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Meet Professor Ken Ruoff
Meet Professor Ken Ruoff

Ken Ruoff is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University. In 2004, he was awarded the Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary, Japan's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for the Japanese translation of his book The People's Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945-1995 (Harvard East Asia Monographs, 2001).

Dr. Ruoff's most recent book, Imperial Japan at its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire's 2600th Anniversary (Cornell University Press, 2010), is a sweeping study of Japan in 1940. It was awarded the 2012 Frances Fuller Victor Award for Nonfiction. This book was also published in Japanese translation in December 2010 in the Asahi sensho series under the title 『紀元二千六百年 消費と観光のナショナリズム』.

In 2014, the Consul General of Portland presented Dr. Ruoff with a commendation for improving the understanding of Japan and also enriching the cultural life of Portland both through the programs sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies and through his scholarship.

Professor Ruoff received his A.B. with honors from Harvard College in 1989, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1997. From 1994-96 he was a research fellow and then lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Hokkaido University. In 2004, he was a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at Kyoto University.

Since the publication of his study of the monarchy in postwar Japan, Ruoff has become recognized as the leading authority on the imperial house in Japan. He is often asked to write commentary for Japanese journals ranging from Sekai to Bungei shunju, and has been interviewed about Japan's royal house by virtually every major media outlet in the world. More recently, as the result of his new book, Dr. Ruoff has been called upon by the mass media to explain conditions in Japan in the period leading up to its attack on Pearl Harbor.

His present research interests include tourism to colonial areas during the era of imperialism ("imperial tourism"), and the role of national heritage tourism in shaping popular historical memory.

Professor Ruoff’s most recent publication is Japanese Tourism to Mukden, Nanjing, and Qufu, 1938-1943  (Japan Review:  Journal of International Research Center for Japanese Studies 27 (2014)).  A Japanese translation of this essay was serialized in Web Ronza beginning on 8 January 2015.  

Imperial Japan at its Zenith:
The Wartime Celebration of the Empire's 2600th Anniversary

Cornell University Press, 2010

With this book, Ruoff uses the 2600th anniversary celebrations of the imperial dynasty (staged in 1940) to examine Japan's invention of a national history; the complex relationship between the homeland and the colonies; the significance of Imperial Japan's challenge to Euro-American claims of racial and cultural superiority; the role of heritage tourism in inspiring national pride; Japan's wartime fascist modernity; and, with a chapter about overseas Japanese, the boundaries of the Japanese nation. This book was awarded the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction. 

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The People's Emperor:
Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945-1995

Harvard East Asia Monographs, 2001

This comprehensive study analyzes numerous issues, including the role of individual emperors in shaping the institution, the manner in which the emperor's constitutional position as symbol has been interpreted, the emperor's intersection with politics through ministerial briefings, memories of Hirohito's wartime role, nationalistic movements in support of Foundation Day and the reign-name system, and the remaking of the once sacrosanct throne into a "monarchy of the masses" embedded in the postwar culture of democracy. The author stresses the monarchy's "postwarness," rather than its traditionality.

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Two Epilogues (updates covering imperial developments through 2009) that Ruoff wrote for successive Japanese versions of the book that have not been published previously in English are now available at the following web links:

2003 Epilogue »
2009 Epilogue »

『紀元二千六百年 消費と観光のナショナリズム』

Translation of Imperial Japan at its Zenith published by the Asahi Newspaper Publishing Company in its Asahi sensho series (December 2010). Includes an essay interpreting the significance of the book written by Professor Hara Takeshi. Translation by Kimura Takahisa.

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『国民の天皇 —— 戦後日本の民主主義と天皇制』

Originally published by the Kyodo News Publishing Company in 2003, and winner of the 2005 Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary awarded to the best book in the social sciences published the previous year, the Japanese translation of The People's Emperor has been available since April 2009 in the Iwanami gendai bunko series. Includes two updates on imperial developments since the English-language version was published in 2001. Translation by Kimura Takahisa, Takahashi Hiroshi, and Fukushima Mutsuo.

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Portland State University | Department of History
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