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An Interview with Marius Jansen: From the Marlene J. Mayo Oral Histories

This post is the ninth in a series featuring interviews from the Marlene Mayo Oral Histories.  Currently, 29 of the oral history transcripts are available online.  The remainder are available onsite in the Prange Collection.  For other featured oral histories, see this page

Today is Marius Jansen’s birthday!

Marius Jansen (April 1, 1922 – December 10, 2000), a highly acclaimed scholar of Japanese history, was interviewed by Marlene Mayo on November 10, 1979.  The transcript of the interview can be read here.

As an undergraduate at Princeton, Jansen studied Renaissance and Reformation history. World War II changed the direction of his life. He was trained in Japanese and assigned to the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). He arrived in Okinawa in early August 1945, just prior to the Japanese surrender. Soon after, he was transferred to Yokohama. In the interview, Jansen said,

We managed to get Izu Peninsula added to our territory in time on the ground that connections were better from the north than from the Shizuoka side. So we developed a rather close familiarity with some of the most beautiful country in the world.

Then there was a certain amount of monitoring activity for Eighth Army, going around public schools, for instance, to see what they were using for textbooks and having principals proudly show me textbooks that had — in which pages had been pasted together or pictures of tanks cut out and so on at some cost to the use of the other side of the page. (p. 15 Jansen interview)

After approximately one year in Japan, Jansen returned to the U.S. and studied for his doctorate in Japanese at Harvard University under the direction of John K. Fairbank and Edwin O. Reischauer, who was later U.S. ambassador to Japan. Jansen began his teaching career at the University of Washington and then joined the faculty of Princeton, where he remained until his retirement in 1992. Jansen was one of a handful of scholars — many of whom first experienced Japan during their service in the Occupation — who introduced the study of Japan to college and university curricula in the United States.

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