January 21, 2022
Faculty News, Faculty Profile

UMass Emeritus Professor Chisato Kitagawa passed away on January 14, 2022. He was 89 years old. Kitagawa-sensei (as we knew him) was born in Tokyo on July 29, 1932. He was the nephew of Joseph Kitagawa, a pillar of Japanese studies and one of the founders of religious studies in the US.

After attending Rikkyo University in Tokyo Japan, Kitagawa-sensei emigrated to the United States in 1958 and earned a Master’s in Linguistics from the University of Michigan in 1961. In 1972, Kitagawa-sensei completed his doctorate in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. He embarked on a career in teaching and scholarship, first at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he helped to establish programs in Japanese and Asian Studies, and later at the University of Arizona, where he taught from 1976-1989. He returned to Amherst and completed his teaching career at UMass before retiring in 2002. He published widely on Japanese linguistics, including on the case marker ‘no’ with Claudia Ross, on zero pronoun, co-editing a book on auxiliary verbs for learners of Japanese, and on head-internal relative clauses. His newest work on head-internal relative clauses will appear in Glossa posthumously. In addition to his publications about linguistics, Chisato co-authored a book with wife Mary on seikatsu tsuzurikata (life experience writing) a progressive grassroots writing education movement in Japan that had not been previously introduced to the rest of the world.

Right before the pandemic started, Kitagawa-sensei participated in a roundtable celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Asian Languages at UMass. Long after retiring, he still maintained a keen interest in currents of Japanese studies, and often came to lectures, asking probing questions. Friends and students remember him as an avid sci-fi fan and wonderful storyteller with a quirky sense of humor.

Kitgawa-sensei is survived by siblings Yukiko Ito, Makiko Kitagawa and Kimiko Kitagawa in Japan, his wife Mary (Messinger) Kitagawa, daughter Kristen (Cameron) Caughlan, Jeffrey (Cristina McCabe) Kitagawa, son-in-law Cameron Caughlan, and grandchildren Connor (Danielle Titus) Caughlan, Yuji Caughlan, Elisa Caughlan and Jocelyn Caughlan. The family encourages those who are so inclined to remember him through a donation to their favorite charity.