In Memoriam: Ezra Vogel, 1930-2020

  • ezra_vogel1
  • ezra_vogel4
  • vogel9
  • vogel15
  • vogel6
  • ezra_vogel2
  • ezra_vogel3
  • vogel5
  • vogel16
  • vogel7
  • vogel10
  • vogel8
  • vogel13
  • vogel14
  • vogel15
  • vogel17
  • vogel18
  • vogel19
  • vogel20
  • vogel21
  • vogel22
  • vogel23
  • vogel24
  • vogel26
Director Christina Davis has shared a letter on the passing of Honorary Director Ezra Vogel, and Executive Director Shinju Fujihira has created a Twitter thread with his own reflections.

Remembrances and Tributes

Issei Akahori (2016–17)

I am very surprised to hear of the sudden death of Professor Vogel.

Please accept my sincere condolences.

The first edition of Professor Vogel's book "Japan as Number One" led me to study at Harvard University. My father gave me the book when I graduated the university and joined Keidanren.
By studying at “Vogel-Juku”, I was able to deepen my understanding of Japan-U.S. relations. I was greatly inspired by his remarks.

Last summer, my wife and I visited Professor Vogel's house and took commemorative photos. It is impressive that he showed interest in the Japanese political situation.

May his soul rest in peace.

Alexis Dudden (2005–⁠06)

Just a brief comment in Ez's honor that I'm taking from the review of his recent book I did for the TLS:

Vogel explains that it is as a “friend of Japan” and a “friend of China” that he hopes to help both. He is one of the few thinkers alive with sufficient traction to speak equally with leaders in both countries as well as people on the street (I have witnessed a crowd of Japanese people literally sitting at his feet in the aisle of an airplane listening to his thoughts about their society’s best course forward). He is also humble, publishing this book in English as middle ground with the express hope that it will be translated into both Chinese and Japanese.

What a loss, yet what a life well-lived.

Kenji Eda (1987–88)




Margarita Estévez-Abe (1998–99, 2000–01)

I used to be Ezra's teaching assistant for his core course on Industrial East Asia. I learned so much from his lectures and his weekly meetings for teaching assistants. These meetings were the best. We would all gather in his house and it felt like an intimate seminar. Very few people know East Asia as well as he did. He was not only a great scholar but was also a very kind and welcoming man. It was a joy to work for him. He will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace. Thank you, Ezra.

Taiji Furusawa (2010–⁠12)

Dear Vogel sensei:

It was my great honor to participate in the Vogel Juku in 2010-2011.  I deeply respected you in your willingness to give your precious time to our once-a-month discussions about Japan's international relations with the U.S., Asian countries, and the rest of the world.  We learned a lot from the discussions and from your comments, with pizzas and beer at your home.  Strangely, though, I do not remember much about what we discussed and what your comments are.  But I do remember very well that you taught us how to pronounce "L" in English.  You told us that we extend the lip further toward the teeth almost up to where it is sticking out from the teeth.  I remember just like yesterday the face of you, with your tongue showing between the teeth, when pronouncing "L".  You were always kind to us and smiled to us, but at the same time never failed to give critical comments when necessary.  I admire you in all respects.  Thank you very much for your continuous engagement in Japan and other Asian countries.  You will continue to live forever in our minds.

Thank you very much.

Kumiko Haba (2011–⁠12)

Dear Professor Ezra Vogel,

It was my deepest surprise, and I am deeply sunk in the depths of sorrow to hear that Professor Ezra Vogel passed away. We would like to express our heartfelt condolences from Japan, and from all over the world.

While at Harvard, Ezra kindly invited me to his house many times and was able to talk to him personally. He loved and taught everyone indiscriminately and valued raising young scholars in particular.

I have always learned a lot from his great books and his life- and work- style itself that used many materials of Japanese and Chinese and considered profoundly and sharply the situation of the international society, especially East Asian historical conflicts in the 21st century. I wanted to learn much more from genius Ezra’s thought on China, Japan, historical reconciliation among Japan-China-Korea and the development of East Asia, and the profound relationship among Japan, China and the United States.

I would like to pray for the peace of his soul from the bottom of my heart. If there is any gathering for him, I would like to fly to go to Harvard as soon as possible, or I would like to do anything which I could. I still cannot believe that you had passed away. I pray for your soul from the bottom of my heart.

Keisuke Iida (2018–⁠19)

Like everyone else in my generation, I got to know about Ezra Vogel by reading his book, Japan as No. 1. I also met him several times in seminars while I was a student at Harvard, but it was not until 2018 when I joined the Vogel-juku that I really got to know him well. The Vogel-juku was meant for the younger generation, to which I no longer belong, but he welcomed me with open arms. 

Japanese students were not used to the freewheeling discussion style of the juku, and there were a few moments of awkward silence each time, and it was always my self-appointed role to break the ice. But at one time, I thought I should keep quiet to let the other people speak more. So after the session was over, I told Ezra that I tried to keep quiet for that reason, and he said I didn’t have to. He genuinely loved lively and candid discussions, and it didn’t matter to him who was saying what, as long as everyone was intellectually engaged, actively or passively.

Ezra had an extraordinary degree of intellectual curiosity and vigor. He was still writing his book on Sino-Japanese relations in 2018, and he talked about it so many times as if he was talking about his own child. He loved Japan and Japanese people, and he was gravely concerned about the future of Sino-Japanese relations. He will be sincerely missed in Japan and all around the world. 

Takashi Inoguchi (Distinguished Visitor 1997–98)

I was astounded at the news of Prof. Ezra Vogel's sudden passing away. My deep sorrow and grief. We have lost one of the very few scholars so fluent in local languages with solid understanding of emotions subtly laid bare and arguments inadvertently expressed. His last magnum opus on China and Japan will be widely read by Americans, Chinese and Japanese alike, I sincerely hope.

Please convey my profound grief to your friends and colleagues, from someone who attended the Reischauer graduate seminar course along with Kent Calder in early 1970s and who is most grateful for the late Prof Ezra Vogel to give me nice words to The Sage Handbook of Asian Foreign Policy, 2 vols., London: Sage Publications, 2019 as well as to Digitized Statecraft in Multilateral Treaty Participation: Global Quasi-Legislative Behavior of 193 Sovereign States, Singapore: Springer Nature, forthcoming in February 2021. 

Rintaro Iwasaki (2010–11)





Junko Kato (1996–⁠97; Distinguished Visitor 2018–⁠19)

Since I first came to know his name as the author of Japan as Number One, in my mind, Professor Ezra Vogel has been a critical symbol of Japanese studies in the United States.  After I came to know him in person, I was deeply impressed with his natural talent for understanding cultures and societies that are very different from his native one. He never armed himself to tackle subjects and problems, but just accepted and translated them into his own language for explanation. This has continued throughout his academic career and was embodied in his contribution as a commentator for the online seminar of the US-Japan Program last November, in which I was lucky enough to have seen him virtually. I still fail to comprehend fully that he was passed away. This feeling, although unrealistic, may have meaning, because his presence and attitude have been and will be part of the scholarly foundation of Japanese and Asian studies.

Kiyoshi Kawai (2003–04)


元の出身官庁の警察庁の関係で、APIS(Advance Passengers Information System)で、ほかにも渡米しての関心は、日本が当時治安状況が悪化の一途をたどっていたことに鑑み、ニューヨークの治安改善の政策についてNYPDに取材したり、ケネディスクールで、テロリズムの講義をとったり、デビッドケネディ氏の講義をとったり、レポートを書いてみてもらったり、と語学ができない割には、忙しい毎日を送っておりました。その中、ボーゲル塾の案内を頂きました。




Shinichi Kitaoka (President, JICA)

I am writing to express my deepest condolences on behalf of all management and staff of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) following the passing of Dr. Ezra Vogel last month.  

Dr. Vogel was greatly admired within JICA for his extraordinary analytical insights and masterful scholarly contributions to the understanding of East Asian societies.  The multi-disciplinary manner in which he carried out his life’s work is a testament both to his unparalleled intellect and inquisitive character.  Undoubtedly, those of us who are dedicated to the same cause of promoting cross-cultural connections were thoroughly enriched by-and remain deeply indebted to―the sturdy foundation of knowledge Dr. Vogel assiduously imparted over the course of his illustrious career.  I would also like to express my special appreciation for his generous dedication to help Japanese graduate students, including young JICA staff members, who were inspired by the advice and guidance he gave them at his home in Cambridge.  

I personally had numerous opportunities to meet and chat with Dr. Vogel.  In particular, I will never forget the time when he came to Honolulu, Hawaii, all the way from Boston to introduce me as a keynote speaker at the international conference organized by the American Association for Asian Studies in March 2011.  In addition, it was a truly unforgettable time when we visited the 'Sanriku ' coastal area in northeast Japan together about one year after the city had been devastated by the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami.  I remember that we made this visit by bus, even though Dr. Vogel had severe back pain. These precious memories with Dr. Vogel will remain in my heart forever. 

It goes without saying that Dr. Vogel will be sorely missed; may his soul rest in eternal peace. 

Please extend our heartfelt sympathies to Dr. Vogel’s family, colleagues, and friends during this period of mourning and somber reflection. 

Akio Koike (2008–09)











"TEPCO Center to Promote the Culture for Safety Based on Lessons from 3.11" 



Yukinori Komine (2010–⁠11)

My Condolences and Gratitude to Vogel sensei,

I am deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Professor Ezra F. Vogel. Simultaneously, I am profoundly grateful for Vogel sensei’s teachings and for his inspiring work in the field of U.S.-East Asian relations, especially his emphasis on the importance of taking long-term perspectives and having the courage to engage in comprehensive projects over the course of many years. Having been inspired by him, I am determined to continue to carry on Vogel sensei’s spirit, by committing to my own professional and personal responsibilities and making contributions to the cultivation of mutual understanding and inclusiveness among peoples in the Pacific community. Arigatougozaimasu, Vogel sensei. It has been my life-time honor to be in your presence.

Yoshihisa Masaki (2005–06)

"Japan as Number One" showed that the United States should humbly learn Japan, and "China and Japan: Facing History" showed the history of Japan learning from China and China learning from Japan.
Above all, Professor Vogel himself was a person who always respected the other person and showed an attitude of humbly learning from the other person.
I was deeply impressed by the way of life in which even young students were treated asking for teaching.
I want to get closer to the “Vogel sensei's way of life”.
May you rest in peace.

Yukio Matsuyama (1991–92)


第一 知り合う前に、お互い相手の書いたものをじっくり読み、考え方に共鳴していた。

第二 初対面の際、二人とも1930年の午年(うまどし)生まれということがわかり、「だからウマが合うのですね」というのは冗談だとしても、とにかく「同時代史」を共有しているお蔭で、「事件」でも「人物」でも、話はいつもツーカーだった。

第三 私が八年間つとめた朝日新聞論説主幹を辞めることに内定した日、たまたま所用で麻布の国際文化会館に行ったら、ロビーで旧知のボーゲルさんにばったり。「お久しぶり。お変わりありませんか?」「実はいま朝日を辞めることにしてきたところです」「これからどうします?」「まだ決まっていません」「それならハーバードに来ませんか?」ということで、私の第二の人生がバタバタと決まってしまった。

第四 ボーゲルさんの日本関係の最新作『ジャパンアズナンバーワン?それからどうなった』の序文を頼まれ、5ページほど書いたところ、数か月して今度は彼が私の新作『頑張れ日本』の「帯」に、彼が最高級の賛辞に満ちた宣伝文を書いてくれた。「これで貸し借りなしのチャラですね」とボーゲルさんは笑っていたが、二人の交友では私の方が収支大幅な“黒字”だった。(なおこの時の著作は両方ともまるで売れなかった。推薦者のせい?)

学問的業績や日米相互理解上の貢献、語学力のすばらしさなどについては、直系のお弟子さんたちの追悼文にお任せするとして、私が身をもって教わったのは「気さくさ」の大切さ、だった。日本では学者に限らず、偉くなるにしたがって、重々しく、気難しく振る舞いがちの人が多いが、ボーゲルさんは、だれにも――著名人に対しても、ハーバードのUS-Japan programの新人に対しても――気さくに、誠実に対応していた。



Toshiaki Miura (2009–10)

A brief note on Professor Ezra Vogel

One of the greatest pleasures of a journalist is to have interviews with prominent scholars, and I have been very fortunate to meet Professor Vogel on several occasions for the Asahi Shimbun.  His sharp intellect, deep understanding of history, balanced views on Sino-Japanese relations would be so much more valuable in this age of accelerating antagonism among nations.  He has been a beacon for those who seek reconciliation in history issues. I hope we could continue to challenge this difficult task that he has carried so far.

Michael Nacht (1982–⁠83)

I have received notice of the passing of Ezra Vogel from the Harvard Program on US-Japan Relations.

I was very surprised and did not know he had been ill.

Back in 1980 I was a junior faculty member at the Harvard Kennedy School, working in part on East Asian security.

Professor Vogel planned to spend a sabbatical in Japan and he asked if I would serve as the Program’s Acting Director in his place.

It was a wonderful experience in every respect and I am forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me.

Ezra Vogel was a truly amazing scholar, author of numerous pathbreaking works, an exceptional human being, and someone from whom one would learn at every interaction.

A fabulous person of great intellect and tremendous humility, the Harvard East Asian community and countless readers throughout China, Japan and the western world should be justifiably proud of who and what he was.

Again, my deepest condolences at his passing.

Masahiro Nakagawa (2015–⁠16)

I got a wonderful chance to escort him to his home and enjoy talk with him personally. He talked to me about his academic life in 30 minutes. “I started learning Japanese at 29 years old and Chinese at 31. I put my family to a lot of trouble.” I said, “Your children and grandchildren followed your style and it has been a great treasure for them.” He replied with warm-hearted smile, “my grandson is learning Arabic now.”  I myself learned the joy and strictness of the study from his word and it has been my precious lesson.

I express my deepest condolences for him.


Ellie Okada (2009–10)

I am writing this message in profound sorrow at Professor Ezra F. Vogel’s passing away.  

When I stayed at Harvard as an academic associate (visiting scholar), Professor Vogel was quite impressive, providing critical and constructive opinions at seminars.  

His famous book, Japan, as Number One, may have misled many regarding his underlying assumptions.  According to Professor Vogel and some commentator, what he said is Japan AS Number One, not IS Number One.   

He also raised awareness about a unique geopolitical position Japan used to have in the cold war period, which suggests future directions Japan should embrace.   

Beyond the academic logic, many accepted his words on International Affairs that surround Japan as parental words.     
When I presented at the Vogel-juku roughly ten years ago, he suggested having a more optimistic interpretation of results. It’s a pity that he passed away when my feelings finally were transformed to be positive. 

Professor Vogel’s soul will live forever with the Programs he founded at Harvard University.  May peace to his family, the United States, Japan and, the world. 

Naoya Okada (2018–⁠19)

I was with Professor Vogel at the "Vogel Juku".

The phrase "draw a big picture" that Professor Vogel used to say still sometimes comes to mind.
I would like to express my deepest condolences.

Yasushi Oshima (2009–10)



Sadamasa Oue (1997–⁠98; 2019–⁠21)

I can’t believe, as all of you can’t, that Vogel-sensei so suddenly passed away. I am sincerely grateful for his dedications to support Japan and Japanese students and researchers. It was in 1997 when I first met with Ezra as an associate of U.S.-Japan Program. And July last year, I came back to Cambridge as a fellow at the Asia Center, of which Ezra was the first director. In fact, my position there was established by him in 1999 to accommodate Akiyama-san, retired administrative vice minister of JDA. Following Mr. Akiyama, generals and admirals succeeded his position and I am the 12th fellow. Therefore, I am able to be here literally thanks to Vogel-sensei. On behalf of all my predecessors, I express wholehearted appreciation to him.

I have so many memories with Ezra that I would like to introduce you two of them. As soon as I came back to Harvard July last year, I sent Email to Ezra and he invited me to have a lunch with him at the Faculty Club. It was a buffet style lunch. Ezra ate a lot more than I did. He asked me more questions than I did to him. I was amazed by his insatiable appetite and curiosity, understanding that’s the magic of his longevity and vitality. He asked me how I see Koizumi Shinichiro and Kono Taro for whom Vogel sensei rooted. I asked him who the Democrat candidate will be and he answered Joe Biden and possibly with vice president Kamara Harris. He gladly told me that he and Professor Graham Alison will jointly develop a policy paper for the new President regarding how to manage U.S.-China relationship. It was 17 months ago.

After I tentatively went back to Tokyo in March, I was involved with COVID-19 task force organized by Funabashi Yoichi, director of API, which published Investigating Report based on this task force experience. Then, we happened to come across Vogel’s book, Four Little Dragon, which analyzes success of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore for their industrialization. Coincidently, these fours are also good to contain Covid-19 and Ezra’s observation gave us very useful insight and perspectives to cope with new virus. He didn’t know this episode, because I thought I would have had a chance to see him as we promised to meet again. I really missed him.

Vogel-sensei was loved by everybody, because he loved everybody. His son, Steven said, his father had the irrepressible ability to see the good in every person and every nation. I fully agree.

I believe Vogel-sensei is interviewing Deng Xiaoping, Tanaka Kakuei, Richard Nixon and many more who made history.

So, I express my heartfelt appreciation to Vogel-sensei and wish him rest in peace.

Hisashi Owada (1980–81; Distinguished Visitor 1988–89)

As a longtime friend of mine for 40  years, Ezra has truly  been my comrade-in-arms, working together, among other things, for the creation of the Program on US-Japan Relations in 1979-1980, which, as we noted in its 40 year anniversary celebration in January this year in Tokyo, has come to grow and thrive beyond our expectations.

Thorough this process Ezra’s wise counsel and contribution has been indispensable. While we were physically separated between different continents, whenever we  had an opportunity to be with each other together, whether in Tokyo (at the I-House where he used to stay) or in Boston (at the residence of the Consul -General of Japan) , Ezra and I always had the habit of seeing each other over dinner or even over the breakfast. Indeed, at this sad news, I feel like having lost my closest brother.

I do not know what to say at this juncture, except to ask you to convey my deepest condolences to his bereaved members of family and to all of you so closely attached to him at the US-Japan Program. 

Mizue (Miko) Oyama (2007–2009)

With much sadness, Professor Ezra F. Vogel, you were one of the most respected & historical scholars as well as my wonderful mentor. You were so sweet and kind with big smile as always,  and inspiring & giving me confidence in myself. I am very grateful for your guidance and friendship. I really miss you, but may your soul rest in peace

Kim Reimann (2001⁠–02)

Ezra Vogel was a towering figure in the field of Asian studies, but he was so much more than that - he was a kind mentor and friend to thousands of people. And I don't think I'm wildly exaggerating when I say thousands. So many people have an Ezra story - one in which he made them feel valid, important and worthy of his time. He always seemed genuinely interested in what you were doing and remembered many details about you. The rolodex in his brain was unbelievable.

I have quite a few memories of Ezra, but the most vivid ones date to the period when I worked with him at Harvard in the early 1990s. I was a graduate student in the Regional Studies- East Asia MA program at Harvard and was not sure what I wanted to do after graduating - whether to stay in academia or to look for a job in the business, government or nonprofit world. Ezra hired me as a teaching fellow in my second semester at Harvard for his large lecture course Industrial East Asia, which had a lot of discussion sections run by graduate students. He was very accessible and cared about how we were doing as instructors. We had weekly lunch meetings in his home to discuss content and teaching techniques, and the experience was so positive that I started to consider an academic career by the end of that semester. While it was just one influence, this experience was a very important one that inspired my decision to apply to PhD programs and become a professor. (As a side note: one of the popular courses that I teach to this very day at Georgia State University is modeled on Ezra's Industrial East Asia course.)

RIP Ezra. You'll be missed by so many people. You were a truly remarkable person.

Noriyuki Shikata (2019–⁠20)

As a graduate student at Harvard in 1987-89, I took his class on Japanese Business and Society co-taught by Prof. Ronald Dore. It was an extremely insightful class on the modern Japanese society. 

Immediately after I returned to Harvard in August 2019, we talked over an hour at his home on the current and future Japan-China & US-China relations, since I had been posted in Beijing just before my arrival in Boston. Prof. Vogel was always kind and generous to others, and curious about Japan and China. He was such a wonderful  mentor, teacher, scholar, and professor. He shall be missed.

Koji Sonoda (2015–16)





My deepest condolences on the passing of Professor Vogel.

As a member of the US-Japan relations program at Harvard, I am grateful to have known Professor Vogel. Professor Vogel was not only a great intellectual figure with outstanding academic achievement, but also my mentor who always treated me generously with his kindness.

To this day, I still remember our conversation about the media's role to defend democracy. He was seriously concerned that Japan was becoming increasingly right-leaning and he stressed how critical my job was.

He was kind enough to stay in touch with me after my completion of the program. I wish I could have kept my promise to visit him in Boston but unfortunately COVID prevented me from doing so.

I will never forget the path he showed me. May he rest in peace.

Kimitoshi Sugiyama (2011–⁠12)









ボーゲル先生のkeep broader perspectiveそれに think about big issueという教えが強く心に残っています。ボーゲル先生、本当にありがとうございました。

Yoichi Suzuki (Former Ambassador)

First, let me join others in offering my sympathy to all those who were close to Ezra. He is indeed very much missed.

I was Japanese Consul General in Boston for three years from beginning of 2006 to the end of 2008. That was how I got to know Ezra in person. I was fortunate to be able to keep in touch with him after I left Boston. Ezra was generous to spend time with me in various ways during my stint in Boston.

I want to touch on two pieces of my memory  of my many exchanges with Ezra.

First. My stint coincided with a rather difficult moment in the Japan China relationship particularly due to differences in   historic interpretation of our recent past. I was fortunate to share one on one lunches in quiet corners of Cambridge to learn from his insights. I reported my conversation with him in diplomatic cables and sent them to Tokyo Headquarters. It is a joy professionally for diplomats when the cables you sent are widely read back home. Reports based on my conversations with him were such ones. He advised my Government through me;  why don’t you adopt a long term strategic view on what is good for Japan instead of resorting to short term action to reaction type of approach.

Second. Ezra offered me candid and shrewd observations on the Japanese political leaders from the then young generation, in quiet ways who he thought would serve Japan well. It was of great interest to me. But I did not send cables on them. Japan was fortunate to benefit from the presence and advices of an observer on Japanese politics like him who not only knew Japan well but also looked at it with compassionate eyes.

Masaru Tachibana (1991–92)

ボーゲル先生は「ジャパン アズ ナンバーワン」の著者として余りに高名でしたので、大変遠い存在だと思っていました。








Masato Tainaka (2012–⁠13)

(Original post with photos available on blog)










Shigeru Tsuburaya (1995–⁠96)


Yasuhiro Uozumi (2006–⁠07)


Kozo Yamamoto (1981–⁠82)

Dear Vogel family,
I was truly shocked when I heard Ezra Vogel has passed away. 

Many memories with him flash-backed. He was a great scholar as well as a great progenitor who helped make understood Japanese economy and society to the world. ゛Japan as number one "was the most well-known monument in his works. He was also a great mentor to us all who joined in the Us―Japan program.

I had the opportunity to speak with Empress Masako on the 21st , right as we got word of Ezra's passing. She was also very grieved at his passing.

He will be remembered in history not only for his unparalleled scholarly outputs ,but also for his undying compassion to improve US-Japan relations.

I would like to convey my sincere condolence to Ezra's family and be ready to do any assistance if necessary.