Reischauer, Haru (c. 1915–1998)

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Reischauer, Haru (c. 1915–1998)

Japanese-born American journalist. Name variations: Haru Matsukata. Born Haru Matsukata in Japan around 1915; died in La Jolla, California, on September 23, 1998; granddaughter of Prince Masayoshi Matsukata, former prime minister of Japan; attended the American School in Japan; graduated from Principia College, Illinois, 1937; married Edwin O. Reischauer (a scholar and diplomat), in 1956; children: (stepchildren) Robert, Ann, and Joan.

Cited as second most popular woman in Japan by Christian Science Monitor (1962); published Samurai and Silk: A Japanese and American Heritage (1986); became honorary chair of Harvard's policy advisory committee of the U.S.-Japan relations program (1990).

Haru Reischauer was born Haru Matsukata in Japan around 1915, to a father who was a Yale graduate and son of Prince Masayoshi Matsukata, prime minister of Japan in the late 19th century, and an American-born mother whose father Rioichiro Arai had moved to the U.S. in the 1870s to begin the direct trading of Japanese silk there. Haru was cared for by English governesses in her childhood before attending the American School in Japan. She later enrolled in Principia College in Illinois, spending her summers with her maternal grandparents at their home in Connecticut before her graduation in 1937.

Haru was working as a journalist in Tokyo in 1956, when she met Edwin O. Reischauer, a widely respected scholar of Japanese history and politics and a faculty member at Harvard who had recently been widowed. They were married that year, and made their home in Belmont, Massachusetts, raising Edwin's three young children from his first marriage to Adrienne Reischauer , who died in 1955. Edwin continued teaching at Harvard and Haru reported on Japan for the Saturday Evening Post and the Christian Science Monitor. In 1961, Edwin was named ambassador to Japan by President John F. Kennedy, whom he had taught at Harvard. With deep personal knowledge of the country and the language, the Reischauers were popular with both the government and the populace in Japan. According to The Boston Globe, Haru saw her diplomatic role of ambassador's wife as "associating with Japanese women, bridging the gap between the countries, and talking with the wives of American servicemen who were stationed in Japan." She also actively participated in as many as 14 women's groups at one time. Her term as ambassador's wife was so successful that in 1962 the Christian Science Monitor named her the second most popular woman in Japan (the most popular was Crown Princess Michiko ).

Edwin Reischauer resigned as ambassador in 1966, and the couple returned to their careers in Massachusetts. He consulted for the government on Japan and rose higher in academia, in 1973 establishing Harvard's Japan Institute, of which he was appointed director the following year; the institute was later renamed the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. Haru published a well-regarded memoir, Samurai and Silk: A Japanese and American Heritage, in 1986. She moved with her husband to California in 1990, where he died that September. Haru Reischauer served as the honorary chair of the policy advisory committee on U.S.-Japan relations at Harvard from 1990, and as the honorary chair of the Center for East Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies from 1993. She held both positions until her death at the age of 83, on September 23, 1998, in La Jolla, California.


The Day [New London, CT]. October 2, 1998.

Deptula, Nancy Monteith and Michael M. Hess. The Edwin O. Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies: A Twenty-Year Chronicle. Cambridge, MA: Reischauer Institute, Harvard University, 1996.

Kari Bethel , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri