JAPANESE humour studies has lost one of its greatest researchers, Professor Miyoko Sasaki. Together with her long-time colleague Heinz Morioka, Prof. Sasaki wrote Rakugo – the Popular Narrative Art of Japan (Harvard East Asian Monographs, 138, Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard Univ., 1990). The book is one of the most authoritative works on rakugo. It contributed to growing international interest in Japan’s art of humorous stories and its proponents.
I first met Prof. Sasaki when she and Heinz visited my Herald and Weekly Times Tokyo bureau office in 1983 to explain their attempt to fund a plaque to put at the grave of Henry Black in the Foreigners’ Cemetery in Yokohama so that tourists to the cemetery would appreciate his contribution to Japanese culture. That began and long friendship and inspired my interest in Henry.
Prof. Sasaki died on 14 April. A memorial ceremony was held at Shirayuri University, where she taught English literature for many years.