Donald Howard Shively, an authority on Japanese urban life and popular culture in the Tokugawa period and chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, where he also served as director of the Japan Institute (now the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies), died on Aug. 13 in a nursing facility near his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 84.
Born in Kyoto in 1921 to American missionaries, and educated at the Canadian Academy in Kobe and Harvard University (class of 1944), he served as a Japanese language officer in the Marine Corps during the Pacific War, receiving the Bronze Star. Following doctoral training and election to the Society of Fellows at Harvard, he held professorial appointments at the University of California, Berkeley (1950-62), Stanford University (1962-64), and Harvard (1964-83). He returned in 1983 to Berkeley, serving until his retirement in 1992 as professor of East Asian languages and cultures and head of the East Asian Library.
Decorated by the Japanese government in 1982 with the Order of the Rising Sun, Shively was one of the leaders of the postwar development of Japanese studies in the United States.
Legions of colleagues remember him as the standard-setting editor of the Journal of Asian Studies (1955-59) and the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (1975-83). He also brought a legendary erudition, leavened by tact and wit, to two major projects in postwar Japanese Studies: “Studies in the Modernization of Japan” (Princeton University Press, 1965-71), and the “Cambridge History of Japan” (1988-99).