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James R. Brandon papers

Identifier: A2016:006

The James R. Brandon Papers contain the research and academic work of Dr. James R. Brandon, former professor of theater and dance at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa [UHM], 1968-2000. His area of specialty was Kabuki theatre and the censorship of the theatre in the early and mid twentieth centuries. It also contains his research and academic work before and after his position at UHM. The majority of the contents relate to his study of Japanese government censorship and United States military censorship of Kabuki theatre. Other major topics include his research on other forms of Japanese theatre, Asian theatre, and scripts. The papers also include Brandon's correspondence with individuals and other documents related to his academic career.

The collection is mostly composed of paper documents, especially photocopies of scripts or archival documents. It also contains journals, photographs, books, slides, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, and postcards. These all relate to his academic career and research. The collection contains very little information in regard to his personal life outside of academia.

The collection spans from 1954 to 2012, though most of the documents are undated. Because of the lack of precise dating, the collection is organized thematically by topic. Where possible and reasonable, it is chronologically organized within thematic orders.

The collection is mostly in English, however a significant portion of it is in Japanese. Brandon frequently made English notes on Japanese documents. Texts and documents in other languages, including Bahasa Indonesia and languages in Burmese and Indic scripts, also exist in the collection.

Finally, the collection includes a significant amount of materials on the topic of post WWII occupation censorship on Japanese Kabuki theater by the US Forces, including: Records of academic work, research notes, teaching materials, records of theatrical productions, correspondence, diaries, scripts of plays, newspaper and magazine clippings, recording of interviews with people involved in the occupation era censorship.


  • Majority of material found within 1954 - 2012


Language of Materials

While the majority of the collection is in English, there is a significant portion of the collection that is in Japanese. The collection also contains work in Bahasa Indonesia and Burmese and Indic scripts.

Conditions Governing Access

The contents of the Diaries series are restricted until 2026.


18.01 Linear Feet (15 records cartons, 3 document cases, 1 flat box, 1 slides box, and 3 cardfile boxes)


James Roger Brandon (1927-2015) was born in Mazomanie, Wisconsin. Brandon considered himself a “farm kid from Minnesota” in describing his early life. In high school, a teacher encouraged him to study acting. This sparked his interest, and he pursued studying theatre in his university studies. He received his baccalaureate and master’s degrees in theatre and speech from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1948 and 1949 respectively.

In 1950, Brandon was drafted into the Korean War and was stationed in Japan and Korea. He saw his first kabuki play two days before his tour of duty ended. The performance hooked him on kabuki and influenced his subsequent studies. After his service, supported by his GI Bill, Brandon returned to UW-Madison to work on his PhD in theatre and television. After graduating in 1955, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service as a cultural affairs officer and was stationed in Jakarta, Indonesia from 1955 to 1957. While in Indonesia, he frequented many theatrical performances; these eventually motivated him to publish his monograph Theatre in Southeast Asia in 1967.

Brandon left the Foreign Service in 1961 and began teaching at Michigan State University, where he directed two kabuki plays and a modern Japanese drama. After MSU, he returned to Southeast Asia to research theatre in the region, including the wayang theatre of Indonesia. He then joined the faculty at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa as a professor of theatre and drama in 1968.

While at UHM, he established the Asian Theatre Program, brought international recognition to the Department of Theatre and Dance through his scholarship and large-scale productions of English language kabuki productions, co-founded the Asian Theatre Journal, and served as department chair from 1985 to 1988.

During his academic tenure, he authored approximately eighty articles, book chapters, and book reviews. He published twenty books on themes of Asian theatre, kabuki censorship, as well as English translations of kabuki plays. He also produced twenty-two productions at UHM.

His awards and recognitions include the Imperial Decoration of the Order of the Rising Sun with Gold Rays with Rosette from the Government of Japan, the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award from the Asian Cultural Council, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaiʻi State Theatre Council, the UH Regents’ Medal for Outstanding Teaching, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year award, national recognition from the American College Theatre Festival, and several Poʻokela awards from the Hawaiʻi State Theatre Council.

In 2000, Brandon retired from UHM and continued researching kabuki theatre. He published his groundbreaking work Kabuki’s Forgotten War: 1931-1945 in 2008 that examined presumed truths about kabuki theatre in the nineteenth century and the Japanese government’s censorship of kabuki theatre in the early twentieth century. This work received an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by the American Library Association’s Choice magazine.

Brandon passed away on September 19th, 2015 in Honolulu. “I know of no other person who has accomplished as much as he has done – taking the work of one country (Japan) and presenting it so beautifully,” Terence Knapp, a UH colleague of Brandon’s, said. Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak, professor in the UH Asian Theatre Program, said that he was “one of the finest teachers I’ve ever known.” Brandon left a lasting impact at UHM, its theatre program, and the English research of kabuki.

1) David Jortner and Kathy Foley, “James R. Brandon,” Asian Theatre Journal 2 (2001), 343. 2) Ibid., 344. 3) “In Memoriam: Asian theatre pioneer James Brandon,” University of Hawaiʻi News (Honolulu HI), September 28, 2015, accessed February 14, 2018, 4) “James R. Brandon / 1927-2015” Honolulu Star-Advertiser (Honolulu, HI), October 1, 2015, accessed February 14, 2018,

Published Academic Works

Authored Books:

Brandon, James R. (2008). Kabuki's Forgotten War: 1931-1945. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R. (1976). Brandon's Guide To Theater in Asia: Where To Go, How To Get There and What To Expect. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R. (1967). Theatre in Southeast Asia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Edited Books:

Brandon, James R., ed. (1993). The Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brandon, James R., ed. (1982). Chūshingura: Studies in Kabuki and the Puppet Theater. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R.; Van M. Baumer, Rachel, eds. (1981). Sanskrit Drama in Performance. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.


Brandon, James R.; Leiter, Samuel L., eds. (2003). Kabuki Plays on Stage, Vol. 4: Restoration and Reform, 1872-1905. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R.; Leiter, Samuel L., eds. (2002). Kabuki Plays on Stage, Vol. 3: Darkness and Desire, 1804-1864. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R.; Leiter, Samuel L., eds. (2002). Kabuki Plays on Stage, Vol. 2: Villainy and Vengeance, 1773-1799. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R.; Leiter, Samuel L., eds. (2002). Kabuki Plays on Stage, Vol. 1: Brilliance and Bravado, 1697-1766. Honolulu, H.I.: University of Hawai'i Press.

Brandon, James R., ed. (1975). Kabuki: Five Classic Plays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Brandon, James R., ed. (1970). On Thrones of Gold: Three Javanese Shadow Plays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Brandon, James R.; Niwa, Tamako, eds. (1966). Two Kabuki Plays: The Subscription List and the Zen Substitute. New York: Samuel French.

Academic Journal Articles:

Brandon, James R. (Spring 2014). "'Democratic Kabuki' for a 'Democratic Japan': 1945-1946". Asian Theatre Journal. University of Hawai'i Press. 31 (1): 103–125.

Brandon, James R. (Fall 2011). "The Association for Asian Performance: A Brief History". Asian Theatre Journal. University of Hawai'i Press. 28 (2): 281–308.

Brandon, James R. (Spring 2006). "Myth and Reality: A Story of Kabuki during American Censorship, 1945-1949". Asian Theatre Journal. University of Hawai'i Press. 23 (1): 1–110.

Brandon, James R. (December 1960). "Toward a Middle-View of Chekhov". Educational Theatre Journal. Johns Hopkins University Press. 12 (4): 270–275.

James R. Brandon Papers
Steven James Fluckiger
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Libraries Repository