In Memoriam: John Forman Howes, 1924-2017

The Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia was saddened to learn earlier this week that Dr. John Howes, Professor emeritus in the Department, had passed away over the weekend on February 4 at the age of 92. He died at peace in his sleep, surrounded by family.

John Howes was a founding member of UBC’s Department of Asian Studies, which he joined in 1961 after earning his doctorate from Columbia University. Professor Howes was instrumental in nurturing the phenomenal growth and success of Asian Studies at UBC, and enjoyed a long a distinguished career as a specialist in Japanese history and religions. His best-known research contribution will forever be his definitive biography of Uchimura Kanzo:  Japan’s Modern Prophet: Uchimura Kanzo (UBC Press, 2006), a project he worked on for most of his professional life and finished in retirement. During his 30 years of active teaching and research, Professor Howes was at the forefront of Canada-Japan cultural, educational and people-to-people relations. Professor Howes inspired countless young Canadians to dedicate their careers and lives to the Canada-Japan relationship in one way or another and many of his ‘deshi’ or former students hold leadership positions today in the Canadian Japanese community, and/or work in positions at the interface of Canadian and Japanese education, business, industry, diplomacy, etc.

Professor Howes was also a widely respected leader in the Canadian Japanese world of culture in British Columbia, and played leading roles in various enduring high-profile projects, including the construction of the magnificent Asian Centre at UBC—a key architectural symbol of the importance of Japan to BC—and also in projects connected to the Nitobe Garden, the Beans Japanese Maps Collection at UBC, and many others.

Professor Howes’ contributions were recognized by the government of Japan; he is one of precious few Canadians to have been honored by the Japanese government with the ‘Order of the Rising Sun with Garter’.

Several years ago, a number of UBC faculty, staff, and Professor Howes’ devoted former students came together to launch an endowment in his honour. The fund supports the John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies, an annual public lecture for prominent scholars from around the world to speak to the university community and alumni on topics in Japanese Studies with a focus on Humanities. It is indeed with deep sadness that we realize now that these lectures henceforth will be the John Howes Memorial Lecture in Japanese Studies.

Arrangements have now been made for a funeral in a place that was very dear to John Howes heart. Please join the family and their many friends at 2 pm on Saturday, March 18  at Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard St, Vancouver.

The link for online giving to the John Howes Lecture is: