Government of Japan Honors Yale University Professor William W. Kelly

The Japanese government will confer the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, on Professor William W. Kelly of Yale University for his contributions to the study of Japanese society and culture in the U.S., and for his promotion of scholarly and educational exchange between Japan and the U.S. The Order of the Rising Sun was the first national decoration to be created by the Japanese government in 1875, and it is the country’s second most prestigious decoration after the Order of the Chrysanthemum. A conferment ceremony for Kelly will soon be held at Yale University.

Kelly joined the faculty of Yale University in 1980 and has been dedicated to research and teaching about Japan for 30 years. As professor of anthropology and Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies, he has been a major figure in the development of Japanese studies at Yale and in the U.S., and he has fostered many younger researchers in Japanese studies. He is a noted authority on the anthropology of contemporary and historical Japan. For two decades, much of his research focused on the place of regional society within modern Japan, based on extensive fieldwork on farming, families, and festivals in the Shonai area of Yamagata Prefecture. For the last 15 years, he has turned to research on sport and body culture in Japan and conducted long-term research on professional baseball in the cities of Osaka and Kobe and on Japan’s Olympic experiences. He has published widely in English and Japanese and is particularly known for his writings on the importance of baseball for modern Japan and on the place of Japanese sports in global sports history.

Throughout his career, Kelly has worked tirelessly to promote U.S.-Japan educational exchange, serving for many years on the Governing Board of the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies and on the Advisory Board of the Japan-U.S.A. Student Conference. He also served on the Japan Committee of the Social Science Research Council and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies. He was a four-term member of the American Advisory Committee of the Japan Foundation and a longtime associate editor of the Journal of Japanese Studies.

He has introduced generations of Yale undergraduates to Japanese society through his popular lecture courses, and he has nurtured many Japan anthropologists in his long-running graduate research seminar. Many of his students now fill academic posts, including major universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Waseda University, International Christian University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Yale itself.

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