John Nathan (born 1940) is the translator of Japanese works written by celebrated authors such as Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburō Ōe.[1] Nathan is also an Emmy-award winning producer, writer and director of many films about Japanese culture and society and American business.

He studied at University of Tokyo. He is currently the Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.[2][3] John Nathan's fields include Japanese culture, Japanese literature, Japanese cinema, the theory and practice of translation[4], and the sociology of business culture. The first Westerner to graduate as a regular student to the University of Tokyo[5], he spent many years living and studying in Japan. He is the author of a definitive biography of novelist Yukio Mishima and he has also translated novels by Mishima and by Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe. When Ōe received the Nobel Prize in 1994, Nathan accompanied him to Stockholm.[6]

Nathan was described by The Japan Times as "the one critic of Japanese literature that towers above the rest."[7]




  • Mishima: A Biography (1974)
  • Sony: The Private Life (1999)
  • Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation's Quest for Pride and Purpose (2004)
  • Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere (autobiography—New York: Free Press. March 2008)
  • "Tokyo Story: A Profile of Shintaro Ishihara." The New Yorker, April 9, 2001.
  • Words, Ideas, and Ambiguities: Four Perspectives on Translating from the Japanese. Howard Hibbett, Edwin McClellan, John Nathan and Edward Seidensticker. Chicago, Ill.: Imprint Publications, 2000.
  • "Kenzaburō Ōe: Mapping the Land of Dreams." Japan Quarterly 42(1), January–March, 1995.

Documentary filmEdit

  • The Japanese, A Film Trilogy: Full Moon Lunch, The Blind Swordsman, Farm Song (1979); music for Farm Song written by Toru Takemitsu
  • The Colonel Goes to Japan (1982, Emmy Award) - A film about KFC in Japan.
  • Daimyo (1988)


  1. ^ France, Peter (2001). The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199247844.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2011-01-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "UCSB Professor's Memoir on Japan, America, Film, and Literature". Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  4. ^ France, Miranda (3 March 2019). "Between worlds: in praise of the literary translator". Prospect. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  5. ^ "'Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere' with translator John Nathan | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  6. ^ "John Nathan - Speaker -". Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  7. ^ "Literature critic John Nathan dissects Japan's Nobel Prize laureates | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2018-05-18.