Announcing the James R. Brandon Papers

This post is by Univ. Archives & Manuscripts student assistant Steven Fluckiger, who processed the Brandon Papers.

A new addition to the University Archives, the James R. Brandon Papers contain the research and academic work of Dr. James R. Brandon, former professor of theatre and drama at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is most recognized for his groundbreaking research on kabuki theatre and censorship from the Japanese government and the U.S. military during the twentieth century.

Occupation-era document mentioning censorship of Japanese media

Occupation-era document mentioning censorship of Japanese media.

Born in Minnesota in 1927, Brandon graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1948 and 1949 with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees respectively in theatre and speech. In 1950, he was drafted into the Korean War where he discovered kabuki theatre while stationed in Japan. After the war, he went back to UW to receive his PhD in theatre and television and joined the U.S. Foreign Service and was stationed in Jakarta. Here he frequented many performances which motivated him to write Theatre in Southeast Asia in 1967.

Well versed in Japanese and Indonesian theatre, Brandon accepted a position in UH’s theatre department from 1968 to 2000. During his tenure, he produced twenty-two productions, co-founded the Asian Theatre Journal, served as department chair, and brought international recognition to the department through his scholarship and production of English-language kabuki plays. After retiring, he continued in his scholarship, including accepting a semester-long teaching position at Harvard.

Cover of James Brandon's 2008 book, Kabuki's Forgotten War, 1931-1945

Cover of James Brandon’s 2008 book, Kabuki’s Forgotten War, 1931-1945

Brandon passed away on September 19th, 2015 in Honolulu. At the time of his death, he published twenty books on theatre, kabuki, and censorship, including English translations of kabuki classics. These works also included research about U.S. military censorship of kabuki after World War II as well as Japanese censorship before and during the war. He received several awards and recognitions, including the Imperial Decoration of the Order of the Rising Sun with Gold Rays with Rosette from the Government of Japan, the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award from the Asian Cultural Council, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaiʻi State Theatre Council, and the UH Regents’ Medal for Outstanding Teaching.

This collection contains much of his research from the 1960s to his passing. A significant portion of this collection is dedicated to his research of censorship: before, during, and after World War II. They are now available for public research and will prove to be fascinating to all, from the beginner researcher to the most seasoned scholar.


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