drawing.

Keene lived for about 45 years in an apartment next to the Kyu Furukawa Gardens in Kita Ward, Tokyo, and used it as his home in Japan. The two-hour event toured Keene’s apartment, Muryoji Temple where Keene’s grave is located and the Shimofuri Ginza shopping street, where he used to do his daily shopping.

“My father had his own grave built about four years before he died. He was overjoyed and said, ‘We’ve got a Keene family grave!’” Seiki explained how Keene cherished his grave at Muryoji Temple, which is only a three-minute walk from his apartment. Keene, who acquired Japanese nationality in 2012, had long dreamed of having a grave in Japan. Seiki continued, “He visited his grave every week. He was hospitalized in September 2018, and even on the day before he was admitted, he unsteadily walked here.”

At the hair salon Keene used to go to, the manager, Takeshi Enomoto, said, “I don’t know anything about literature, so I just made small talk while I was cutting his hair and didn’t really understand how amazing he was.” He then shared a story with us. One day, Keene asked, “Have you been able to take good care of your parents recently?” Enomoto replied, “Not so much.” Later, a newspaper reporter in Tokyo came to the salon and took a picture of Keene and Enomoto, and a big print of it appeared in the paper. When Enomoto sent it to his parents, they were delighted. “You’ve done something good for your parents, haven’t you?” Keene smiled when he said that the next time he came to the hair salon.

Etsuko Hamasaki, a resident of Nerima Ward, Tokyo, who attended the event, said, “I could see how Keene had put down roots in Kita Ward and how he lived here. I felt much closer to him.”