Research Interests: Late Edo landscape prints; the history of color and pigments in Japanese woodblock prints of the eighteenth and nineteenth century; woodblock views of Edo and Tokyo; “Chūshingura” and the relationship between history and legend in early modern and modern Japan; history of modern Tokyo; history of modern Japanese architecture
Henry Smith is director of the Kyoto Consortium of Japanese Studies (KCJS), a junior-year-abroad program that is now administered at Columbia by the recently created Office of Global Programs. KCJS was established in 1989 by a consortium made up of Columbia, its Ivy League peer institutions, the University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and Stanford University. The program provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to study in Japan for a full year or one semester, spending half their time studying the Japanese language and the other half taking courses in both English and Japanese on Japanese history, culture, and society. Most of the students live with homestay families to help integrate them into Japanese society.
Professor Smith wrote his dissertation on the prewar Japanese student movement, published as Japan’s First Student Radicals (Harvard, 1972) and Shinjinkai no kenkyû: Nihon gakusei undô no genryû (Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1972). His recent work deals with aspects of the history of Chûshingura, in an effort to integrate the historical Akô Incident with its many later stage and literary versions as a unified history of storytelling in Japan.
Professor Smith continues his research on various dimensions of the “Chūshingura” story, looking at the various ways in which the Ako Incident of the “47 Ronin” of 1701–1703 has become Japan’s “national legend” through retelling, embellishment, and reenactment in multiple media over three centuries. More recently, he has turned to research on the modern history of the city of Kyoto and the ways in which Kyoto has become the focus of a continuing reinterpretation of the meaning of “tradition” in modern Japan.
He has written books on woodblock prints, Hiroshige, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (George Braziller, 2000), Hokusai, One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji (Thames and London, Ltd., 1988), and Kiyochika: Artist of Meiji Japan (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988). For his recent writings and translations concerning the Chûshingura tradition, see www.columbia.edu/~hds2/hds2_chushingura.html.
Professor Smith received his B.A. from Yale University , 1962, and his Ph.D. from Harvard University, 1970. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has been at Columbia since 1988.