Adriana Boscaro (1935-2022)

Adriana Boscaro, Professor Emerita of Japanese and longtime director of the Department of Oriental Studies at the University Ca’ Foscari, Venice, Italy, died August 21, 2022 at her home in Venice. She was 87 years old. Professor Boscaro was a major figure in the field of Japanese studies in Italy and a scholar known internationally for her work in the fields of sixteenth-century Japanese history, modern Japanese literature, and Japanese bibliography.

Adriana Boscaro graduated in Japanese in 1969 from the University Ca’ Foscari in Venice. In 1971 she joined its faculty and taught there until 2004. She was a founding member and past president of both the European Association of Japanese Studies (EAJS) and the Italian Association of Japanese Studies (AISTUGIA). Generous, gregarious, multilingual, and efficient, Professor Boscaro organized many conferences, the most famous being the Tanizaki Symposium held in Venice in 1995. Leading scholars from all over the world participated in this memorable conference. People who were too young at the time can still enjoy the variety and quality of the papers presented through the volume that collects them, A Tanizaki Feast: The International Symposium in Venice, published both in English (University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 1999) and in Japanese.

Professor Boscaro’s research was manifold: from the history of Japan, to which she devoted numerous studies, her interests gradually extended to modern and contemporary Japanese literature. She made a major contribution to the latter field by conceiving the Mille gru (Thousand Cranes) series together with the Venetian publisher Marsilio. This series of translations from Japanese to Italian presents novels by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Kawabata Yasunari, Fukunaga Takehiko, Enchi Fumiko, and Edogawa Ranpo, as well as standard classical literary works such as Hōjōki and Ugetsu monogatari.

Professor Boscaro wrote authoritatively on two major topics. The first, the profound influence of westerners on Japanese society and vice versa in the sixteenth century (sometimes called the Christian Century), addressed subjects such as the Japanese embassy of 1585 to Europe, Jesuits and printing in East Asia, the European cartography of Ezo, and Hideyoshi’s edicts against Christianity. The second topic was modern Japanese literature, in particular the works of Tanizaki Jun’ichirō. Professor Boscaro translated many of Tanizaki’s books and short stories into Italian and wrote widely on aspects of Tanizaki’s art, including her essay, “In Pursuit of the Prints of Those Feet,” in A Tanizaki Feast. Throughout her career Professor Boscaro also published comprehensive bibliographies on Japanese history and literature, one of the more recent being Tanizaki in Western Languages (2000).  

Professor Boscaro was the recipient of many awards, including the Okano Prize (1990), the Cesmeo Prize for the translation into Italian of Katō Shūichi’s A History of Japanese Literature (1999), and the Order of the Rising Sun, awarded by the Japanese government in 1999. 

Adriana Boscaro was admired and respected by colleagues and students for her dedication to the field of Japanese studies, her high academic standards, and her teaching and networking skills. In the words of one colleague, Giorgio Amitrano, “Those who knew her will retain the memory of Adriana as a dynamic person, full of energy and initiative, driven by an inexhaustible love for Japan.”

— Submitted by Aileen Gatten and Frank Joseph Shulman. The authors are grateful to Professors Giorgio Amitrano and Roberta Strippoli for their contributions to this obituary.