Samuel H. Yamashita

Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History; Coordinator of Asian Studies
  • Expertise


    A Confucian specialist with mastery of both classical Chinese and classical Japanese, Samuel Yamashita has written extensively about early modern and modern Japanese intellectual and cultural history, focusing most recently on Japan during World War II and Japanese and fusion cuisine.

    In the 1990s, recognizing the dearth of primary source material pertaining to the Pacific War that he could use in his courses on modern Japan, Yamashita began to collect letters and diaries written by ordinary Japanese during the war, which, he found, challenge the prevailing view of a unified and patriotic Japanese citizenry and raise questions about the way the war ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs.

    He has translated 65 of the 160 diaries by Japanese adults, servicemen—including kamikaze pilots—teenagers and children that he has collected. Eight of these were published as Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese (2005), which is currently in its third printing. Since the fall of 2005, he has given book talks all over the country and was interviewed on National Public Radio.

    In addition to his ongoing research in these areas, Yamashita is also writing a history of Japanese food from prehistory to the present and exploring Pacific Rim fusion cuisine as a transnational culinary phenomenon.

    Research Interests

    • The modern Japanese state and its ideological constructions.
    • Wartime diaries and "last letters" of kamikaze pilots and ordinary citizens
    • The history of Japanese food from prehistory to the present
    • Pacific Rim Fusion Cuisine as a transnational culinary phenomenon

    Areas of Expertise


    • Japanese history
    • Confucianism
    • Intellectual history
    • Kamikaze pilots
    • The Pacific War
    • Traditional and modern Asian history


    • Japanese food
    • Pacific Rim Fusion Cuisine
  • Work


    Hawai'i Regional Cuisine: The Food Movement That Changed the Way Hawaii Eats (University of Hawai'i Press, forthcoming in 2019)

    Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1940-1945 (University of Kansas Press, 2015)

    "The 'Food Problem' of Evacuated Children in Wartime Japan, 1942-1945" in Kataryzna Cwiertka, ed., Food in Zones of Conflict (Ashgate, 2013), 131-148

    "The Significance of Hawai`i Regional Cuisine in Post-colonial Hawai`i" in Robert Ku et al., Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader (NYU, 2013), 98-122

    Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese (University of Hawai'i Press, 2005)

    "Confucianism and the Japanese State, 1904-45," in Confucian Traditions in East Asian Modernity: Moral Education and Economy and Culture in Japan and the Four Mini-Dragons (Tu Wei-ming, ed., Harvard University Press, 1996)

    "Reading the New Tokugawa Intellectual Histories," Journal of Japanese Studies 22, 1-48, Winter 1996

    Master Sorai's Responsals: An Annotated Translation of "Sorai Sensei Tomonsho" (University of Hawai'i Press, 1994) & Co-translator, The Four-Seven Debate: An Annotated Translation of the Most Famous Controversy in Korean Neo-Confucian Thought (State University of New York Press, 1993)

    Selected Recordings

    An August 6, 2005 Weekend Edition interview with Scott Simon about Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese at

    An November 1, 2005 Asia Society of New York interview about Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese at

    Selected Films:

    My lecture "Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese" is available for purchase on CSPAN-BOOK TV and first aired on November 14, 2005.

  • Education


    University of Michigan

    Master of Arts
    University of Michigan

    Bachelor of Arts
    Macalester College

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Asian Traditions
    • Early Modern Japan
    • Food, Culture & Power in Asia/Pacific
    • Food & the Environment in Asia/Pacific
    • Modern Japan
    • Senior Seminar, Senior Thesis & Senior Essay in History
    • Senior Thesis Seminar & Senior Thesis in Asian Studies
    • State, Citizen & Subject in Modern Japan
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Frederick Sontag Research Fellowship, 2017-2018

    Frederick Sontag Research Fellowship, 2015-2016

    Association for Asian Studies, Northeast Asia Council Research Grant, 2011

    Frederick Sonntag Research Fellowship, 2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2013-2014

    Japan Foundation, Professional Fellowship, 1991

    Pomona College, Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2001, 2006 and 2011

    Harvard University, Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1982-1983

    Ford Foundation / Social Science Research Council, Foreign Area Fellowship, 1972-1975

    Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, 1968