Frederik L. Schodt | フレデリック・L・ショット

Donald L. Philippi, In Memorium

This page is dedicated to a great translator, linguist, musician, and intellect, who inspired (and shocked) many people in his life. I wrote the obituary right after his sudden death in 1993. The interviews presented here were conducted nearly ten years earlier, in mid-1984, and since so much time has gone by they deserve a word of explanation. I was 34 at the time and had not known Don very long, but I lived nearby and found him fascinating; so much so that I thought it important to record something of his life, if not for an article or book some day, then at least for posterity. Don was around 54, but he seemed much younger, and his mind was always awe-inspiring because of his grasp of languages and history.

Don was one of the first people I knew who used a word processor in his work, before personal computers became popular, and he was still using it when I conducted these interviews. He had an IBM Display Writer and a huge printer, both which at the time seemed like very expensive and complicated contraptions. In a prelude to email interviews, which have become very common today, we conducted a real-time musical chair version of the same. In other words, I would sit in the chair in his office and type a question. He would stand behind me watching and reading, and then we would change places. I can still remember Don, who could type faster and more accurately than any one I knew (and produce text that looked like it had been carefully edited), cackling with glee when something struck his fancy, or when he thought it wickedly clever. For those who are interested in his research on the Ainu and also on the Kakumaru radical group, his manuscripts and research materials have been donated to the East Asian Library in the University of California, Berkeley, as has his extensive personal library. Most of his Technical Japanese Translation newsletters have also been archived and made available through Waseda University, in Tokyo.